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  1. #1
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    I'm here to admit I was wrong about chain maintenance

    If you've read any threads about cleaning a chain, you've probably read my opinion about it. "Do not soak the chain - wipe the external grit off with a rag soaked in kerosene and lightly coat with oil." Well, I'm here to admit I was wrong about that.
    Having nothing to do this evening, I decided to get a jump on fall bike maintenance and work on the drive train. After removing the chain - which was icked up with really bad dirt/grease - I tried my own recommendations. After rubbing it and scraping on it with a miniature screwdriver, I decided, "The heck with this - I'm just gonna soak it!" It took a good 30 minutes in carb cleaner/paint thinner to loosen all that crud off. Not only that, the quick connect link fell off into the jar of cleaner. Darn! Not wanting to get my hand soaked, I thought to reach into the glass jar with a little magnet and retrieve it. Well, retrieve it I did - and a furball of greasy steel grit!! Since I started with a clean jar of cleaner, that steel grit must have come off of the chain! Poop! Means that there is a new chain in my near future!
    The moral of the story is - even "senior members" aren't always right.

  2. #2
    New Member IbizaBiker's Avatar
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    How many miles on that chain?
    "Do you need a ride?"

  3. #3
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    Depending on your location part of the magnetic material could be from the local dust. Try dragging your magnet through the dirt for 100 yards or so and see what it picks up. The results can be surprising.
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  4. #4
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    so you soaked it to clean it and you say that was good? then how did you lube it? soak it in lube? dribble some on from a squeeze bottle?

    I would soak my chain if I thought I could lube it internally properly. I'm concerned that soaking would remove lubricate from the most inward areas and I wouldn't be able to get the lube back in there satisfactorily
    Last edited by rumrunn6; 07-23-09 at 10:08 AM.
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  5. #5
    My bike's better than me! neil0502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    so you soaked it to clean it and you say that was good? then how did you lube it? soak it in lube? dribble some on from a squeeze bottle?

    I would soak my chain if I thought I could lube it internally properly. I'm concerned that soaking would remove lubricate from the most inward areas and I would be able to get the lube back in there satisfactorily
    I agree.

    My totally made up position on this is:

    If you CLEAN off the bike, then you need to LUBE off the bike.

    If you clean ON the bike, then you can lube ON the bike.

    You just stated my reasons, perfectly....

  6. #6
    Often on Fritz DanBraden's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tatfiend View Post
    Depending on your location part of the magnetic material could be from the local dust. Try dragging your magnet through the dirt for 100 yards or so and see what it picks up. The results can be surprising.
    Agreed, when I first got into biking, soaking my chain left at least a teaspoon of ferrous material. I, like many, assumed that this was my drivetrain disintegrating due to poor maintenance / componentry. I resolved from then on to be more regular with my maintenance. However, every time I cleaned the chain (I ALWAYS soak) I'd end up with a comparable amount of ferrous silt to the first time. However, my drivetrain appeared no worse for all the wear it should have been accruing. From then on I figured it must appear worse than it was, and just took the deposits as par for the course when cleaning. When I added full coverage fenders and "fredded" up with an extended front mud flap I noticed that when I cleaned my chain the collection of silt had reduced dramatically. Obviously, my front wheel was throwing grit onto my chain, most of which happened to be ferrous. I guess you could also make the argument that a reduction in grit on the chain would also reduce the amount of wear the drivetrain is subject to, however, I think a majority of the sediment is from the road not my bike.

    EDITED:: out of respect the english teachers I've left in my wake...
    Last edited by DanBraden; 07-23-09 at 10:14 AM.

  7. #7
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    It takes a true man to admit when he's been mistaken.
    Have you read what Sheldon Brown has to say on the matter? He's generally righter than most.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    I wonder if it's possible to grease a chain similar to the way a new chain is ? Following the wax method, perhaps a tub of melted grease would work. Dunk the chain, let the excess drip off, then wipe. You now have something more resiliant inside the rollers. Sounds like a pain to do though.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member johnknappcc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemeister View Post
    If you've read any threads about cleaning a chain, you've probably read my opinion about it. "Do not soak the chain - wipe the external grit off with a rag soaked in kerosene and lightly coat with oil." Well, I'm here to admit I was wrong about that.
    Having nothing to do this evening, I decided to get a jump on fall bike maintenance and work on the drive train. After removing the chain - which was icked up with really bad dirt/grease - I tried my own recommendations. After rubbing it and scraping on it with a miniature screwdriver, I decided, "The heck with this - I'm just gonna soak it!" It took a good 30 minutes in carb cleaner/paint thinner to loosen all that crud off. Not only that, the quick connect link fell off into the jar of cleaner. Darn! Not wanting to get my hand soaked, I thought to reach into the glass jar with a little magnet and retrieve it. Well, retrieve it I did - and a furball of greasy steel grit!! Since I started with a clean jar of cleaner, that steel grit must have come off of the chain! Poop! Means that there is a new chain in my near future!
    The moral of the story is - even "senior members" aren't always right.
    Well, I'm not sure you are wrong. But you are talking about two different things. I soak my chain about every 200 miles or so. However, when I just want to go for a ride, I wipe it off (like you said you do). It is sufficient for an in-between cleaning. I'm not sure about the grit, but I'm assuming you would get that off (or at least some) on the rag.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the input. I have about 500 miles on the chain - very sporadic riding in Tucson, AZ. I'll try the magnet test on my local soil. The reason I refrained from soaking in the past is I had read that soaking washed fine grit into the tiny bushings of the chain while washing out any lube. It made sense, so I adopted that as my procedure - until last night.
    After soaking it in the cleaner for 30 minutes, I dried it off and soaked in in 90W gear oil for 30 minutes. I'm hoping that will suffice until I can get another chain.
    Maybe the "hot wax" method would work better. Anybody have any suggestions for a brand of wax?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
    I wonder if it's possible to grease a chain similar to the way a new chain is ? Following the wax method, perhaps a tub of melted grease would work. Dunk the chain, let the excess drip off, then wipe. You now have something more resiliant inside the rollers. Sounds like a pain to do though.
    Reynolds, the British chain maker, used to make a grease designed for just such use on motorcycle chains. It was intended to be melted and the motorcycle chain submerged in it for lubrication. Hang up the hot chain to drip off excess then wipe down lightly IIRC.

    Many modern greases are formulated so they do not tend to melt readily at reasonable temperatures so not sure what would be a good grease to try it with. Probably melting would be safest tried using a double boiler.
    Last edited by tatfiend; 07-23-09 at 11:57 AM. Reason: typo
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tatfiend View Post
    Reynolds, the British chain maker, used to make a grease designed for just such use on motorcycle chains. It was intended to be melted and the motorcycle chain submerged in it for lubrication. Hang up the hot chain to drip off excess then wipe down lightly IIRC.

    Many modern greases are formulated so they do not tend to melt readily at reasonable temperatures so not sure what would be a good grease to try it with. Probably melting would be safest tried using a double boiler.
    My next bike is going to be a Sachs Torpedo 3-speed coaster brake hub! That will elimintate ALOT of chain, a chainring, 7 cogs, and two deraillers that collect dirty grease.

  13. #13
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemeister View Post
    Thanks for all the input. I have about 500 miles on the chain - very sporadic riding in Tucson, AZ. I'll try the magnet test on my local soil. The reason I refrained from soaking in the past is I had read that soaking washed fine grit into the tiny bushings of the chain while washing out any lube. It made sense, so I adopted that as my procedure - until last night.
    After soaking it in the cleaner for 30 minutes, I dried it off and soaked in in 90W gear oil for 30 minutes. I'm hoping that will suffice until I can get another chain.
    Maybe the "hot wax" method would work better. Anybody have any suggestions for a brand of wax?
    Soaking a chain in solvent may wash some grit into the plates and bushings. However, the grit is going to get there while riding anyway if you use something that attracts the grit so that it can get ground into the chain. Riding the bike with a chain soaked in oil is guaranteed to attract the maximum amount of grit possible

    Better to use something that doesn't attract the grit in the first place. For you, in Arizona, wax based lubes like White Lightning are ideal. You don't need to apply it that often since you don't ride in the rain and, since it doesn't attract the grit and crap on the road, you don't have to clean more than the first time.

    I recently cleaned a Sram chain that I had followed advice here for. Left the original lubrication on it and just applied WL when needed. The chain was crusted with crud. Other chains that I had removed the lube from before I put them on the bike are all nice and clean and well functioning. I won't leave SRAM's grease on them in the future.
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  14. #14
    Often on Fritz DanBraden's Avatar
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    ooh, watch out soaking a chain in lube. I ruined one by doing that. I cleaned the chain all sparkly clean, then through it in a bottle of lube (motorcycle chain lube ). Since it was chain number two, I figured it'd be ok until I rotated it back on the bike. Well 1 day later the damn thing had rusted to hell. Turns out, I didn't bake the chain to evaporate the water, and oil, being hydrophobic, held the water in place inside the bushings which is where the rust was concentrated. So I wasted 10 bucks, my pride hurt worse.

  15. #15
    Senior Member vredstein's Avatar
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    What I've learned

    I've been soaking my chain for many years. In the past, I've used paint thinner, but recently switched to Goo Gone Extreme. It contains all sorts of nasty stuff like Acetone, Tolene, and Methanol. It is much more powerful than mineral spirits or thinner, and cleans much more thoroughly and quickly. I put the chain in a metal dog bowl and add a shallow layer of the Goo Gone. I scrub it using a heavy toothbrush. There's no need for soaking and letting it sit for any amount of time. I'll swirl the bowl around to and shake it back and forth really fast. This seems to get the crud out of the inside of the rollers. The Goo Gone gets the chain so clean it actually squeeks. I'll then lube it on the bike using Dumonde Tech.

    One very important key is to wipe down the chain after every other ride. It doesn't take long, but I've found doing this goes a LONG way toward keeping the chain clean longer. Before, I'd clean the chain, lube it, ride, and then be mad when the chain was dirty after one ride. But the fact is, the centrifugal force from the chain turning is forcing out excess lube which get's dirty from the general dust from the air and road grit from the tire spray.
    Wiping this off after riding pays off because after a few more rides less and less lube accumulates on the outside of the chain, and there's less opportunity for crud to stick. After successive rides, I notice much less crud on the rag. This doesn't mean all the lube is gone and the inside of the chain is unprotected. I'm not hearing squeeking, the lube is still doing it's job where it needs to, on the inside of the chain.

    When it comes time to relube, the past practice of wiping off the chain pays off. One problem that happens when you relube a chain on the bike is that as you drip the lube on the chain, it tends to carry any crud that's already on the outside of the chain to the inside. Wiping off the chain after every ride means there's less crud build up, so there's virtually no crud on the outside to get carried to the inside when you apply more lube.

    One mistake I made in the past was to use a small, brass bristled brush to clean the chain and cogs. The brass bristles would create small scratches on the surface of the chain and cogs. These small scratches are perfect places for excess lube to settle and attract more dirt.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    when I was in my teens (1974ish) I boiled my chain in olive oil. it seemed to work OK but I did ruin a perfectly good pot.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  17. #17
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    To me, chain maintenance is more about the value of my time than it is the life of my chain. My view: chains are going to die. Does it matter to me whether they die after 2000 miles or 5000? No, because if I have to buy a new chain after 2000 miles, I've paid for it with the accumulated hours of time I've saved with the 2 minute wipe, oil, and go regimen.

  18. #18
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    A 2-chain+ solvent system enables you to fit a new, clean chain and deal with the the dirty one some other time. This is especially useful for winter commuters when you really need to clean your chain but the conditions are too uncomfortable to be doing much maintenance.
    Keep one chain solvent-cleaned and lubed in a jar. Whip off the old chain by its powerlink and dunk in a jar of solvent, Take your clean chain and add to bike.
    At some point in the future you can clean and lube your dirty chain.

  19. #19
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemeister View Post
    Since I started with a clean jar of cleaner, that steel grit must have come off of the chain! Poop!
    Bad assumption. When I was a kid (long ago but not pre-magnetism), one favorite way of playing with a magnet was to go out in the street and troll through the sand washed to the curb with the magnet. Guess what we came up with? "a furball of ... steel grit!!" The stuff you got is merely the road sand with grease added.


    Edit: I see several others have testified.
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  20. #20
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMF View Post
    Bad assumption. When I was a kid (long ago but not pre-magnetism), one favorite way of playing with a magnet was to go out in the street and troll through the sand washed to the curb with the magnet. Guess what we came up with? "a furball of ... steel grit!!" The stuff you got is merely the road sand with grease added.


    Edit: I see several others have testified.
    In many parts of Denver, a similar dragging of a magnet will get you spheres, tear drops, dumbbells, etc. that stick to the magnet. These are supposed to be micrometeorites but they are far too large compared to other locales. Most likely they are the airborne debris from the many, many smelters that used to populate the Front Range.
    Stuart Black
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  21. #21
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    Bikemeister, how many miles between chain cleanings were you doing? bk

  22. #22
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    500-600 miles I'd guess, because I don't track cleaning by mileage.
    I usually do a thorough cleaning once a year on the whole bike in the fall, in preparation for cool weather use. I do wipe it off if the ride was extremely dirty, but I have not been as consistent with full cleaning as I should have.

  23. #23
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Cleaning isn't important. How often do you 'fresh the lube? How many miles do you get per chain?
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

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  24. #24
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I keep a gallon jug of organic de-greaser in my shop in which dirty chains get dropped... I then do a little salsa for five minutes, withdraw the chain, rinse it, blow dry it, reinstall, and lube.

    This seems to do a pretty thorough cleaning job.

    In between I wipe the chain down and use a little WD40 and then re-lube the chain.

    I use Tri-flow which does a really nice job of keeping crud from collecting on my chains and makes cleaning them easier... heavier lubes don't work as well in what is a pretty dusty environment.

  25. #25
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    On the metal filings and such. I ride a bunch of rail trails. The cinders have a lot of rail dust that is nothing but metal dust from the wheels and the rails. It is very fine and it gets everywhere on my bike.

    I took the bike down to the bare frame yesterday, hand cleaned the chain and relubed with what I use. While I sometimes like to soak a chain, I didn't have enough Simple Green to do it properly.

    When I use Simple Green, I heat it up slightly to about 100-110 Degrees F when I dilute it by adding hot water. I use about a 1:4 ratio which is Simple Green's recommendation and what we used at the shop in the parts cleaning tank. I use a stainless 1 quart mix vessel that I have and it is amazing what I get off of a chain using this method.
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