A bicycle is only as strong as the bicycle chain. Without the bicycle chain running in optimal condition the bike is useless or difficult to ride. You can save yourself a lot of physical effort if you clean your chains correctly. Here are a few tips that can help with your cleaning process:
Buy the Fancy Stand
For geared bikes especially, the expensive bike stand is helpful. Not only does the stand allow for the bike to be securely held, but the gears can be shifted through while cleaning.
Use Organic Degreaser at Half Strength
Degreasers cut grease without promoting rust, and are significantly better than using dish soap. Buying organic degreaser means there is no worry about splatter on the bike, clothes or floors. It also provides the ability to clean the bike indoors without direct ventilation. Fill a squirt bottle with half degreaser and half water for best results.
Watch Your Fingers
Clean a chain midway between the front cog and the rear derailer, or gear cassette. Making sure fingers to do not get caught between the chain and cogs is especially important on fixed gear, and children's bikes, because the chain only travels one way. Your finger can be severed if it is caught in the chain.
Top and Side Cleaning
The top and bottom of the chain are the most important parts, since they are what the gears fit within. However, the sides of the chain are equally important since they are the structural support for the chain itself. Once the chain has been circled through a rag with pressure placed along the top and bottom, rotate the rag to squeeze the front and back sides. Getting debris off of both areas will keep the chain running smoothly and improve the life span of your bike.
Use the Front Cog
For heavily caked mud or debris, scrub the chain while it is supported by the front cog. By holding the pedals in place with one hand, the other can scrub the chain with it remaining in place.
Don't forget about cleaning both the front cog and the rear cassette. Since they are the support housing for the chain, they also get clogged with debris and gunky lubricant. Forgetting to clean the cog and cassette, then pushing the clean chain through them can feel uncomfortable and frustrating.
Use Dedicated Bike Chain Lubricant
To increase the life of the chain and minimize your personal work load, use a general purpose medium viscosity chain lubricant. Specialized bike lubricants are available at most bike and recreational stores. Using a heavy lubricant makes the application difficult and attracts more debris. When the lubricant combines with debris, the chain is more difficult to operate. The overworking wears out the chain faster.
Clean Once A Week
Though terrain will ultimately dictate how often the bike chain should be cleaned. Extreme off roading and wet city streets will require more frequent cleanings. A general rule of thumb is to clean the chain at least once a week. Be sure not to leave excess or dripping lubricant on the chain because it will attract gunk and require more frequent cleanings.