The Big Dartmoor Cleanup

With the Dartmoor Challenge only days away, and with almost no preparation on the training side, it becomes even more important that the bike looks the part.

Apart from looking good at the start of the ride, and attracting admiring looks from other riders, a clean, smooth drive train gives me my best shot at actually completing the ride, so there’s a powerful incentive for me to get on with this job.

Today’s jobs are the chain, the rear derailleur and the rear cassette.

I started with the Chain Cleaner, a wonderful piece of specialist equipment. You open up the chain cleaner, fill it with degreaser, clamp it round the chain (middle chain ring, 3rd smallest sprocket) . . .

. . . and start turning the pedals. After a few dozen turns it’s worth wiping the chain with a cloth, but basically you keep spinning the pedals until the chain looks shiny new.

Next is the cassette. You need some special tools here, which make the job very easy. Without them you’ve got no chance: chain whip, cassette removal tool, and either the correct spanner, or an adjustable. Holding the cassette still with the chain whip, insert the removal tool into the cassette locking ring and turn anti-clockwise.

Then it’s like magic. The locking ring unscrews and you just remove all the sprockets off the cassette.

We get a close-up of some pretty serious dirt here . . .

. . . but if you’re able to separate the sprockets the job of cleaning them, with a cloth and more degreaser is an easy one. Be careful, between each sprocket is a spacer, to ensure the indexing works correctly. Don’t lose any, and I’m afraid they have to get cleaned too.

Once all the parts are clean, it’s time for reassembly. Each sprocket has an outside and an inside, and an extra large spline so that provided the writing is on the outside, you can only put the sprockets on correctly. Careful to put the sprockets and spacers on in the correct order, and as the cassette is reassembled you’ll notice there is a very specific pattern to the sprockets. They’re not the same all the way round, and they’re not symmetrical. They have special features to help with smooth gear changing and dirt dispersal.

Put the wheel back on, and your bike has been truly transformed.

I put the chain cleaner on one more time to make it squeaky clean.

Very Important. Remember, there is no lubricant at all on the drive train now, so you must lubricate your chain again before you ride. But does that look beautiful or what?

Next step, the Chain Set, and the derailleurs, but we’ve made a great start.

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