Hi, I'm Dave, one of the production mechanics here at BicycleSPACE with a tip to help you keep your bike out of my stand.
Lubricating your bike will lengthen it's life and make your rides easier, but dousing your chain with lube will result in a layer of grit and goo that will wear out your drive train far quicker than necessary, causing poor shifting and skipping under load. Wiping off any excess lube on your chain will help prevent this problem, but if your drive train is already a mess of sticky black icky, you need to clean it before it wears significantly. The problem is that a rag won't do a thorough job cleaning your chain, especially in the bushings (the moving bits that allow your chain to “bend.)”
It used to be a pain to clean your chain after it got gritty. When I was a kid, I spent Saturday mornings cleaning and oiling my old Schwinn with a toothbrush and a pint jar of gasoline, lubing it back up with pungent 3-in-1 oil. Things have progressed since then and we have better, less explosive methods. My favorite solution is a mechanical chain cleaner, a device that scrubs the chain with degreaser—this isn't as scary as it sounds, nor as expensive. Park Tool produces an excellent little machine that snaps around the chain, cleans all four sides with brushes and a solvent (I suggest Pedro's Oranj Peelz, a natural, non-toxic solvent that smells of citrus), captures any stray metal shavings with a magnet and also has a sponge to wipe it clean as it emerges, keeping solvent in the gizmo and not on the floor, the bike, your hands, etc. A quick wipe with a clean, dry rag and you're ready to apply lube, wipe off the excess, and go for a squeaky-free ride.
Some people never clean their chain and their bike suffers for it. If you care about your bike, consider giving it some needed attention and get comfortable using a chain cleaner. The process only takes a short while and will help keep your bike in great shape.
By Dave Rooney, Mechanic