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Old 03-18-17, 08:42 AM   #1
Colorado Kid
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cleaning The Chain

The last few weeks have been very busy. Reports that need to be done, paperwork etc. By the time I ride home, I'm beat. Today I cleaned the chain for the first time in a couple weeks. The chain was Gummy and very dirty. (It's a wonder it didn't start to skip!) How often do you clean/lube your chain? What is the longest you've gone without cleaning it?
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Old 03-18-17, 08:52 AM   #2
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Depends on the conditions under which I am riding. Riding on wet pavement, especially with road salt, I have to clean it about once a week. Under dry conditions I can go weeks and months.
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Old 03-18-17, 08:53 AM   #3
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There are a vast number of threads on this, and the answers are all over the board.

Personally I don't clean chains, but instead keep them fairly clean by running them through a paper towel once in a while as needed.

Likewise with lube, lots of lubes out there, lots of opinions, plus the lube choice, along with local conditions will determine how often you need to lube and clean.
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Old 03-18-17, 12:21 PM   #4
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I clean my drivetrain once or twice a week in the winter time and lube the cables under the bottom bracket, jockey wheels and the derailleurs.

In the summer time I had to clean the chain once a week as I had to leave it outside of my workplace.
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Old 03-18-17, 01:13 PM   #5
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I've burned through a chain in 2000 miles, and I've had one go 5000 with no defectable wear. So chain life IME is really all over the map. I used to put a drop of tri-flo on every link every 500 miles (about once per month) and one got gummy, attracted dirt, and wore out, the other lasted for ever. I can't explain why. Now, every couple of rides I give the casette a quick spray with WD-40 while running the crank backwards. They appear cleaner and l haven't worn one out yet. As a rule of thumb, I know if they sound squeaky I'm delinquent.

...and I never clean.
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Old 03-18-17, 05:46 PM   #6
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This is another big debate. I'm on both sides of the fence.

For the bike I purchased in 1979, I had never cleaned the chain. It was only when my son worked in a bike shop 34 years later was there any work done on the chain. He changed it.

A few years ago, when I finished my first winter of bike commuting, I cringed at the thought of purchasing a new bike and putting it through the harshest of conditions winter will throw at it. But as it turned out, I did make that purchase and I thought I better take care of it or it won't last for many more winters. So I got a chain cleaning kit and started scrubbing the chain clean for the first time in my life.

Some people still think simply wiping the gunk off is good enough. That may be true too.
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Old 03-18-17, 10:24 PM   #7
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Being a daily rider in a very wet and grimy environment I do chain maintenance on a weekly basis.

1. I wet it with a solvent lube like White lightning dry, or Finishline dry.
2. I spin it for a minute or so then wipe it, and jockey wheels with paper towels, and then a terrycloth rag.
3. I repeat 1 & 2 when really dirty.
4. I put a drop of Chain-L or White lightning wet on each link then spin the chain for a minute.
5. I wipe with paper towels and terrycloth rag until clean and dry on the surface.

I don't keep track of mileage but they seem to last at least a year+ so I would guess 6k to 7k miles.

On my bikes with chaincases, I oil them once a year and they last for many years.

Last edited by kickstart; 03-18-17 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 03-19-17, 07:14 AM   #8
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Thinking that winter was over, I removed the chain from my winter bike and dropped it into a jar of kerosene. My plan was to leave it there until next winter. Then it snowed and I had to get it back out. There was quite a bit of grit left in the jar. I was shocked. Kind of like when you get one of those new vacuum cleaners that lets you see how much dust you're picking up.

On other bikes, I've gone a year or longer without penalty. These days, I have to admit that I clean my chains for aesthetics more than function, because I like how my bikes look with a nice clean chain!
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Old 03-19-17, 09:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
Being a daily rider in a very wet and grimy environment I do chain maintenance on a weekly basis.

1. I wet it with a solvent lube like White lightning dry, or Finishline dry.
2. I spin it for a minute or so then wipe it, and jockey wheels with paper towels, and then a terrycloth rag.
3. I repeat 1 & 2 when really dirty.
4. I put a drop of Chain-L or White lightning wet on each link then spin the chain for a minute.
5. I wipe with paper towels and terrycloth rag until clean and dry on the surface.

I don't keep track of mileage but they seem to last at least a year+ so I would guess 6k to 7k miles.

On my bikes with chaincases, I oil them once a year and they last for many years.
OP, Kickstart and I live and ride the same area, same conditions. He does commute more than I do. I do not clean my chain until it makes some noise or I have some vacation days. I used to clean my chains and lube them regularly. I slowly decreased to this. And, I have not noticed any increase in needing to replace chains or cassettes. I have my bikes maintained by a pro a couple of times per year, and he has not noticed any big difference.
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Old 03-19-17, 12:29 PM   #10
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On my route it hardly matters how "long" it is. I have put a brand new chain on, ridden 10 miles to work (at the old place). 4 miles of that is gravel road. If it's raining, I'll park the bike in the stairwell and when I get back on it in the evening, the 10 mile old chain won't bend anymore because it's entirely caked in dried clay.

I got to the point where I just power wash it and daub some lube on it when it's dirty, and put lube on when it starts making noise. I tried keeping it clean and lubed and my payoff for hours of work over the life of the chain was an extra 150 miles (about 2 weeks) life on a $6 chain. I decided diligence is overrated.

The BEST I can do, if I'm super diligent and spend hours cleaning the chain, is about 2000 miles on a chain. If I am lazy, I get 1800 miles.

I've gotten to where I don't bother measuring my chain anymore either. I just run it until it starts to skip - about 8000 miles, and then replace the entire drivetrain. It's actually LESS money than replacing the chain every 2K.
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Old 03-19-17, 01:26 PM   #11
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10 miles per day, usually dry, dirty roads. No dirt roads.

I use dry lube to reduce the nasty oily greasy build-up in both the chain and cassette. I usually lube the chain every 3 weeks or so, depending on if it's been wet. Every 500-1000 miles, I pull it off and give it an overnight bath in mineral spirits and re lube. Visual inspection every morning. Working pretty decent so far. If it sounds gravel-y and dry... it is.
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Old 03-19-17, 01:41 PM   #12
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Pedro's Chain Pig about once a week does the job.
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Old 03-19-17, 04:43 PM   #13
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People actually clean their chains? About the only thing I do is at the end of the winter season I'll put a lot of lube on the chain or my winter bike and make sure none of the links are binding.
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Old 03-19-17, 04:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post
OP, Kickstart and I live and ride the same area, same conditions. He does commute more than I do. I do not clean my chain until it makes some noise or I have some vacation days. I used to clean my chains and lube them regularly. I slowly decreased to this. And, I have not noticed any increase in needing to replace chains or cassettes. I have my bikes maintained by a pro a couple of times per year, and he has not noticed any big difference.
That's interesting, The reason I became diligent about chain maintenance is because I was going through chains and components too quickly.
I wounder where the difference is. Maybe because I'm a heavier rider on heavier bikes, maybe because I use lower end chains and components, maybe some of the roads I ride are in worse condition, maybe because I'm careless about cross chaining, maybe all of them?
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Old 03-19-17, 05:15 PM   #15
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That's interesting, The reason I became diligent about chain maintenance is because I was going through chains and components too quickly.
I wounder where the difference is. Maybe because I'm a heavier rider on heavier bikes, maybe because I use lower end chains and components, maybe some of the roads I ride are in worse condition, maybe because I'm careless about cross chaining, maybe all of them?
I am about 185 plus gear, I do tend to buy expensive stuff (if there is overall value), from my memory of your bikes, my bikes are lighter (I don't have enough miles on the ebike to know about its chains, yet), roads are likely the same, I try to avoid the cross chaining.
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Old 03-19-17, 05:55 PM   #16
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What is the longest you've gone without cleaning it?
once a year works for me
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Old 03-19-17, 08:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
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I am about 185 plus gear, I do tend to buy expensive stuff (if there is overall value), from my memory of your bikes, my bikes are lighter (I don't have enough miles on the ebike to know about its chains, yet), roads are likely the same, I try to avoid the cross chaining.
Well, I'm 220 plus way too much stuff, my bikes range between 32 and 60 lbs, 70 for my e-cargo bike. I've only put 450 miles on my e-bike to date, so also no experience with longevity there, but having a hub drive may help some.

I wish I knew the secret as chain maintenance isn't something I'm fond of, and the reason why I have a couple of bikes with chaincases.
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Old 03-20-17, 07:24 AM   #18
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When the chain gets grimy and "gummy". Hose it off with WD40, wipe it off. Chain lube it, wipe the excess off. Maybe 3 times a year.
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Old 03-20-17, 10:15 AM   #19
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The last few weeks have been very busy. Reports that need to be done, paperwork etc. By the time I ride home, I'm beat. Today I cleaned the chain for the first time in a couple weeks. The chain was Gummy and very dirty. (It's a wonder it didn't start to skip!) How often do you clean/lube your chain? What is the longest you've gone without cleaning it?
Huh? A dirty or grimy chain is not the least bit more likely to skip than a clean one. A chain might skip once it is elongated, and at that point, cleaning won't change that at all.

Even when I'm riding frequently, it's at least a couple of months between cleanings for me.
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Old 03-21-17, 12:16 PM   #20
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It really depends on your situation. In my situation, if I didn't clean my chain, it gets to the point where it literally will not bend anymore. If I try to pedal, it just jams in the derailleurs. I have to sit down next to the bike and force the links to bend one at a time until I can ride. This can happen with a one day old chain.

They also can get so squeaky that they drive me crazy, in just a day or two, depending on weather.

I tend to lube maybe once every couple of weeks if it's a nice dry summer. In the winter and mud season, as needed. At least once a week, sometimes twice a day.
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Old 03-21-17, 06:14 PM   #21
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I rotate between two chains every 6 months (about 1000 mi), and the off-duty chain gets shaken 'clean'-ish in some simple green, rinsed and dried in the oven, before getting coiled flat into a ziploc bag with a couple Tbsp of Chain-L. I flip it to let the Chain-L trickle through to the other side when I notice it in the garage cupboard. If the chain makes noise between swaps, I add some Chain-L and wipe down. If I happen to get my face close enough to the chain to notice gunk on it, I'll wipe it with a paper towel. (I need to do this)
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Old 03-23-17, 01:33 PM   #22
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"It depends" can be the hardest two words for some people to hear.
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Old 03-23-17, 02:57 PM   #23
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Old 03-23-17, 04:41 PM   #24
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I'm cleaning and relubing chains much less often with Tri-Flow -- once or twice a month, depending on conditions. I ride three or four times a week, 10-60 miles per ride, a mix of pavement and gravel.

Initial chain prep seems to help. I began with a new chain and wiped it as clean as possible without stripping it with solvents. Usually I can ride for a few weeks before I can hear a bit of chain noise. Then I'll wipe the chain with a shop rag, squirt it with Tri-Flow while spinning the chain, wipe it down as much as possible, and just ride until I can hear it again.

And the Tri-Flow smells pleasant, vaguely fruity like mango-banana candy. So I don't mind squirting it on in the tiled hallway before riding. Just some newspapers under the bike to catch the drips.

So far no rides in pouring rain with Tri-Flow on the chains. For a year I used Park CL-1 and was satisfied with it overall, although no matter how much I wiped it down it would still pick up more road grit. But the CL-1 lasted well through pouring rain and actually felt cleaner and less noisy for days after a rain. But Tri-Flow is much easier to apply and wipe down cleanly. Doesn't seem to leave a persistently oily/greasy residue like Park CL-1, but that may be why the Park lube lasts so well in rain too.
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Old 03-23-17, 06:37 PM   #25
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I used to clean chains regularly, but I stopped. I don't have time for that nonsense, and I don't believe it actually prolongs the chain's life. The other week I snapped, though, and did a major scrub on the drivetrain of my road bike. It was so filthy it was making me crazy. But I didn't try to flush the grease out of the inside of the chain like I used to do, I think that's bad for it. Just cleaned the outer surfaces. Hopefully that will reduce the accumulation of grime on my derailleur pulley wheels and rear cassette for a little while. Looks much nicer, now.
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