Ask a Mechanic: How to Clean and Maintain Your Drivetrain

Duncan wants to know, “Can you show me a quick way to clean and maintain the drivetrain on my bike?”

Maintaining your drivetrain is the best thing you can do for your bike. Keeping a clean and lubed drivetrain will greatly prolong component life and maintain optimal performance. If you ever have to, replacing the drivetrain is one of, if not the most expensive things you’ll ever do to your bike, so doing what you can to get the most life out of it pays off. Aside from saving money, you’ll get a smoother and quieter operating drivetrain.

This is a modified version of how a pro mechanic would clean the drivetrain after every stage of a race. All you’ll need is some degreaser, a brush or two, and some water.

This is easiest if you have a workstand, but can be done on the ground with the bike leaning against a stable object. I use an old water bottle cut in half to hold my degreaser in the bottle cage for easy access as I’m cleaning the drivetrain. Simply dip the brush in the degreaser and start scrubbing the components of your drivetrain. To clean the cassette spin the cranks backwards and hold the brush on the cassette while it spins. You may have to go back to the degreaser with the brush a few times to get it completely clean. As the cassette spins with your brush scrubbing it, you’ll also be cleaning the chain, but, a little extra attention to the chain alone never hurts. Make sure you don’t forget about the pulley wheels on the rear derailleur and the inside of the front derailleur cage where lube and grime tend to accumulate. Once everything is clean and degreased you’ll want to rinse the drivetrain of the degreaser you used before applying lube. You can use a hose but only with really low pressure, just letting it run over the cassette as you spin the crank backward for a bit. You can even use a water bottle if a hose isn’t available. Just don’t use any form of a high pressure nozzle when cleaning your bike, period. Once rinsed, dry everything off the best you can and apply lube to the chain. We’ve covered the chain lubing process in another video so I won’t show you that here. It never hurts to put a little lube on the pulley wheels and pivot points on the derailleurs as well, just be sure to wipe away the excess.

This is something that you should only have to do a few times a year depending on weather conditions in your area. You can go as far as removing the chain, cassette, and crank from the bike, but I think you’ll be happy with the results you get doing it this way and will save you a lot of time.