I think requirements are reusable, simple, small-size and things-to-easily-to-carry. There are exotic answers with chain clearers and other things that do not qualify to me simple. Perhaps, the Sheldown-Brown's shake is closest, here, to clean chains and then lube -- you can get bottles everywhere and alkali/white-spirit-whatever available to the bottle. But there may be more solutions. How do you maintain chains during touring? (open question: no season specified, etc)


2 Answers 2


My preferences is to use a wax lube every day and just apply, ride, wipe and ignore. But that fits with my style of touring - I free camp and usually get up, pack, ride then eat. So lubing my chain every day is part of the pack out ritual. But it also depends where I am and what I'm doing. In much of the Australian tropics a sticky lube will not work because the dust is iron ore, so sticking that dust to your chain kills it (the dust also dyes everything you own a dull orange brown). In wetter country a wet, sticky lube might work better but at the cost of greasy chain marks on whatever it touches, so I usually stick with the wax lube. Any solvent based lube has the advantage that it can be used to clean your chain, just by over-applying it and wiping immediately.

The difference between this and commuting is that I don't maintain my commuter bikes anywhere near as often. Sure, technically "every 100km-ish" is daily on the touring bike and weekly on the commuter, but my commuter gets maintained when I remember, or when I notice something wrong. I ride past several bike shops every day commuting, but generally have no idea whether there's a bike shop at all when I'm touring.

I'm currently experimenting with a grease/solvent lube because that also works well on cables, so it's more of a universal lubricant. But it's dirtier and I'm not convinced I'd want to use it when touring. So I will be carrying both next time I tour.

If you mean "should I carry a chain cleaning kit" the answer is no. Most bike shops will have some way to clean a chain if you really, really need to, and paying for that might even be cheaper than buying a new chain. If you get it caked in mud or something borrow a hose then re-lube it. I rarely use the cleaning machine I have at home, so carrying it on the road is way down the list.


Met today traveling heroes, they offered excellent way to clean dirty chains, cheaply and world-wide-reusable -- a really good touring tip coming! Things you need are mostly-grocery-store stuff, good because you don't need to carry extra stuff and you cannot be sure of bike shops in all of your destinations.


  1. cooking oil
  2. aluminium foil
  3. some hand-bearable cleaner (found in any grocery store)
  4. a cloth
  5. a burner (tested below with normal stove)
  6. a lubricant (the only exception, non-grocery store -stuff but you should have it anyway)
  7. a brush

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  1. put chains to the mixture of oil, cleaner and hot water (it becomes very black)
  2. brush the chains to remove the hardest black while in the mixture
  3. wash the chains with water and bin the black stuff
  4. use a cloth to dry the chains
  5. warm the chains in the aluminium foil (to let the water in the internals to evaporate and it is easy carry chains in the foil)
  6. lubricate the chains as you wish

I can guarantee the tip works: the chains initially were in very thick black layer. I tried also Sheldon Brown's shake with coco bottle but it failed to remove the dirt, this gentler way with brush worked better. I tried the tip and my chains become like new, love it. So No to pling-pling degreasers and cleaning containers during touring, no extra stuff.

  • 1
    Interesting. I'm going to have to try that. Although adding oil and hand-cleaner seems odd to me, won't they just cancel each other out?
    – Мסž
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 22:30
  • @moz: yes to some extent. The cleaner is used for different purposes during cleaning. Initially the cleaner is used to take the easy stuff out, not the black fatty stuff. During the main cleaning part with most oil in, just a small amount of cleaner (or not at all). When you have got rid of the black stuff, then the cleaner has a crucial role, as you wrote, to cancel i.e. to remove the oil. It is not really that vital to leave some cooking oil so in a way the cleaner is bloat but for perfectionists you can use the cleaner to remove the unwanted cooking oil at the end. No damage to the chain.
    – user652
    Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 11:34
  • @moz: please, see the procedure with cassette here [1]. It is the same procedure with chains. [1] bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/3304/…
    – user652
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 19:08

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