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Old 06-11-10, 09:13 AM   #1
UnsafeAlpine
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Black chain *sigh*

I completely cleaned the drivetrain. I lightly lubed the chain and wiped off excess. Went on one ride. My drivetrain is black again.

Is there any way of preventing this? It doesn't seem to matter what I do to clean or lube, what chain lube I use, or the road conditions I ride on after a fresh cleaning. Is there dirt hiding somewhere that I'm just not cleaning out?

If it's something I just have to live with, I'll do it, but if I can prevent this, I'd like to try.
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Old 06-11-10, 09:31 AM   #2
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Could you post pictures? A certain amount of dirt collection is normal, and I'd like to see if yours is normal or excessive.

What kind of lubricant are you using? I recently discovered automatic transmission fluid (ATF) from the auto parts store. It works well because it's designed to hold particles in suspension. So when you oil it excessively and then wipe off the excess, you get to wipe off almost all the dirt. It's been working very well for me. I just repeat the process until the wipe comes almost clean on the rag. If the chain isn't seriously gunky, I can get the chain quite clean this way, without solvents or removing the chain.
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Old 06-11-10, 09:39 AM   #3
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Blackness is normal. The chain is a piece of machinery and while you can keep it fairly clean, getting overwrought over a bit of a black oil film on the surface doesn't make sense.

Keep it lubed properly and wipe the surface down once in a while with a paper towel or rag dampened with mineral spirits. If you use a decent lube that lasts, you won't be reapplying so often and eventually no more oil will weep out so your chain will stay clean by itself.

In any case you should focus more of your attention on how your bike works than how it looks.
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Old 06-11-10, 09:39 AM   #4
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Unless you remove the chain and agitate it in a solvent like kerosene, mineral spirits or one ot the water-based citrus cleaners, you won't get the dirt off the inside faces of the chainlinks. All the external wiping in the world won't touch it.
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Old 06-11-10, 11:59 AM   #5
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There's no way to keep it clean, the front tire is constantly throwing dirt right onto it.

That said, each time you oil it, try to wipe as much oil as possible back off of it.
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Old 06-11-10, 12:10 PM   #6
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Hill has the right of it. There's goo down inside the chain. You either need to do as he suggested or get one of the three wheel brush chain cleaning gizmos and use it with repeated solvent exchanges to work all the gunk out of the inside parts of the chain. Adding oil to the outside without cleaning the inside is just providing oil to help flush out the inner grunge to the outside. That's what you're seeing on the drive train.

What happens is that it only takes a small amount of grit and dust inside the chain to work with the oil as a grinding paste. So much of the black you're seeing when washing out a chain with Hill's method or the chain gizmo is actually the metal from the chain. Unless you wash out that grit then all the external cleaning in the world will not stop the wear.

When I use my gizmo to clean my chains it typically takes three and sometimes four switches of solvent before the solvent is only slightly tinted grey and I call "good enough". Between runs through the gizmo I blot away the dirty solvent from the chain with paper towels to remove much of the grunge before the next solvent run. If you choose to use citrus degreaser instead you'll want to do a run with degreaser then a run with water, then another run with degreaser followed by a couple of runs with water to ensure you remove all the degreaser. That part is important since residue of the citrus degreaser is corrosive. Then a spray down with WD40 to displace the water from inside the chain, a wipe down to dry much of it away and finally some oil.

With the insides clean as a whistle your chain and gearing will stay clean for many rides in the dry or one ride in the wet.

Something I've always believed is that IF I could train myself to "lube" the chain with a mix of solvent and oil after each ride and blot away the excess that the chain would never require another full up cleaning. The solvent and oil after each ride and blotting away the excess would flush out any grit on a once per ride basis. But I've never found the self control to do this and see if it works.
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Old 06-11-10, 05:49 PM   #7
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Save your money and stop worrying: just buy a black chain when your current chain wears out.
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Old 06-11-10, 05:58 PM   #8
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Save your money and stop worrying: just buy a black chain when your current chain wears out.
That won't keep the chainrings and cassette from looking like crap though, unless you go black there too.
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Old 06-11-10, 06:18 PM   #9
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But you have to clean the cassette,jockey wheels and rings as well. Does the best job short of removing and soaking the chain.
But use varsol or mineral spirits at $8 a gallon not $14 for a tiny bottle.
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Old 06-11-10, 06:28 PM   #10
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Are you riding Campagnolo? Their front derailleurs have a graphite insert that colors my chains like pencil leads.
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Old 06-11-10, 07:14 PM   #11
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wax your chain?
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Old 06-11-10, 11:05 PM   #12
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meh...I've stopped worrying so much about chain cleaning. For me, putting in so much effort to make a $30 chain last a bit longer is not worth the hassle. Not that I'm rich. I ride in all weather, all year. I put all the best effort into my last 10 spd chain, and got less than 2000 miles, and a couple gears are still worn so they skip with the new chain. Basically, it's all going to wear with use, especially in the conditions my parts see.

Not that I don't try to keep it well-lubed. I'm just not taking it off the bike and cleaning the chain in spirits any longer.
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Old 06-12-10, 07:23 AM   #13
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wax your chain?
+1 if you insist on a completely clean drive train. Years ago I did this for a few months and the chainrings, chain and cogs stayed spotless. Unfortunately it had to be repeated every couple of weeks and got too tiresome to bother with.

The procedure:

You must have a removable chain. I did this back when you could push out and replace the same pin (6-speed chain). Now you will need a chain with a reusable master link like a SRAM, KMC or Wippermann.

Disclaimer: This procedure can be dangerous. You are going to have to heat the wax well above boiling water temperature to make it thin enough to penetrate the chain links. You could have a fire if you are careless and there is a real burn hazard. Use all needed precautions and proceed at your own risk. I'm telling you this works, not that you can do it safely. BE CAREFUL. Also, work outside over an electric hot plate if possible. You don't want a fire or spill in your kitchen.

1. Prior to the first waxing remove the chain and soak it in at least two changes of mineral spirits or kerosene with a lot of agitation. Wipe the chain and let it air dry overnight. It should be completely clean inside and out. Don't use a water based degreaser for this cleaning as any trapped residual water could be very hazardous in the subsequent steps. Also scrub your cogs and chainrings to remove any dirt and old lube. This step shouldn't have to be repeated for subsequent wax treatments. Just brush off the loose stuff and begin at step 2.

2. In a suitable metal container melt a pound or so of paraffin (canning wax, available in any supermarket). Use a candy or other suitable thermometer to monitor the wax's temperature and bring it up to 300 - 320F (150 - 160C). Note: heating the wax in a double boiler so it never exceeds 212F (100C), as is usually recommended, doesn't get the wax thin enough to work so if that's all you are going to do, don't bother.

3. Carefully lower the chain into the hot wax until it is completely submerged. Use a wire bent into a hook as a handle to control and later remove the chain. Reheat the wax to 300 - 320F and let the chain soak at that temperature for 10 minutes or so. Pay careful attention not to overheat the wax to the hazardous point. You really don't want a fire.

4. After the soaking period, remove the entire container with the chain still in it from the heat and let it cool to 140 - 150F (60 - 65C). This will thicken the wax and keep it from all running out of the chain when you take it out of the wax bath. It also makes the chain much safer to handle.

5. Using the wire handle, pull the chain out of the melted wax, let it drain over the container and hang it somewhere safe to cool.

6. When the chain is at room temperature it will be coated with wax and stiff as a broom handle. Work the links by hand to free them up and brush off any wax flakes. Reinstall the chain on your bike.

The resulting chain will be and remain completely clean. It won't pick up dirt or dust and the lubrication is adequate if not stellar. What it lacks is longevity and the chain will start to squeak in about 200 to 300 miles or after a ride in rain so you will have to redo the hot wax treatment.

Positives: A completely clean drive train and no "chainring tattoos" on your legs or clothes.

Negatives: This is a PITA to do, doesn't last long and is potentially dangerous.
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Old 06-12-10, 11:00 AM   #14
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White Lightning is a chain wax that gives the same results but is easier to use than Hillrider's method. From what I can tell it uses the same sort of wax but they dissovle the wax in a carrier solvent so you can apply it to a mounted chain and it'll soak in and then harden in place as the solvent evaporates.

But since I ride in the land of Rain I found that even one ride in the rain was enough to develop rust on the chain. For wet or muddy conditions it's totally useless for chains. But folks in dry conditions love it because it doesn't encourage dust to stick to it. Also because it flakes away it takes any dust that is on the chain with it. However because it's flaking away like this in its "self cleaning" cycle it requires frequent applications.

Although it turned out to be useless for me as a chain lube I found that it makes for a great lube for clipless pedals and shoe cleats. Sweet snap in and out with it....
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Old 06-12-10, 12:13 PM   #15
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Wear black pants.
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Old 06-12-10, 01:18 PM   #16
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White Lightning was indeed touted as a no-work substitute for hot wax lubing chains when it was first marketed but it never lived up to it's promise. It's penetration was poor and its low durability required nearly daily applications. As noted, in rain it was pretty much useless.

To make things even worse, they ran into a problem with clogged applicator bottles with some batches so you couldn't even use it. My one attempt to try it ended when I couldn't reliably get it out of the bottle. I don't hear much about it these days.
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Old 06-12-10, 02:21 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
+1 if you insist on a completely clean drive train. Years ago I did this for a few months and the chainrings, chain and cogs stayed spotless. Unfortunately it had to be repeated every couple of weeks and got too tiresome to bother with.

The procedure:

You must have a removable chain. I did this back when you could push out and replace the same pin (6-speed chain). Now you will need a chain with a reusable master link like a SRAM, KMC or Wippermann.

Disclaimer: This procedure can be dangerous. You are going to have to heat the wax well above boiling water temperature to make it thin enough to penetrate the chain links. You could have a fire if you are careless and there is a real burn hazard. Use all needed precautions and proceed at your own risk. I'm telling you this works, not that you can do it safely. BE CAREFUL. Also, work outside over an electric hot plate if possible. You don't want a fire or spill in your kitchen.

1. Prior to the first waxing remove the chain and soak it in at least two changes of mineral spirits or kerosene with a lot of agitation. Wipe the chain and let it air dry overnight. It should be completely clean inside and out. Don't use a water based degreaser for this cleaning as any trapped residual water could be very hazardous in the subsequent steps. Also scrub your cogs and chainrings to remove any dirt and old lube. This step shouldn't have to be repeated for subsequent wax treatments. Just brush off the loose stuff and begin at step 2.

2. In a suitable metal container melt a pound or so of paraffin (canning wax, available in any supermarket). Use a candy or other suitable thermometer to monitor the wax's temperature and bring it up to 300 - 320F (150 - 160C). Note: heating the wax in a double boiler so it never exceeds 212F (100C), as is usually recommended, doesn't get the wax thin enough to work so if that's all you are going to do, don't bother.

3. Carefully lower the chain into the hot wax until it is completely submerged. Use a wire bent into a hook as a handle to control and later remove the chain. Reheat the wax to 300 - 320F and let the chain soak at that temperature for 10 minutes or so. Pay careful attention not to overheat the wax to the hazardous point. You really don't want a fire.

4. After the soaking period, remove the entire container with the chain still in it from the heat and let it cool to 140 - 150F (60 - 65C). This will thicken the wax and keep it from all running out of the chain when you take it out of the wax bath. It also makes the chain much safer to handle.

5. Using the wire handle, pull the chain out of the melted wax, let it drain over the container and hang it somewhere safe to cool.

6. When the chain is at room temperature it will be coated with wax and stiff as a broom handle. Work the links by hand to free them up and brush off any wax flakes. Reinstall the chain on your bike.

The resulting chain will be and remain completely clean. It won't pick up dirt or dust and the lubrication is adequate if not stellar. What it lacks is longevity and the chain will start to squeak in about 200 to 300 miles or after a ride in rain so you will have to redo the hot wax treatment.

Positives: A completely clean drive train and no "chainring tattoos" on your legs or clothes.

Negatives: This is a PITA to do, doesn't last long and is potentially dangerous.
About once a month I remove my chain and clean it in kerosene. Reinstall it and use Prolink Gold lub on the chain. It doesn't take long and it looks black again. However, it keesp the chain working well.
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Old 06-12-10, 04:11 PM   #18
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About once a month I remove my chain and clean it in kerosene. Reinstall it and use Prolink Gold lub on the chain. It doesn't take long and it looks black again. However, it keesp the chain working well.
The hot wax treatment will indeed keep your chain immaculately clean and it's the only method I know that will. However, read the caveats. It's laborious, dangerous and not very durable. Anything else is easier but the chain does get dirty.
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Old 06-12-10, 04:19 PM   #19
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White Lightning was indeed touted as a no-work substitute for hot wax lubing chains when it was first marketed but it never lived up to it's promise......
I'm not surprised. In the right conditions (maybe the same as lived in by the folks that develped it?) I don't doubt that it would work nicely. But those conditions are such a specific set of circumstances that it's hard to imagine it being a big commercial success.
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Old 06-12-10, 05:12 PM   #20
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use one of those spray bottle waterbased citrus automotive degreasers
just spray the chain and use a toothbrush on the chain and rinse with a hose
you will be surprised at the black stuff that comes out from within the rollers

let it dry overnight and they oil and you're good to go
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Old 06-12-10, 06:38 PM   #21
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Are you riding Campagnolo? Their front derailleurs have a graphite insert that colors my chains like pencil leads.
Winner. I have soaked the chain and cleaned it as best as humanly possible before riding it. This right here is probably the reason I'm seeing more black than any other bike I've ridden.
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Old 06-12-10, 07:27 PM   #22
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White Lightning is a chain wax that gives the same results but is easier to use than Hillrider's method. From what I can tell it uses the same sort of wax but they dissovle the wax in a carrier solvent so you can apply it to a mounted chain and it'll soak in and then harden in place as the solvent evaporates.

But since I ride in the land of Rain I found that even one ride in the rain was enough to develop rust on the chain. For wet or muddy conditions it's totally useless for chains. But folks in dry conditions love it because it doesn't encourage dust to stick to it. Also because it flakes away it takes any dust that is on the chain with it. However because it's flaking away like this in its "self cleaning" cycle it requires frequent applications.

Although it turned out to be useless for me as a chain lube I found that it makes for a great lube for clipless pedals and shoe cleats. Sweet snap in and out with it....
Anyone ever put regular, oil-based lube on top of a waxed chain to keep the rust away AND get the benefits of the wax inside the links? Would that just dissolve away the wax?
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Old 06-12-10, 09:14 PM   #23
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Anyone ever put regular, oil-based lube on top of a waxed chain to keep the rust away AND get the benefits of the wax inside the links? Would that just dissolve away the wax?
I don't think there is any benefit to having wax inside the links as opposed to oil. If you're going to do this, just use oil.
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Old 06-13-10, 01:27 AM   #24
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Anyone ever put regular, oil-based lube on top of a waxed chain to keep the rust away AND get the benefits of the wax inside the links? Would that just dissolve away the wax?
The oil will dissolve the wax and then you just have extra sticky oil with none of the advantages of the wax. The only reason for wax as a lube is to avoid grit sticking to the chain. If you require oil for a given area then there's no point in adding the wax to teh formula. The oil is a far better lubricant in any event.
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Old 06-13-10, 06:30 AM   #25
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Anyone ever put regular, oil-based lube on top of a waxed chain to keep the rust away AND get the benefits of the wax inside the links? Would that just dissolve away the wax?
Actually, the ideal arrangement would be just the opposite. You would like to have oil inside the chain as it is a much better lubricant and wax outside of the chain to keep it clean. If you ever figure a way to do this let us know.
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