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  1. #1
    Senior Member The Scotsman's Avatar
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    Lubricating Chain Help

    How often should a chain be lubricated?
    I am using my mountain bike for commuting, I cycle 10 miles a day on the road.

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    It's all down to riding conditions. A nice dry (but not dusty) summer you can go pretty much for ages before "needing" to do something. But if you're riding in rain, picking up grit and blasting on your chain (as riding w/o fenders is prone to do) then after every such ride is recommended. OTOH it's really hard to damage a chain by over lubrication...

    Something like after every rainy ride or every 2 weeks depending on what comes first would do for a baseline schedule.

    Chain care is debated with almost religious fervour, and there are some fairly different views out there.
    But one thing most agree on that is that merely adding lube is only half the task, some sort of cleaning should be carried out first.
    And excessive lube won't do you any extra good, it will only attract more dirt to the chain. Give the chain another wipe when you're done to make it almost dry on the surface.
    Given the price range of my commuting gear I'm much in favor of wiping the chain off with a cloth before lubing, while some will pull the chain off the bike and give it various soaks and scrubs before relubing. How much improvement in terms of extended mileage that will bring has never been proven, but it might make sense for more expensive drivetrains.

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    Senior Member The Scotsman's Avatar
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    I am cycling in Britain, so the weather is always varying, I have used dry lube as well, as i was not sure of the difference between wet and dry, It is summer time here, but as i mentioned it is "British summer!" I cleaned the chain about 100 miles back, but the chain still looks fresh, not much visible grit.

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    Senior Member The Scotsman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice and nice to hear the info on your great grandfather.
    I am a Scotsman, born in Edinburgh, but I now live in England, Wolverhampton, which is close to Birmingham in the West Midlands,

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    Senior Member Shepp30's Avatar
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    Scottsman

    I also use (Liquid Wrench) dry lube. I am currently riding about 100 miles per week. I have to dry lube my chain at least once per week and I ride in perfect weather conditions (I don't ride in the rain ec.). If I forget, the extra noise coming from the drive train will remind me.

    Shepp30

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    As the others have stated, riding conditions vary tremendously and you have to adjust both your choice of lube and the frequency accordingly. There's also an immense difference in the staying power of the various chain lubes out there, with some lasting about a hundred miles or less, and others lasting many hundreds or even 1,000 miles of mixed condition road use.

    There's lots of opinion and mythology about chain lube, so I suggest you experiment with a few approaches and settle on whatever best suits your chain's needs and your temperament.
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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    There's lots of opinion and mythology about chain lube, so I suggest you experiment with a few approaches and settle on whatever best suits your chain's needs and your temperament.
    I agree and will add that a chain should be looked upon as a consumable. Don't try to make it last for tens of thousands of miles. Cheap chains work just as well as expensive ones and you can afford to change them more often.
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    Senior Member The Scotsman's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input,

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    Senior Member m_yates's Avatar
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    If you ride in wet weather, I'd say don't use dry lube. I used the dry teflon lube. The dry lube is cleaner, but my chain would start to rust any time it got wet. My bike shop recommended the Finish Line wet lube. It lasts much longer, and stays working after riding in a rain shower or two. Of course, wet lube will ruin your clothes if it touches the chain.

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    I use Tri-Flow and sometimes WD-40 as chain lube. I have a mountain bike and never actually clean the chain or take it off. The chain does get gritty, is this ok?
    Also is Kroil good to use or chains or not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crona View Post
    I use Tri-Flow and sometimes WD-40 as chain lube. I have a mountain bike and never actually clean the chain or take it off. The chain does get gritty, is this ok?
    Also is Kroil good to use or chains or not?
    I make chain lube, so consider my post with a grain of salt.

    Chains need to be lubricated with something that's effective at some pretty high pressures. Consider that the tension in a chain is from 2-5 times the force applied to the pedal depending on the chainring size. So if you're standing on the pedals trying to climb a wall, with a 38t chainring, the chain tension will be 3 times your weight.

    Now consider the size of the contact area on the pin where the chain will bend onto a sprocket, it's pretty damned small. So the pressure squeezing the moving parts together is pretty intense. Now you decide whether a product designed mainly to penetrate rather than as a heavy duty lubricant will cut the mustard.

    The chain companies all pack their chains with thick oils or greases. They do this because they understand the lubrication needs. If Shimano, KMC, Wippermann, Campagnolo, Sram, and others thought thin oils or solvents worked, don't you think they'd use them?
    Last edited by FBinNY; 05-11-10 at 09:46 AM.
    FB
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  12. #12
    Senior Member rothenfield1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.Winthrop View Post
    .
    Hi,
    "I just drizzle the stuff onto the lower run
    of the chain while cranking backwards, holding a rag to
    catch the excess drip."
    .
    Let's see: drizzling lube, cranking backwards, wiping with rag.....Hey! What are you, a child of Vishnu?

    I live in a coastal, sandy area and I like the wax based self-cleaning lubes such as White Lightning Epic. Especially when riding MTB on these sandy trails. The synthetic lubes seem to attract grit so badly, I have to clean the chain after every ride. But, with the wax lube, the grit flakes off with the bits of wax. I apply the wax lube after every 2 or 3 rides and have only had to completely clean the chain after dozens of dirty rides.

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    Dry lubricants include silicone, teflon, and wax based concoctions. Mineral spirits and synthetic motor oil don't fall in this category. I'm not a lubricant expert but I have tried several bicycle specific chain lubes. The areas I ride in are too humid for dry chain lube. I prefer the typical home brew, about 25% Mobil One synthetic and 75% mineral spirits. This is a wet lube that does not collect as much dirt as some lubes and has no waxy build up that is common with "dry" lubes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I make chain lube, so consider my post with a grain of salt.
    I've never used it but I believe your stuff is very effective. It just sounds like such a PITA to use.

    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    The chain companies all pack their chains with thick oils or greases. They do this because they understand the lubrication needs. If Shimano, KMC, Wippermann, Campagnolo, Sram, and others thought thin oils or solvents worked, don't you think they'd use them?
    The only problem with using the OEM approach is that they lube their new chains using heated lube and under pressure so it gets into all of the interior spaces of the chain. That's an impractical method for the home or shop mechanic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    I've never used it but I believe your stuff is very effective. It just sounds like such a PITA to use.
    PITA???, apply, allow 10 minutes to soak in, wipe off excess, wait up to 1,000 miles before relubing. I think it's the last part folks find hardest.

    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    The only problem with using the OEM approach is that they lube their new chains using heated lube and under pressure so it gets into all of the interior spaces of the chain. That's an impractical method for the home or shop mechanic.
    Yes, Some factory lubes are applied hot, mainly to better recover excess by dripping off. No pressure is used or needed, capillary action does the rest, though the greases and heavier oils won't flow unless warmed. With Chain-L, I tried to approximate the factory lubes but had to adjust things so it would wick in at room temperature.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Scotsman View Post
    How often should a chain be lubricated?
    I am using my mountain bike for commuting, I cycle 10 miles a day on the road.
    in dry weather once every week is plenty, in drizzle maybe every five days. Everytime after a torrential downpour. Make sure to wipe off the excess so there's nothing between the links on the chainplates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    PITA???, apply, allow 10 minutes to soak in, wipe off excess, wait up to 1,000 miles before relubing. I think it's the last part folks find hardest.
    OK, I have a new Surly Cross Check set up to use as a rain/foul weather/beater bike (fenders, rack, fat tires, etc.) and your lube should taylor made for that kind of abuse. The chain is a SRAM 8-speed so the master link will make cleaning and lubing off the bike more practical.

    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Yes, Some factory lubes are applied hot, mainly to better recover excess by dripping off. No pressure is used or needed, capillary action does the rest, though the greases and heavier oils won't flow unless warmed. With Chain-L, I tried to approximate the factory lubes but had to adjust things so it would wick in at room temperature.
    I have read they are pressure lubed too but maybe it isn't needed. The factory stuff is certainly thick enough to require heat or it would never penetrate.

    Years ago I lubed my chains with hot parafin and I mean hot, 320 - 340°F, not just a double boiler over water. It did an excellent but temporary job. The chains stayed white glove clean and lasted quite well but I had to relube them about every 200 to 300 miles. However, having to remove the chain, heat the wax, etc., plus my wife's concern I was going to set fire to the kitchen, convince me a spotless clean chain wasn't worth the agrivation.

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    Deciding how often to clean and lube your chain is a personal decision. The conditions where you ride will have a huge impact. So will the lubricant you use. It all boils down to knowing what a clean, well lubed chain feels like and then paying attention to when that starts to change.

    Start with a thoroughly cleaned and well lubed chain/drivetrain. Pay attention to what it feels like, how it shifts, and what it sounds like. That’s your benchmark.

    You’ll notice a dirty chain just doesn’t sound or feel quite the same as it does when it’s clean. Your shifting performance will suffer. And remember, any dirt, sand, grit and road debris that collects on your chain will cause it and your gears to wear.

    Bike lube doesn’t tan. So if yours is turning black, it’s got a lot of gunk in it. Also, if it feels thick or gritty on your fingers, it’s time for a change. In some dry or dusty environments this will happen faster than in others. And some thicker bodied, wet-style lubes, which are better suited to wet conditions, will attract and absorb dirt faster in drier conditions. But if the lube is still clear and clean to the touch and you just want to add some more—go ahead.

    You don’t have to remove your chain to get it clean. There are brushes designed to get into the nooks and crannies and degreasers that penetrate, clean and leave no residue. Some cyclists choose to use a clip-on chain cleaning device has built in brushes and a well that holds the cleanser. When you slip one of these onto your chain and close the lid on that well, bristles inside scrub the chain as it is circulated thru the unit.

    Since I work for Finish Line, I can’t recommend making your own lube. There are too many specialized ingredients and too much testing that goes into making a great lube. There are many different bicycle-specific lubes out there – many of them formulated to address specific riding conditions and performance expectations.

    That’s why it’s so important to experiment with what works best for you. In general, wet lubes were created for wet riding conditions. Self cleaning lubes will shed dust and debris in dusty conditions. Ceramic lubes might be right for someone seeking a high performance lube for race conditions. There are even specialty lubes for ultra-distance rides. You won’t know what works best for you, until you do a little experimenting.

    If you love what you’re using, then stick with it. If your lube isn’t meeting your expectations, clean your chain and apply something different.

    A final note of caution: beware of mixing different lubes. You may not get the best performance if you try putting a self-cleaning lube that has wax in it over a wet lube, for example.

    Hope that helps!

  19. #19
    Senior Member The Scotsman's Avatar
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    Very well explained, I will bear this advise in mind, i will give the chain a clean this weekend, i cleaned it 200 miles back for the first time, now i will do it again and relube it and set it as my benchmark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Spartacus4006 View Post
    Deciding how often to clean and lube your chain is a personal decision. The conditions where you ride will have a huge impact. So will the lubricant you use. It all boils down to knowing what a clean, well lubed chain feels like and then paying attention to when that starts to change.

    Start with a thoroughly cleaned and well lubed chain/drivetrain. Pay attention to what it feels like, how it shifts, and what it sounds like. That’s your benchmark.

    You’ll notice a dirty chain just doesn’t sound or feel quite the same as it does when it’s clean. Your shifting performance will suffer. And remember, any dirt, sand, grit and road debris that collects on your chain will cause it and your gears to wear.

    Bike lube doesn’t tan. So if yours is turning black, it’s got a lot of gunk in it. Also, if it feels thick or gritty on your fingers, it’s time for a change. In some dry or dusty environments this will happen faster than in others. And some thicker bodied, wet-style lubes, which are better suited to wet conditions, will attract and absorb dirt faster in drier conditions. But if the lube is still clear and clean to the touch and you just want to add some more—go ahead.

    You don’t have to remove your chain to get it clean. There are brushes designed to get into the nooks and crannies and degreasers that penetrate, clean and leave no residue. Some cyclists choose to use a clip-on chain cleaning device has built in brushes and a well that holds the cleanser. When you slip one of these onto your chain and close the lid on that well, bristles inside scrub the chain as it is circulated thru the unit.

    Since I work for Finish Line, I can’t recommend making your own lube. There are too many specialized ingredients and too much testing that goes into making a great lube. There are many different bicycle-specific lubes out there – many of them formulated to address specific riding conditions and performance expectations.

    That’s why it’s so important to experiment with what works best for you. In general, wet lubes were created for wet riding conditions. Self cleaning lubes will shed dust and debris in dusty conditions. Ceramic lubes might be right for someone seeking a high performance lube for race conditions. There are even specialty lubes for ultra-distance rides. You won’t know what works best for you, until you do a little experimenting.

    If you love what you’re using, then stick with it. If your lube isn’t meeting your expectations, clean your chain and apply something different.

    A final note of caution: beware of mixing different lubes. You may not get the best performance if you try putting a self-cleaning lube that has wax in it over a wet lube, for example.

    Hope that helps!

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