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Old 03-10-08, 07:49 AM   #1
JohnBrooking
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Chain material choices?

I'm a commuter, not a mechanic, and someone at work this morning asked me an interesting question I didn't know the answer to, so I thought I'd ask you all. We were talking about winter riding, and I said my biggest problem was chain maintenance. (In fact, my LBS guy just recommended the motor oil treatment for my chain a few days ago, after seeing how rusty it was getting.) He asked if chains are available in some kind of alloy that doesn't rust, like something with stainless steel. I've never heard of one, but it seems such a good idea that certainly someone must have thought of it by now, unless there's a good reason it wouldn't work. Maybe nothing like that is durable enough? What do you all know about that? (The first two pages of a google search in "rust free bicycle chain" turned up nothing relevant.)

BTW, I do know that there are bikes that use a belt or a shaft instead of a chain, but I've already read a number of threads on those (probably started one or two myself), so we don't need to get into those here.

- John
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Old 03-10-08, 08:15 AM   #2
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So I don't know if there are or ever have been stainless steel chains. Probably not though, for a couple reasons. One, it would be pretty expensive, I would guess double what you would pay for a standard chain. Two, it wouldn't be as durable. Three, you would have to clean lube it anyway and that protects against corrosion, making the rust resistant properties of the stainless kind of pointless.


Found this one: http://www.coloradocyclist.com/product/item/WIPEJZ5Y
Not quite 2x price, but close!
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Old 03-10-08, 08:18 AM   #3
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There are no substitutes for chain materials that don't rust. There are a couple of possibly viable alternatives for the chain itself. Each has a unique disadvantage to the endless chain.

1. Shaft drive. It can be sealeable, protected from weather and wear inducing particles. It is not as efficient as a chain, nothing is.

2. A few bikes are available with belt drives instead of chains. You can't break a belt to install without destroying it. The frame has to be broken. Look closely at the path the chain of your bike takes and it will probably pass through a continuous, solid perimeter of metal. Belt driven bikes usually have a chainstay that has to be uncoupled and coupled to install a replacement belt. The upside is I personally garantee the belt will never rust or double your money back.
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Old 03-10-08, 08:22 AM   #4
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Wipperman makes a stainless chain (it isn't as good as their standard nickle-plated version). There have also been exotic chains made from stuff like Ti aimed at the extreme weight-weenie crowd (e.g. not practical).
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Old 03-10-08, 08:53 AM   #5
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I think most quality bicycle chains are stainless steel. The most corrosion (rust) resistant are those with nickel plating like the Dura-Ace chain and Record chain. Nickel stainless alloys are also shinier.

Al
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Old 03-10-08, 09:01 AM   #6
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I think most quality bicycle chains are stainless steel. The most corrosion (rust) resistant are those with nickel plating like the Dura-Ace chain and Record chain. Nickel stainless alloys are also shinier.

Al
No, they are not. Most chains are Cr-Mo or similar alloy and are as rust prone as any carbon steel. The "silver" shiny ones are usually nickel plated. Shimano, Campy and SRAM do not make any stainless steel chains and I don't think KMC does either.

The only exception I know of is Wippermann which makes stainless steel chains as well as plated and plain ones. The stainless ones command a significant price premum.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:05 AM   #7
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Wipperman makes a stainless chain (it isn't as good as their standard nickle-plated version). There have also been exotic chains made from stuff like Ti aimed at the extreme weight-weenie crowd (e.g. not practical).
I heard a story 20+ years ago of a guy who was shaking/flinging the solvent off his Ti chain outdoors and it slipped out of his hands and landed way up in the top of a tree. Cannot verify the authenticity of this tale.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:08 AM   #8
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No, they are not. Most chains are Cr-Mo or similar alloy and are as rust prone as any carbon steel. The "silver" shiny ones are usually nickel plated. Shimano, Campy and SRAM do not make any stainless steel chains and I don't think KMC does either.

The only exception I know of is Wippermann which makes stainless steel chains as well as plated and plain ones. The stainless ones command a significant price premum.
Hummm, OK. But I haven't seen any rust on my chains in 15 years.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:12 AM   #9
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Hummm, OK. But I haven't seen any rust on my chains in 15 years.
If you keep them relatively clean and well lubed you probably won't. Also, avoiding rain, snow and road salt helps a lot.

My "good" bikes never have any chain rust as they rarely get wet. My rain/beater bike does have occasional rust on the chain if I'm at all lax in drying and relubing it after a rainy ride.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:34 AM   #10
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Hummm, OK. But I haven't seen any rust on my chains in 15 years.
I've worked on some bikes that had some pretty ugly chains. I've been frequently surprised at how easily a rusty chain can be brought back to life with just a shot of ordinary chain lube followed by a wipe down with a rag.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:40 AM   #11
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And I've seen a chain that was so rusted that it finally snapped when the owner of the bike took it out for a ride. Amazing how some people are totally oblivious to the condition of their bike. The chain had several links that were rusted solid!
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Old 03-10-08, 10:34 AM   #12
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Getting back to the OP's problem, it's not possible to commute in the winter and keep a chain dry, clean, and salt free. All chains are not created equal, I guess you buy the best chain that fits your budget and is compatible with your components. And then clean and lube the chain often, every day if necessary, to keep it in good condition. I would do the cleaning and lubing with the chain on the bike.
I recommend an oil base lube. I'm using a home brew of 75% mineral spirits and 25% Mobil One synthetic motor oil. In adverse conditions I'd probably increase the oil fraction to 1/3rd. There are several good bicycle specific oil base lubes, I like Purple Extreme.
You also need to measure the chain and replace it by the time a 24 pin interval measures 12 1/16 inches.
Al
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Old 03-10-08, 10:42 AM   #13
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And I've seen a chain that was so rusted that it finally snapped when the owner of the bike took it out for a ride. Amazing how some people are totally oblivious to the condition of their bike. The chain had several links that were rusted solid!
Haha, probably me, I think I posted the pics of the chain, too.
Everyone took it so seriously, and some even got offended.
Just because I found the chain in a junkyard, and tried to break it,
doesn't mean I normally do that to all my chains.
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