TOOLS YOU'LL NEED
Scrub the chain
The chain is the most important part of the transmission. The first step to cleaning it is to use hot water ó wearing rubber gloves will help you use hotter, more effective, water. Add regular washing-up liquid to your bucket of water and allow it to foam up. With the chain in the biggest gear, apply the mixture vigorously using a stiff bristle scrubbing brush. Youíll see a bright, shining chain emerge.
Degrease the chain
With the chain free from dirt, apply a biodegradable degreaser to the chain and allow it to soak into all the links. This will remove any debris and sticky residues you canít see, and make for a free-running chain. Rotate the cranks backwards a few times to get the degreaser right into the links. Allow to drip-dry, or wash off with clean water.
Wipe the chain
Use a soft rag to wipe the chain completely clean ó youíll be surprised what still comes off a clean-looking chain. Youíre trying to massage the links, moving them through as wide a range of movement as possible ó this helps expose the sections of link normally hidden from view.
Lube the chain
Apply lube only when the chain is clean. We prefer to lube a chain as little as possible, with as light a lube as we can get away with. Use a dripper bottle, because itís easier to apply accurately and with minimum wastage.
Coat the whole chain, spinning the cranks to force the lube into the links. Thatís where lube is most useful ó not coating the outside plates, as many believe. Work through all the gears to get the lube onto the sprockets. Wipe excess lube away with a rag.
Slide the outers to expose previously covered sections of inner cable. Give the entire inner cable a wipe-over with a section of rag soaked in RP7. If you come across any sections that are rusty, replace with a new inner cable. Most dry cables can be reinvigorated with a little light grease.
The best way to apply grease evenly to a cable is to first apply the grease to a clean (lint-free) rag. Holding the rag in one hand with the greased section between thumb and forefinger, gently pinch the section of inner cable in the rag and draw it through.The idea is to allow the grease to get into the fine strands of the cable without creating any blobs of grease.
Scrub front de railleur
Front de raillieurs always suffers from neglect. Theyíre hard to access and are often jammed full of dry mud, and have pivots drier than a cheese cracker. The first thing you can do to get your front de railleur swinging happily again is to apply steaming soapy water. Use a small toothbrush to get right into the parallelogram and underneath the band.
Wipe front de railleur
Give the de railleur a good going over with the rag. Use a thin strip of rag to thread though the body of the front de railleur ó this allows you to floss the body. Donít overlook the inside of the front de railleur cage, as these get pretty grubby from rubbing the chain all day. A couple of minutes and you should have a gleaming front de railleur.
Scrape out rear de railleur
Thereís no point having a free-running chain if the jockey wheels of your rear de railleur are bunged up. Use an old spoke or the blade of a thin, flat-bladed screwdriver to carefully hook out any old grass and oily gunge thatís trapped between the jockey wheels and the de railleur arm side plates.
Scrub Jockey Wheels
With the serious grime gone, use a little RP7 and an old toothbrush to scrub the jockey wheels (not forgetting the insides of the de railleur arm). Itís possible to unscrew the jockey wheels from the de railleur arm, but we donít recommend you do so unless youíve got a thread lock to use when reinstalling the pivot bolts. Sadly, too many rides end by bottom jockey wheels falling out.
Lube Jockey Wheels
Re-lube the jockey wheels. They really only need the very lightest touch of lube, as theyíll pick up enough from the chain through use. Remember these little wheels attract a lot of dirt, and with lube being sticky, it doesnít pay to make matters worse by overdoing it. Wipe the excess away with a rag. They should look dry.
Set the rear gears into the largest rear sprocket and then, without letting the rear wheel spin, shift into the smallest rear sprocket. This will free up a bunch of inner cable and allow you to pop the outers from the slotted cable stops on the frame. With the cables now fully unclipped from the frame you can inspect, clean, re-lube and reinstall everything.
Lube Front de railleur
Use the lube dropper bottle to apply drops of lube to all the pivots on the front de railleur. These take a lot of load, and can use all the help you can give them to remain mobile. Shift the de railleur into the smallest chainring and then work the parallelogram with your fingers to get the lube worked in.
Clean Rear Sprockets
The rear sprockets are the final task. Theyíre full of technology to help faster shifts, but also full of grease, mud and grass. Pick the worst lumps out with an old spoke or the blade of a thin, flat screwdriver. Youíll be surprised what hides in those tight spaces.
Get the hot soapy water or degreaser on them and get scrubbing with a brush. Getting to the backs of the sprockets can be tricky, but itís really worth persevering, as the cleaner you make it, the less easy it is for new dirt to stick.Dirt acts like a grinding paste when in contact with any part of your transmission, so get rid of it.