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  1. #1
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    Do bicycle chains have O-rings?

    Hello all, I'm a new guy.

    I'm about to start cycling again after 4 years of riding motorbikes and not cycling at all. I never really took any care of my bicycle when I used to ride it but my motorcycling experience has changed my perspective.

    So I'm getting out my old mountain bike. It was a cheap (under 100/$160ish, I'm in UK) buy, has Shimano bits on it, gear change controls are twist things on the inside of the grips. Has 3 front sprocket selectors and umm 5 i think at the back. The frame and some other unimportant surfaces have surface rust from sitting in the garage for four years. The chain also is rusty, but appears to be only surface rust also. The cables do not appear to be rusty at all, even on the exposed parts. The sprockets have some rust on them also. Tyres appear to be in good shape, no cracks or age related problems I can see, and inners have inflated fine with no punctures apparent.

    Firstly, would you advise me to get a new chain? I've had motorcycle chains rust a bit when left standing but that soon comes off with use. Bicycle chains being a bit thinner, I wonder if I should get a new chain. I should also like to know if bicycle chains have O-rings inside them to hold the lubricant, as motorcycle chains do. I'm wondering if I can use my motorcycle chain lube on a bicycle chain ok? I've read some debates on here about grease and have decided that grease that is ok for bearings on a motorcycle is gonna be ok for a bicycle (as in, well, any old grease really).

    My plan of action is, when I know a bit more about stuff, is to take my bike to a shop and get them to just tighten up and adjust everything to good standard so that I can see what to aim for when I do it myself thereafter. But I don't want to have replacement parts thrown at me that I don't need (i.e. chain), so here I am .

    I'm also not looking to spend any money really on this bike, as if I get into it I'll be looking for something a bit more modern.

    So there's my situation - any advice for me?

  2. #2
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    In a word, no.

    I would measure the chain for stretch, if it needs to be replaced, buy the cheapest one for the bike, lubricate it sparingly and often. Measure it for stretch and get a new one well before it reaches its wear limit. Chains are cheap and replacing them when needed maximizes the life of expensive chainrings and cassettes/freewheels.

  3. #3
    I don't know. RB1-luvr's Avatar
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    there are no o-rings in bicycle chains. sounds like the bicycle could just be cleaned and lubed up and go. you can take the cables out and lube them, but you might have as good luck just letting lube seep into them by tilting the bike at the necessary angle and dripping/spraying lube into the cable cases. sure, motorcycle chain lube will work in a pinch on the bicycle chain. the chain should show wether or not it needs replacing after lubing and after a few rotations of the crank. look for signs that it's flexible and staying in contact with the sprockets. if it is, ride it. cheers.
    Rast ich so rost ich. (When I rest, I rust)

  4. #4
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    Okie thx for replies - off to bike shop in the mornin' .

  5. #5
    Gone, but not forgotten Sheldon Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaxRomana
    I'm getting out my old mountain bike. It was a cheap (under 100/$160ish, I'm in UK) buy, has Shimano bits on it, gear change controls are twist things on the inside of the grips. Has 3 front sprocket selectors and umm 5 i think at the back. The frame and some other unimportant surfaces have surface rust from sitting in the garage for four years. The chain also is rusty, but appears to be only surface rust also. The cables do not appear to be rusty at all, even on the exposed parts. The sprockets have some rust on them also. Tyres appear to be in good shape, no cracks or age related problems I can see, and inners have inflated fine with no punctures apparent.

    Firstly, would you advise me to get a new chain? I've had motorcycle chains rust a bit when left standing but that soon comes off with use. Bicycle chains being a bit thinner, I wonder if I should get a new chain. I should also like to know if bicycle chains have O-rings inside them to hold the lubricant, as motorcycle chains do. I'm wondering if I can use my motorcycle chain lube on a bicycle chain ok? I've read some debates on here about grease and have decided that grease that is ok for bearings on a motorcycle is gonna be ok for a bicycle (as in, well, any old grease really).

    My plan of action is, when I know a bit more about stuff, is to take my bike to a shop and get them to just tighten up and adjust everything to good standard so that I can see what to aim for when I do it myself thereafter. But I don't want to have replacement parts thrown at me that I don't need (i.e. chain), so here I am .
    See: http://sheldonbrown.com/chains

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  6. #6
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    Thx for that Sheldon, as a motorcyclist I have a natural interest in chain wear . You really can't get away from it because of the strains put upon it on a motorbike, and they are expensive at 80 and upwards fitted. And as a motorcycle courier in London myself (no I'm not planning to switch to bicycle courier ) doing over 400 miles a week in stop/start traffic I get through them a lot.

    I'm sure there's a few motorcyclists here so I may be speaking to the choir, but here's some possibly interesting points of comparison:

    There's a debate in motorcycling about using wax (sprayed on) on chains, with I find the prevailing view to be that they build up the grinding paste mentioned in your article because there's no fluidity to it. By far the most common mode of lubrication is normal motorcycle chain lube. People often use wax because normal lube can fling off the chain while moving and dirty your bike (weak reason IMHO). You can also get automatic chain lubricators that dispense thinner lubricants directly onto the chain as you ride. I have this system myself as many couriers do. Personally I've failed to get much extra mileage out of a chain myself using them because they need to be set up properly to get the right flow (which changes depending on the weather), and I'm not on the ball enough to sort it . Many motorcyclists don't like 'em because fo this extra effort required, and the fact that they can be messy as well. The principle of the automatic system though is, as you say in your article, that it's about applying the thinner lube continually to the chain thus carrying away the grit and small metal that gets inside the links. People I know have got 30000 or more miles out of a chain that would normally only do 12-15000 miles using it properly.

    As for cleaning, if I ever do (about twice in four years hehe, no need with auto-luber), I use paraffin (that's kerosene to you guys) and a toothbrush. Wouldn't use petrol on a motorbike chain as it could damage the O-rings.

    Just thought all this may be interesting if you're into your chains .

  7. #7
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    O-ring chains are normal on Motorcycles since the increase in friction loss is negligable compared to the available power and the wear reduction is valuable. Bicycles are so marginal for power input that the increase in friction losses would be unacceptable to most riders.

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