Bike Chain Maintenance

Key points

  • you can't properly and easily clean your chain on the bike;
  • those chain cleaning gadgets with the brushes and wheels are a joke - they spontaneously break apart and fall to bits;
  • use a chain that has a chain connector;
  • if your chain doesn't have a chain connector (like Shimano chains) then get one. You can use KMC, SRAM and Wippermann ConneX connectors with Shimano chains. KMC, SRAM and Wippermann make 8, 9 and 10 speed chain connectors that are sold separately.


  • remove the chain to clean it (that's where the connector comes in);
  • get yourself a glass jar about 500ml in capacity and half fill it with mineral turps;
  • clean the chain by taking it off your bike and putting it in the glass jar of turps, shake vigorously and then leave overnight;
  • the following day, shake glass jar vigorously again, remove chain and hang above the top of the jar so that the turps drains back in;
  • put chain back on and lubricate with your favourite chain lube - my current favourite is Inox "Lanox" which is a heavy duty anti-corrosion lubricant with lanolin (for more see my FAQ on chain lubes )

Chain cleaning frequency

  • after every muddy ride;
  • every time you wash your bike;
  • when its clear from looking at your chain that its aggregating lumps of dirt - dirt is an abrasive, leaving it on your chain will shorten chain life and the life of your drivetrain.

When to replace

Get yourself a chain wear indicator and replace your chain when it reaches 0.75% wear. The Park Tool chain wear indicator is good and easy to use. There's also:

  • the Rohloff Caliber 2 ;
  • Wipperman version measures over a longer distance, so is more accurate;
  • use a 12" imperial ruler and measure where the rivet of the 12th complete link ends up (each link in a bike chain should be exactly 1" apart). Link less than 1/16th of an inch past 12" then chain OK. Greater than 1/16th" you should think about replacing it soon. More than 1/8th" the chain is shagged and you'll probably have to replace your cluster and chainrings as well.

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