I've got about 45 minutes until I need my bike back in action. The chain's constantly cranking and noisy. It needs to be cleaned and probably re-oiled. Any tips for a newbie? What kind of oil (that I would have @ home) should I use?
This is an old topic which has been addressed by many others who are more experienced than me. I like to first clean the chain with a degreaser, rag and/or toothbrush, then lightly lubricate it with a household oil (the one in little cans for lubricating door hinges, etc.- petroleum based, not WD-40 or equivalent). I have learned to use very moderate amounts to avoid picking up dirt.
At the risk of getting into religion, If your chain is noisy (squeaky), and you've only got 45 minutes, just oil it with anything. WD-40, 3-in-1, even cooking oil. You'll be replacing it soon enough anyway. No need to try squeezing any more life out of it than necessary. these days, chains are cheap consumable items, and if you need it in a hurry, no need to expend that much energy on the thing.
Just curious. How exactly would you describe a chain that's "cranking and noisy"? To me, that description could describe something other than a dry chain.
Each person has developed their own way of cleaning a chain and believe is the best..
Here's what I do: I spray the chain and the cassette with WD40 while spinning it. this softens the gunk and the caked dust and sand.. I sometime help it with a 1" paint brush.. once a;; the gunk is dissolved, I use a degreaser (I like Oil Eater from Costco) and help it a bit with a paint brush. I use a hose the rinse everything and it comes out nice and shiny. I use a compressed air to blow the water off, and apply a dry lube..
For my commuter/utility bike I need it to be back in action ASAP, so Im running 2 chains. One soaks in solvent, then I dry it and lube. When I need to clean my chain, I remove it with a powerlink, put it in a jar of solvent, and fit the clean chain.
By separating replacement from chain maintenance, I stand a better chance of using a clean chain.