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Drive Train Maintenance

Often neglected and ignored, the drive train in the heart of your bike. Without the chain, rings, pulleys, and cassette, you’re not going to get very far. It always boggles my mind when I see a filthy chain, gnarly cassette, and caked pulleys. A clean drive train not only increases power transfer efficiency due to lower friction, but also allows for better shifting performance, and increased longevity of components. Here’s a rundown of how to make the most out of your drive train.


In the post about the pre-ride check I mentioned my meticulous nature. The subject of this article clearly illustrates this point, especially considering what I’m about to share. I always wipe my chain clean before a ride. It’s nice to know that any lube that may have worked it’s way out of the rollers and attracted road grime from the last ride is removed and I can start the ride with a fresh chain. I also hate having lube coating my drive side chain stay. It’s not a good look and can ruin the finish on a bike pretty quickly.

An over-lubricated chain is something I see more often than not. You don’t need to feed a chain before every ride, you just need to listen to when it needs some additional lube. The chain will tell you by chirping. I find I need to do this about once a month at the most. My chain is usually quiet enough to sneak up on someone. When it starts sounding like a bird, I know it’s time to re-apply. 

I’m not a fan of dumping chain lube on the chain while running the cranks backwards. I like to apply one drop of lubricant to each roller. I then run the bike through all gears before wiping all lube off the chain. This can take a bit of time, as any residual lubricant is just a magnet for dust and dirt. I then cut a rag into a thin strip and clean all the crud that has built up between the plates, removing the last of the lubricant, and cleaning the rollers from the inside. Like I said, meticulous.

Chainrings, Cassette, and Pulleys

I like to keep the rest of the components in contact with the chain just as clean. After wiping down the chain, I like to be sure the chainrings get a good cleaning too. This helps keep an eye on tooth wear. I follow up the chainring by cleaning the jockey pulleys. These derailleur bits collect grime like magnets, and keeping them clean ensures proper shifting. I finish off the prep by flossing every space in-between the cogs of the cassette. 

On a general maintenance day, this prep takes a few minutes. On a deep dive that includes feeding the chain, it takes about twenty. I am rewarded with proper shifting and component longevity. As someone who only likes to replace a cassette and chain once a year, this easy maintenance routine keeps me rolling all year long with minimum headaches and maximum smiles. Keep it clean, and as always, keep the rubber side down!

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