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  1. #1
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Lots of grinding - my fault, or normal wear?

    Hi, mechanics,

    I'm still a hardware newbie. I have ridden to commute ~10 miles/day for the last 2-1/2 years, but am not a recreational cyclist. I ride a Diamondback Crestview hybrid, which has 24 speeds using Shimano components. I live in Maine, so winter commuting is rather harsh, involving temps from below zero to mid-40's F, and often wet and slushy roads.

    I'm still on the original chain and other drivetrain hardware, and I know it's probably time to replace at least the chain. (I'm trying to get through winter before I do that.) I'm not sure if the problem I'm having with my gears grinding are simply due to the wear and tear, or something else that I may have done wrong.

    The reason I ask is that the grinding seems to have increased markedly since two week-ends ago, when I gave it all a thorough washdown. I washed everything with water and Simple Green, dried it, lubed the chain with Finish Line Cross Country, and (brace yourself) sprayed WD40 (no groans, please) on everything else. I know many people consider WD40 taboo, but I used it because I also heard it was a good moisture displacer, and I was worried about moisture from the washdown freezing once the bike got back out in the cold. (I was washing it in the warm house.) Was that a really, really bad thing to do?

    I also used quite a bit a Cross Country on the chain, maybe more than was necessary. Does any of this sound like it might have increased my grinding problem, or is it just coincidence? If any of these things, what can I do about it now? Or just get a new chain, and maybe other things? What did I do wrong, and why was it wrong?

    Now I'm embarassed.

  2. #2
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    According to my calculations, your chain (and cassette) have over 9000 miles. It is time to replace them both. And may be the chain rings too.

    About the chain lube... too much is not good, since you will get your chain too sticky and pick up dirt, which will accelerate the chain wearing.

  3. #3
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leoh
    According to my calculations, your chain (and cassette) have over 9000 miles. It is time to replace them both. And may be the chain rings too.
    Actually, probably closer to half that, since there's usually 1 or 2 days a week I can't ride for scheduling or weather reasons, and there were a few months in 2003 that I couldn't ride at all. My odometer only shows about 2500, but I didn' have it or it hasn't worked the whole time, so it's probably at least 3000. But you're probably still right.

    Terminology clarification (told you I'm a hardware newbie): Chain rings are the 3 big rings attached to the pedals, and the cassette is the set of sprockets attached to the rear wheel?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Actually, probably closer to half that, since there's usually 1 or 2 days a week I can't ride for scheduling or weather reasons, and there were a few months in 2003 that I couldn't ride at all. My odometer only shows about 2500, but I didn' have it or it hasn't worked the whole time, so it's probably at least 3000. But you're probably still right.
    Then your chain rings should be OK. You should check the chain and cassette. They are probably worn out.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Terminology clarification (told you I'm a hardware newbie): Chain rings are the 3 big rings attached to the pedals, and the cassette is the set of sprockets attached to the rear wheel?
    The chain rings are the 3 on the front, and the cassette is the "module" with the 8 sprockets on the back.

  5. #5
    Get the stick. darkmother's Avatar
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    The grinding you describe may or may not be due to drivetrain wear. Sounds like an adjustment problem to me. That said, I think you will need to replace your entire drive line (chain, chain rings and cassette) soon, if not now. One winter of 20 miles/day destroys a chain and cogs for me-rings too about half the time. Lots of salt and sand on roads here.

    You can check your chain condition with a ruler. A new chain has one pin every half inch, exactly. For a badly worn chain, 12 complete links-24pins-will measure over 12-1/4". At this level of wear you generally have to replace the cassette (rear cogs) and chain-sometimes one or more chainrings. Check it out.

  6. #6
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkmother
    Sounds like an adjustment problem to me.
    So if I noticed it more after I washed it the other week-end, maybe I knocked it out of alignment at that time. That could explain it.

    And I will definitely check the chain wear, thanks for the specific instructions.

  7. #7
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    So, no one's mentioned my use of WD40. Is in not that bad, then? Then why do people say not to use it?

  8. #8
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    So, no one's mentioned my use of WD40. Is in not that bad, then? Then why do people say not to use it?
    Hi John:
    It's possible that when you cleaned your bike you may have knocked some dirt out of something, or pushed some dirt into something that changed one of the adjustments just a bit. If you have a steady grinding noise while you ride, it's not the chain or the cassette wear. I don't mean they are not worn, just that this noise is from something else. It's most likely either the front derailleur just touching the chain sometimes in some gears, or the rear derailleur just a touch out of adjustment and just pushing the chain slightly to one side and making noise. I can't be sure 100%, but this is the most common cause of this kind of noise, so I'm starting with the most likely problem. From the kind of riding you do, (all weather) it's common that the shift cables get dirt into them or rust a little and become sluggish.Then the derailleurs don't always go where they are supposed too.
    Do you have access to a bike stand? Or can you get your bike hung from the ceiling with two ropes, or something? This way you can carefully turn the pedals and look for something making noise. If you find something like one of the derailleurs rubing while pedaling, just move the shifter a hair and see if the noise gets better or worse. If this happens, the number one suspect is dirty cables.

    WD-40 is a good moisture displacer. It also leaves a good "temporary" covering on unprotected steel. Unfortunately it is a good chain lube and grease displacer as well. If you just put a light dusting of WD-40 on your drive train from a distance away you probably did no harm. This is NOT recommended however.

    If you blast the chain closely with a spray of WD-40 you will wash out some of the thicker more viscous chain lube you need in there to prevent wear. If the chain is squeaking it will stop at first. But then it dries out quickly and you have a pretty dry chain. You can actually use WD-40 to clean grease off your hands. NOT GOOD for drive trains. If you spray the cassette (rear sprockets) closely you may get some WD 40 through the cracks (spaces in the free hub or freewheel) and start to wash out the thick grease that needs to be in there to keep things from wearing out. The same for wheel bearings, and bottom bracket (the pedal axle) the derailleur pulleys, the headset, (front fork bearings) the chain, and the pedal bearings.
    If you get much in there you wash out the thick grease and the bearings wear out quickly. When a bike shop is dealing with customers, you don't know who is going to be careful and not get in close with a little WD-40 and who is going to get close to the chain, or any bearings and blast WD-40 into them. So you have to warn people not to use it. The best answer really is to just skip it, and find out what the best lube to use on the different moving parts are. You don't want a grease/lube remover on your bike.

    Cross Country on the chain is perfect. Did the water all dry before you took the bike out to the cold?
    Is it possible there is ice in something? Just fishing for ideas. Do you know how to clean the cables? it's easy once you know how.

    edit post.. Everyone was a newbie at one time. I ruined a perfectly good bottom bracket by getting two much WD-40 into it. It's not a huge deal to fix it but, your bike is out of commision for a while. And it's a few bucks that I did not want to spend. Ever wonder how the experienced people know why not to do something ??
    Last edited by 2manybikes; 02-22-05 at 01:06 PM. Reason: i

  9. #9
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Hey, thanks for the great answer, 2many. (We'll have to meet someday, with all this online interaction. Let me know next time you're up here in Portland.)

    I didn't spray the WD-40 on the chain or cassette, but unfortunately, I did spray it pretty good on the derailleurs, both front and back. The grinding I'm hearing is not constant, but occurs when I'm trying to get going from a stop, putting a lot of force on the pedals. It basically spontaneously skips gears. At least once I've noticed the chain jumping from the large ring back to the middle, but I think it also happens on the cassette. (It's hard to look down and/or back to watch it while attempting to accelerate through an intersection! ) It's not so bad if I accelerate gently, and hardly happens at all when just maintaining speed on a straightaway.

    I think all the water dried from the washing; I left it in the house overnight afterwards. Plus, a few days last week the temps were above freezing during the day, and it still did it on the ride home.

    I don't know how to clean the cables, but I should, as sometimes the derailleurs don't take up the slack like they should. Probably Googling for "how to clean bike cable" would teach me that.

    I'm asking for $$$ for my upcoming birthday so I can buy bike things. A stand is near the top of my list.

    You mention fixing your BB (see, I'm learning the acronyms! ), did you have to buy a new one, or can you "re-grease" things if they've been WD-40'd dry?

    My guess is aside from any harm I may have done to the derailleurs, my bike is also getting to the age of needing some drivetrain maintenance anyway. Last winter wasn't so bad because it was still less than a year old then.

  10. #10
    Senior Member JBar's Avatar
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    I doubt that you did lasting harm. Put a little lube on the pivot points and wipe off the excess. It sounds to me like you may need to adjust your derailleurs.

    Try this link:
    http://sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html

  11. #11
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBar
    I doubt that you did lasting harm. Put a little lube on the pivot points and wipe off the excess. It sounds to me like you may need to adjust your derailleurs.
    So what is good lube for the pivot points?

    Thanks for the link. That Sheldon Brown, he's just kind a of a bicycle god, isn't he?

  12. #12
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    Hey, thanks for the great answer, 2many. (We'll have to meet someday, with all this online interaction. Let me know next time you're up here in Portland.)

    I didn't spray the WD-40 on the chain or cassette, but unfortunately, I did spray it pretty good on the derailleurs, both front and back. The grinding I'm hearing is not constant, but occurs when I'm trying to get going from a stop, putting a lot of force on the pedals. It basically spontaneously skips gears. At least once I've noticed the chain jumping from the large ring back to the middle, but I think it also happens on the cassette. (It's hard to look down and/or back to watch it while attempting to accelerate through an intersection! ) It's not so bad if I accelerate gently, and hardly happens at all when just maintaining speed on a straightaway.

    I think all the water dried from the washing; I left it in the house overnight afterwards. Plus, a few days last week the temps were above freezing during the day, and it still did it on the ride home.

    I don't know how to clean the cables, but I should, as sometimes the derailleurs don't take up the slack like they should. Probably Googling for "how to clean bike cable" would teach me that.

    I'm asking for $$$ for my upcoming birthday so I can buy bike things. A stand is near the top of my list.

    You mention fixing your BB (see, I'm learning the acronyms! ), did you have to buy a new one, or can you "re-grease" things if they've been WD-40'd dry?

    My guess is aside from any harm I may have done to the derailleurs, my bike is also getting to the age of needing some drivetrain maintenance anyway. Last winter wasn't so bad because it was still less than a year old then.
    ..shift cable going slack..(while pedaling)..could be dirty cables..or even a frayed cable. If not pedaling than not a problem.

    Spraying the derailleurs probably did no harm at all. A drop of Cross Country at night on the pivot points of the derailleurs would be good. Or a similar thin oil. Give it all night to sink in. The derailleurs don't often need pivot point lube anyway. A little is good. Wipe off the excess in the morning just to keep dirt from sticking to the excess oil. Exactly as you would with a bike chain. Oil at night or after a ride, after cleaning, when the chain is a little warm, let it soak in a little then wipe off the chain.

    I think we have eliminated ice.

    From everything you said, including the change right after washing the bike, I still think it is cables that don't slide feely and don't get the derailleurs in the right position. It's very common on all bikes especially all weather commuters. A little dirt or water in a cable can do this. For example, right after you wash your bike........ me too, guilty your honor.

    I have a Performance bike stand..it was $79 a couple of years ago. It's good enough, but the Park folding consumer work stand is the one I wish I had. I have used them a lot. I should have spent a little more.

    The BB.... .,..Most modern bikes ( maybe all) including your Diamondback have a cartridge Bot....oops... BB ....When it is gone you just throw it out and put in another. Itís just a tube with a bearing in each end. A good thing. Maybe $30 mail order. Maybe an hour labor at a bike shop in addition.

    Older bikes used the short frame tube you see on the outside as the tube and had parts (cups) that thread into each end to hold the bearings and the axle (spindle ) was held in place by them.. Those can come apart and be re greased. Still called a BB. Both types even the outside shell get referred to as the BB.

    I'll give cleaning the cables a shot..


    With the back wheel off the ground, pedal the bike and shift the chain to the biggest sprocket (cog) in the rear. Stop the wheel. With the wheel stopped ,shift the shifter until it goes all the way to the other end. In other words the chain stays on the big cog, the derailleur starts to move over to where it would put the chain if you were pedaling, but the chain holds it from moving. Since you moved the shifter, the cable has now gone slack. The slack cable is what you want to achieve.

    Take a look at the little metal pieces that hold the outside of the cable (housing) in place on the bike, they are welded to the bike. (Cable stops) you can pull the housing out of them because there is slack in the cable. A new bike will have a groove in the cable stop (slotted cable stops) to allow you to bring the
    inside cable (inner) right away from the frame. If you go around carefully and look at each one you can take most of the cable away from the bike. This means you can move the housing up and down on the inner as you wish. Get a clean rag, move the housing out of the way and wipe down as much of the inner wire as you can. Try moving the housing back and forth and spinning it. Get the inner as clean as possible and check for kinks or worn places. Any odd places on the cable mean a problem. Put a little bit of grease on your finger tips and just rub down the inner cable so it has almost an invisible thin coating in the places where it goes into the outer cable. Just a tiny bit. Too little to see almost.

    Carefully put all the cable housings back, double check that they are right. Then carefully pedal the bike,
    the rear derailleur will come all the way down to the small cog. If you had a stand now, you could try pedaling the bike and see if the derailleur is quieter as you pedal. Then the same thing for the front der.
    Pedal and put it in the big sprocket (chain ring ) stop the pedals and shift to the small ring. The cable will go slack. You should be able to do everything you did to the other cable. If you find any bad places on the cables I would say at this stage of the game, take it to a friendly bike shop and see if you can watch them replace the cable.

    Some bikes have the Shift cables go through a plastic track bolted to the bottom of the BB. I don't remember if your bike does, some don't. If it does, this is a trouble spot, as the dirt from the front wheel lands right there. It's got to be clean. Wipe the cable well, and if you promise not to miss... with the red nozzle on you could squirt a little WD-40 in the groove if it looks dirty or salty. Be sure to wipe it off after. Or just clean it with a Q tip. The plastic is a little slippery so no grease on the little track at first.

    This may be on the final exam.

  13. #13
    cyclist/gearhead/cycli... moxfyre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    I'm still on the original chain and other drivetrain hardware, and I know it's probably time to replace at least the chain. (I'm trying to get through winter before I do that.) I'm not sure if the problem I'm having with my gears grinding are simply due to the wear and tear, or something else that I may have done wrong.
    My 2 cents... I would replace the chain as soon it is stretched (12 links measure longer than 12-1/16 inches), or if it is rusty or stiff. I know it sucks to buy a new chain just to have it get fouled up, but running a worn out chain will damage your cogs as well, which might cost you $30 to replace instead of just $10 for a chain.

    You can keep a chain in very good shape, even if you ride it in the rain, by wiping it down after every ride. I just put a damp rag on my hand, grab the chain with it, and run it backwards a few turns.

    The reason I ask is that the grinding seems to have increased markedly since two week-ends ago, when I gave it all a thorough washdown. I washed everything with water and Simple Green, dried it, lubed the chain with Finish Line Cross Country, and (brace yourself) sprayed WD40 (no groans, please) on everything else. I know many people consider WD40 taboo, but I used it because I also heard it was a good moisture displacer, and I was worried about moisture from the washdown freezing once the bike got back out in the cold. (I was washing it in the warm house.) Was that a really, really bad thing to do?

    I also used quite a bit a Cross Country on the chain, maybe more than was necessary. Does any of this sound like it might have increased my grinding problem, or is it just coincidence? If any of these things, what can I do about it now? Or just get a new chain, and maybe other things? What did I do wrong, and why was it wrong?
    I don't think this was too bad. In general I would not clean anything by spraying because it gets dirt into nooks and crannies, which leads to grinding and wear. But getting your chain and sprockets clean is a good idea. I like to do it with a wet rag, then dry everything afterwards. Using extra lube isn't gonna kill you, especially if the chain is clean, the only thing it could do is get stuff sticky and make it pick up more dirt.

    One other thing you should check are your hubs. I'd take the wheels off one at a time and try spinning the axle slowly by hand. If they aren't smooth, time for a hub overhaul (not too hard to learn). Rain and dirt can foul up a hub pretty good.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkmother
    For a badly worn chain, 12 complete links-24pins-will measure over 12-1/4".
    Good advice except replace the 12 1/4" with 12 1/16".

    It will never make it to 12 1/4".

    Al

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