How to Lube A Chain

By Bruce Wells updated 2024-02-25

Modern bikes are high performance machines, but one place they have not improved is the chain. It is still an oily mess that attracts dirt and slows down the rest of the modern machine. Keeping your chain clean goes a long way towards extending the life of the chain and increasing the efficiency of the drive train. While cleaning your chain is not hard, it tends to be one of the most ignored aspect of bicycle maintenance. So here is a way to easily keep your chain in top shape that I have been using in recent years and works extremely well.

Items You Will Need

  • Rock N Roll Gold Lube (the best chain lube ever)
  • Paper towels
  • Cotton rag
  • Three glass jars with metal resealable lids (pickle jars work great)
  • Kerosene (about 1 cup)
  • Chain Master Link (SRAM and other chains come with this, you can get one for Shimano chains. Make sure you get one to match the number of speeds on the bike)
  • Master Link Pliers (available on eBay)
  • Ceramic coffee dripper (available on eBay) You could use a plastic one if you are sure it will not be affected by kerosene.
  • Coffee filters for dripper
  • Old Toothbrush (optional)

Step by Step Instructions

Remove the chain with the master link pliers. If you don't have a master link yet, just break the chain with a standard chain breaking tool and throw out the outside links that will be replaced by the new master link.

Place the chain and master links in one of the glass jars, add some kerosene (not all), seal with the lid and swirl the chain around in the jar. This will start to remove all the old dirt and grime from the chain. Keep swirling around till the chain looks clean and the kerosene very dirty.

Set up the coffee dripper with a filter and position over another jar. Drain the dirty kerosene into the filter. This will remove most of the dirt so you can reuse the kerosene for next time. Kerosene is a larger molecule than water, so it may take a while to drain through the filter.

Remove the chain and wipe with the cotton rag making sure to get between the links. This will remove more dirt. You can also place the chain on the rag and then use the toothbrush to clean the links. Make sure to clean both sides.

Clean out the jar with the dirty kerosene residue with a paper towel. Put the chain back in and add some more kerosene. Swirl till the kerosene does not seem to get any darker, and then pour the dirty kerosene through the coffee filter. Repeat this step until the kerosene does not noticeably darken. This generally takes three or four kerosene rinses, so apportion the kerosene appropriately. I find you don't need to drown the chain in kerosene if you can swirl the chain in the jar fairly vigorously.

Pour out the last of the kerosene into the filter. Remove the chain and wipe down with the cotton rag. Place the chain in the third jar and add some Rock N Roll lube (does not take that much) and swirl the chain in it. It may turn green indicating it is removing more dirt and grime. Soak the chain for a few 5 or more minutes and swirl it so the entire chain gets good and soaked in the lube.

Use the rag to clean the chain rings and derailleur pulleys. You can also use the toothbrush dipped in kerosene to help loosen up some of the crud. You may also want to clean the cassette in the same way. You generally do not need to do this once you switch to Rock N Roll lube full time.

Install the chain on to the bike. Wipe the outside of the chain off with the rag.

Other Cleanup

Once the kerosene fully drains, you can dispose of the filter and dirty paper towels. I just burn them outside in an aluminum tray. I also decant the kerosene before the next time I clean my chain, as the dirt will sink and stick to the bottom of the jar, then I clean the jar out with a paper towel. I then use that clean jar to clean the next dirty chain.

You will also find you will have extra lube left over. I save that for re-lubing the chain between full cleanings.

The Final Result

Once you ride the bike with your newly cleaned chain, you will realize how much a clean chain does for the bike. With Rock N Roll lube and as much as I ride, I find I only have to clean the chain two or three times a year. The lube does not attract dirt and keeps the drive train free of greasy build up.

© Westchester Cycle Club 2024