Protect your bicycle chain from wear and rust

To protect your bike chain from premature wear and rust, it is crucial to clean and lube it regularly. In this article, we will show you how to clean your bicycle chain easily and efficiently and which tools and home remedies you can use for this.

How often should the bike chain be cleaned?

The bicycle chain should be cleaned at least once a year. However, if the bike chain is used intensively, it should be cleaned more often to prevent wear. Road cyclists should clean their chains every 300 kilometres to maintain the performance and life of the bike drivetrain.

In addition, the weather influences the frequency of cleaning. After riding in the rain or through mud, more frequent cleaning is recommended, while riding on dry days on paved roads requires thorough chain cleaning less frequently. In winter, the stress on the bicycle chain caused by road salt should also be considered. If you live by the sea, you should also make a point of regular bike chain care because of the salty air.

How to clean a bike chain properly

Before you start cleaning your bike chain, you should make sure that your chain is easily accessible. For example, you can hang your bike on a hook using a bike lift or similar. Depending on the type of lift you choose, you should make sure that the rope does not rub against the frame and that the frame is protected with a cloth if necessary.

The work becomes even more comfortable with a height-adjustable work stand such as the XLC TO-S83. It has an integrated tool tray and makes working on the bicycle chain much easier. Once your bike is secured on the stand, you can start cleaning it.

  • Gripper of the XLC work stand TO-S83

    Flexible clamping arm

    The clamping arm of the work stand can be rotated both horizontally and vertically and has a clamping diameter of 55 mm.
  • XLC bicycle work stand TO-S83 with a tray with tools

    Practical tool tray

    The practical tray on the work stand means that all tools are always within reach.
  • The right tools for cleaning bike chains

    To clean the bicycle chain you need:

    • Water

    • Sponge

    • Lint-free cloth

    • XLC bike chain cleaner BL-W18 or a cleaning agent (e.g. washing-up liquid)

    • Screwdriver

    • White spirit or turpentine (for stubborn dirt)

    Cleaning the bike chain and rear derailleur at the same time

    The bicycle chain should always be cleaned in conjunction with the rear derailleur. Otherwise, the chain may become dirty again if the sprockets are full of dust and dirt. The same applies vice versa.

    Frequent riding leads to dust, dirt, and dried lubricant, which can build up on the sprockets and the bike chain. If a dark layer of dirt can be seen on the sprockets and chain, it is high time for a cleaning.

    Cleaning the bicycle chain with washing-up liquid, chain cleaner and benzine

    Bike chain cleaning begins with the removal of coarse dirt. Then proceed with the following steps:

    1. Prepare a bucket with warm water and some detergent such as washing-up liquid.

    2. Use a sponge to clean the rear derailleur and the bicycle chain.

    3. To dry the chain, wrap a screwdriver in a dry, lint-free cloth and turn the pedals to pull the bike chain along the screwdriver. This works especially easily if the bike is mounted on a work stand such as the XLC TO-S83.

    4. Use the XLC TO-S55 cleaning set consisting of a sprocket scraper and cleaning brush to clean the spaces between the sprockets.

    5. Spray the bicycle chain with a chain cleaner such as the XLC BL-W18. This is a mixture of bicycle and brake cleaner and is particularly suitable for stubborn dirt. With its integrated brush, the cleaner can be easily and precisely applied to the bicycle chain.

    6. After a short reaction time, remove the cleaning agent with a dry cloth, but do not neglect the sprockets.

    XLC Chain Cleaner BL-W18 with integrated brush for chain cleaning

    Cleaning the bike chain with turpentine or benzine

    Mountain bike chains are particularly exposed to dirt and grime. In such conditions, it may be necessary to clean the bicycle chain thoroughly with petroleum ether or turpentine. Both products are strongly degreasing and are therefore well suited for cleaning bicycle chains.

    After cleaning with turpentine or benzine, it is essential to re-oil the chain, as these substances remove lubricants due to their degreasing effect.

    Other cleaning options for the bicycle chain

    There are various products and aids for cleaning bicycle chains. Chain cleaning devices such as the TO-S57 cleaning set from XLC are a practical option. They consist of rotating brushes and often contain liquid tanks for cleaning agents. Make sure that the device is suitable for your bike chain and gears.

    Bike chain cleaners with at least six integrated brushes for thorough cleaning are particularly recommended. For rusty bike chains or metal particles on the chain, models with integrated magnets are the best solution for cleaning the chain.

    Cleaning a road bike chain

    The road bike chain should be cleaned after about 300 kilometres. Follow these steps when cleaning the road bike chain.

    1. Start by cleaning the cassette, chainrings, front derailleur and derailleur pulleys before cleaning the bike chain itself. This prevents dirt from getting back onto the chain from the surrounding parts.

    2. Remove coarse dirt from the chain and sprockets with warm water and detergent.

    3. Clean the sprockets with a chain cleaner such as the XLC Bike Chain Cleaner BL-W18.

    4. Follow the steps described above for further cleaning of the road bike chain.

    Important: Always oil the road bike chain after and never before riding, as freshly applied oil needs time to form a solid lubricating film. In addition, new dirt quickly adheres to a freshly greased chain.

    How to clean the e-bike chain properly

    Like all bike chains, the chain on an e-bike requires regular cleaning and care. When preparing to clean the e-bike chain, there is one special feature that needs to be considered, which is explained below.

    If the pedals on the e-bike are pressed backwards, the crank comes off the chainring on most e-bikes. To prevent this unintentional loosening and to clean the bike chain without annoying spinning of the rear wheel, we recommend using a practical tool such as the XLC e-bike chain lubrication support TO-S05. This is simply attached to the right crank arm and prevents the crankset from freewheeling. This makes it easy to clean the e-bike chain without having to use a work stand.

    The actual cleaning of the e-bike chain is done according to the proven principle that also applies to conventional bicycle chains. After the chain has been cleaned, it is essential to lubricate the chain with a suitable bike chain oil.

    Additional chain guard

    For optimal protection against dirt and wear, a bike chain guard is a good idea. It keeps out rain, stones, mud, and dust. Chain guards are available in various designs to fit different chain sizes. Some models only protect the chain wheel, while larger models can cover the entire chain strand up to the rear axle.

    Replacing a bicycle chain

    Damaged or rusty bike chains should be replaced immediately, as they can also damage the bike sprockets and chainring teeth. When buying a new bike chain, make sure that it has the same dimensions as the original chain. The XLC chain wear indicator TO-S69 can help you find out whether it is necessary to change the bicycle chain.

    Oil your bike chain properly

    After cleaning the chain, care should be completed by lubricating the chain. Use only special bicycle chain oil, as only this provides the necessary rust protection and is designed for the correct lubrication and adhesion of the chain.

    How to oil your bike chain properly:

    1. First apply some bike chain oil such as XLC chain oil BL-W12 to a lint-free cloth.

    2. If your bike is mounted on a stand like the XLC TO-S83, pull the chain through the oiled cloth by loosely grasping the chain. Repeat the process several times for complete lubrication.

    3. Remove excess oil with a clean, dry cloth by gently grasping the bike chain again and pulling it through the cloth.

    Tip: When applying oil to the bicycle chain, make sure that no oil gets on the brake discs, otherwise the braking performance cannot be guaranteed. As an alternative or in addition to bike chain lube, a chain wax such as XLC BL-W20 can also be applied to the chain for extended protection.

    Lubrication of bike chain with XLC Chain Oil BL-W20

    With these instructions, cleaning and caring for your bike chain will be a very easy task. Use the right tools and products to extend the life of your chain and ensure an optimal riding experience. XLC offers a range of high-quality products, including chain cleaners, work stands and chain oils, to help you maintain your bike chain.

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