Drivetrain and Chain Cleaning

What do we actually mean by the "drivetrain" on your bicycle?  It's all the elements that go into transferring the energy produced by your legs into the wheel at the back.  Namely,

  1. Pedals
  2. Cranks (the arms that connect your pedals)
  3. Chainrings (the front sprocket/s)
  4. Chain
  5. Rear cassette (the rear sprockets)
  6. Derailleurs (the mechanisms that move the chain to change gear)

Being covered in sticky lubrication and being so low to the ground, the drivetrain tends to get very dirty.  Whether it's through prolonged use and gunk build up, or one cyclocross race in heavy mud, it's important to keep your entire drivetrain clean.

A dirty derailleur does shifting no favours

Dirt and grime create inefficiencies in the system of converting the power your legs produce into forward movement.  If the system is dirty, your power goes in to grinding the two metal surfaces together and overcoming the friction they have, rather than forward movement.  The cleaner, more lubricated the system; the more of your power is utilised.

The cleaning of your drivetrain doesn't have to be a long, dirty process that you need to perform every day.  We can separate the maintenance tasks;

1) Little and often; 2 mins, once a week (or when you feel it's needed!)

2) A deep clean; 10 mins, each month (or when particularly dirty!)

Of course, both the above are entirely dependent upon the distance and conditions in which you ride, but you'll hopefully see the intent; little and often, then occasionally go for it!

Before After

1) Little and Often

Use a Cell Foam chain cleaning sponge (as shown in the video) with some Gumchained Remedy to loosen and remove all the dirt from the chain.  Simply pour, clasp and spin the pedals.  


Alternatively, use the same clasping action but with a Gumchained Remedy KWIPE.   In either method, use the tool to clean off the gunk/grime around the jockey wheel (the smaller wheel on the rear derailleur) and around the mechanism on both the front and rear derailleur.  A KWIPE can be taken on long, multi-day rides or away on a cycling holiday to ensure you can keep up with your maintenance.

Be sure to apply a chain lubrication, such as our Science Friction, after cleaning.  The degreaser you have used to clean your chain will have stripped all the existing (dirty) lubrication.

Remember; never apply lubrication to a dirty chain.

2) A deep clean

The "little and often" approach works well at keeping your drivetrain running smoothly and ensuring power losses are kept at a minimum, however, the internal elements of your chain and the surrounding elements such as cassette and chainring will still receive wear, as well as transfer detritus from the chain itself.

Within the deep clean, we will work separately on 2 things;

a) Chain

b) Rear cassette / front chainrings / derailleurs

a) Chain

There are many deep clean options available; everything from a sonic bath that "shakes" dirt out of your chain, through to leaving in petrol/diesel for a few days.  Both work very well, but require removing the chain .  If that's feasible, it's a valid way to go.  Far easier, and without having to remove, is to use a chain cleaning device, such as our Sprocket Rocket, combined with Gumchained Remedy.   


Clamp the device around the chain, fill with your cleaning product, and spin the pedals anticlockwise so that the chain runs through the brushes and fluid.  Rinse and repeat if particularly dirty.

b) Rear Cassette / Front Chainrings / Derailleurs

Use a degreasing product such as Limon Velo, with a firm drivetrain specific brush.  Spray the product onto your cassette, and derailleurs, and (this bit is important); leave to dwell for a few minutes.  That is the point at which the product breaks down the dirt and grease, to enable you to wipe it away more easily.  

Once left to dwell, scrub with drivetrain brushes across your cassette and derailleurs, before simply rinsing away with water (as you can see in the video below).


Drivetrain cleaning doesn't have to be difficult, or particularly dirty.  Keep on top of it and you will ensure efficiency and ease of shifting all year round.