Whether you use your electric bicycle for weekend off-roading, the to-and-fro work commute, or to tool around town, maintaining the machine is hugely important. Regular maintenance ensures your e-bike will be ready when needed. Plus, it can extend the life of your investment.
A critical part of regular maintenance — cleaning and lubrication — should be directed to your e-bike’s chain for optimal performance. The good news? Chain care for e-bikes is a pretty straightforward process. Let’s find out more.
The Impact on E-Bike Performance
But first, here’s another machine.
Whether you own a car or not, you understand that scheduled oil changes and other maintenance are essential to getting the best out of that car. Neglecting that maintenance leads to wear, tear – and an eventual breakdown on the side of the road.
Moving to two wheels, the same applies to your e-bike. Regular, ongoing e-bike chain maintenance ensures your machine delivers whenever and wherever you need it. Your chain is why your machine moves in the first place. Put simply, your bike’s derailleur and gears – and by extension, the drivetrain– are lost without a well-cared-for chain. Your e-bike literally won’t be able to function.
Yet that chain is open to the elements, like moisture and dirt. Failure to keep that chain clean and lubed can lead to a noisy ride, a “sticky” gear shift – and an eventual breakdown at the side of the road.
Keeping your chain cleaned and lubed regularly gives you confidence that the other components on your machine are supported. This, in turn, gives you a smooth, quiet ride.
Finally, you spent a lot of money on your electric bicycle. Ensuring e-bike chain longevity through regular cleaning and lubrication helps you get the most out of your investment for years.
Frequency of Cleaning and Lubrication
You have two choices when it comes to cleaning and lubing your e-bike chain.
You could wait until you hear grinds, squeaks, and chirps from your e-bike’s drivetrain. You could also decide to do nothing until shifting gears becomes next to impossible. That’s when you could step in to clean and lubricate your chain.
Or you could be proactive. You could keep that chain clean and well-oiled regularly.
But how often is “regular basis?” That answer depends on your riding conditions and how often you ride. The typical timeline is to clean and lube after ten or so rides. But if you’re an off-roader, or rain and mud are your regular riding companions, plan to perform these activities more often.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning and Lubricating Your E-Bike Chain
Removing Dirt and Grime
Here’s your step-by-step chain cleaning guide:
- Gather the necessary chain cleaning tools and supplies. These include clean, dry cloths, an e-bike degreaser, a sealable container, water, and a chain-breaker tool.
- Fill the container with enough degreaser to cover the chain.
- Remove the chain from your e-bike. In many cases, your chain will likely have a quick link or master link, which helps with removal. If not, your chain might require a chain breaker tool. Learn more from this video.
- Place the chain in the container, seal it tightly, and shake briefly. If the chain is dirty, you might have to repeat this step with fresh degreaser. When disposing of the degreaser, follow municipal laws in disposing of this product.
- Allow the chain to soak in the container from 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the chain, move it through one of the clean, dry cloths, then rinse with water to remove the last of the degreaser.
- Reattach the chain to the e-bike. Allow the chain to air dry for at least 10 minutes before lubricating.
If you want to spend a little more money on your efforts, various tools are available to help reduce the time and effort involved with cleaning your chain. These include a chain-cleaning device, which attaches to your chain. Some people have found great success with these cleaning devices, and some prefer the tried and true cleaning method above. A bike stand can also be beneficial for e-bike chain maintenance.
Applying the Lubricant
So, your chain is clean. But now is NOT the time to walk away from the job. Proper chain lubrication is a must. Here are the lubrication tips for e-bike chains:
- Apply a single drop of lubricant to each chain link, focusing on the chain’s inner side.
- Once that lube is on all the links, place your hand on the pedal, and move it backward for two rotations. This ensures that the lube spreads evenly throughout the chain and other parts. If your e-bike drivetrain doesn’t allow you to use your pedal for backward movement, you’ll want to use a twist tie to hold the chain to the pedal. If all else fails, you’ll have to move the chain manually.
- Let sit for about five minutes.
- Wrap a clean, dry cloth around the chain. Placing your hand on the pedal, move it backward. The chain will move through the fabric and remove excess lubricant.
It’s important to understand that there are several lubricant selections for e-bike chains, depending on how you use your machine and under what weather conditions you ride.
For example, consider a heavy-duty lubricant if you regularly ride off-road or in ongoing wet weather. A dry lubricant might be best if you reside and ride in less-rainy locales. If you have any concerns or questions, talk with your local e-bike dealership or store to find the proper lubricant for your situation.
Common Mistakes to Avoid During Chain Cleaning and Lubrication
Just as important as knowing the best practices for chain cleaning is understanding what to avoid, like the following:
Choosing the Wrong Lubricant
“Lubes” and “degreasers” encompass a range of products. But all those products aren’t suitable for your e-bike. Be sure that the products you buy are bike-specific. The stuff you use to spray on a squeaky door hinge is NOT the right product to clean and lube your electric bike chain.
Oiling before Cleaning
Let’s face it, deep cleaning your chain is time consuming, and chances are you might be tired or pressed for time. And as a result, you might decide to lube your chain before cleaning it off.
Most of the time, that will be just fine, especially if your e-bike chain looks and feels “dry.” In this case, it’s okay to wipe off the dust and lubricate, especially if you’re running a little short on time.
But if your chain is very dirty, mucky or dusty, do it right. Clean the chain before lubing. Putting oil on top of a very dirty chain can increase friction, eventually leading to breakage. It could also noticeably impact the performance of your entire derailleur.
Forgetting to Dry Off
Drying the chain correctly and thoroughly after cleaning is a must. A dry chain is free from rust and corrosion. Furthermore, applying lube on a still-damp or wet chain means the chain could lose the “stickiness” necessary for functioning.
Also, avoid the temptation to “pressure wash” your chain (and e-bike, for that matter). You have a finely tuned machine in your possession. Pressure washing could mess with that exact alignment and cause complications for your ride.
Overlubricating the Chain
You might happily apply lube in great quantities, thinking it’ll keep all parts moving. But the opposite is true. Excess lube attracts more dirt and dust. It can impair the functioning of your chain while wearing out your drivetrain even faster than a dry chain.
E-Bike Chain Maintenance – A Must for a Well-Running Machine
Your e-bike provides transportation and entertainment. It also represents a significant investment. Investing half an hour of your maintenance time in keeping your machine’s chain clean and well-lubed can help ensure you remain on the road with fewer mishaps.
No matter how often – or why – you climb on your electric bike, showing your chain love and care will help enhance your e-bike’s performance.