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Old 04-25-08, 07:44 AM   #1
neilfein
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Maintenance on longer tours

I was riding on the Capital Crescent trail in DC, and my drivetrain got pretty filthy from riding on the packed dirt. Nothing unusual, but it got me to thinking of the week-long tour I'll be doing this summer, which will be mostly on the same kind of paths. What's the simplest way to maintain a bike on the road?

Has anyone figured out how to clean and lube your drivetrain while on tour? Bringing a small container of oil is easy to figure out - put some oil into an old eyedropper container or something similar. But how does one strip the old crud off? (This is really only an issue for longer tours on dirt roads, of course.)

I usually use a chain cleaner and a small brush, but bringing these along is a recipe for disaster if something leaks, and it's almost impossible to get the old dirty degreaser out of the chain cleaner without a scrub sink.

A few tours back, a bike shop cleaned me up for free, but one can't always count on there being a shop. Maybe bring a small spray can of degreaser and find a hose?
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Old 04-25-08, 08:11 AM   #2
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Is this with, or without fenders?
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Old 04-25-08, 08:30 AM   #3
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I found that applying Boesheild T-9 and wiping the chain off is all may chain has required. This includes the second 2/3's of The TransAmerica and a lot of riding around the MD, PA, VA area since then. Since the chain now has over 6000 miles on it, shifts fine, runs quiet, and measures OK I think it is a good system.

If I ride somewhere really muddy i hose it off with water, let it dry then relube.
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Old 04-25-08, 08:54 AM   #4
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I was wondering about that. I never see a Park chain cleaning tool in anybody's pack list. As for dirty old degreaser, have you tried pouring in almost-boiling-hot water?
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Old 04-25-08, 09:18 AM   #5
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Have you tried waxing your chain?

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html#wax
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Old 04-25-08, 09:26 AM   #6
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On my last big trip I took a long a suede brush. That worked pretty well at getting the crud off when we were pedalling on dirt tracks.
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Old 04-25-08, 09:41 AM   #7
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Have you tried waxing your chain?

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html#wax
I used to do this years ago and found it to be a bit of a hassle at home and I don't think I would consider it on a long tour.

On a different tack...
I have a theory that aggressive cleaning of the chain results in getting tiny amounts of abrasive stuff deeper into the chain. This seems to cause shorter chain life.

I like to keep the rings, chain, jockey wheels, and cluster clean, but prefer to accomplish that with as little solvent or soap, and as little brushing or scrubbing as possible.

On the TA we used Pedros offroad stuff in the very beginning. It worked well and didn't require much cleaning, but tatooed us more than we liked.

We switched to White Lightning and applied according to the directions on the bottle. It was awful! The buildup was terrible and it tatooed us even worse while requiring frequent application. We quickly decided that we didn't like it and paid a shop to degrease our chains.

We then switched to Boeshield T-9 and the chains stayed clean and shiny despite the fact that we rode on a good bit of dirt and dust in many long sections of road construction. I tried to do the lubing when we had access to a few paper towels and just applied liberally, spun the cranks a while, and then wiped it off. I have not done any cleaning of the drive train beyond just hosing it off with plain water since then and only did that when at home and the bike was muddy. The chain had maybe 6000 miles on it and looks bright and shiny and still measures fine for "stretch".

Sorry for going on and on, but I am delighted with T-9 and this method.
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Old 04-25-08, 10:09 AM   #8
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Is this with, or without fenders?
Without. My canti brakes make full fenders impossible. (I'm planning to put on V brakes in the near future and I should be able to fit fenders then.)
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Old 04-25-08, 11:37 AM   #9
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Come on Pete, 6000 miles on the same chain. What type of sorcery is this? I'm lucky to get 2500 before I get concerned about the rest of my drive train or it starts skipping. I think I need some T-9.
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Old 04-25-08, 11:46 AM   #10
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Trust is the road to provide.

Just about everything you need to do a good drive-train cleaning, except of course the fluids, will magically appear on the side of the road the moment you begin to think about needing them. This is America, after all. A good brush, a shop rag, and a screw top soft drink bottle are just waiting to be picked up and reused.

On a good day you might even find a half-full bottle of simple green. If not, ask one of those friendly RVers in the campground if they can spare a few swigs. RVers are, in general, exceptionally helpful folks.
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Old 04-25-08, 12:05 PM   #11
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Come on Pete, 6000 miles on the same chain. What type of sorcery is this? I'm lucky to get 2500 before I get concerned about the rest of my drive train or it starts skipping. I think I need some T-9.
As I said, I think that not cleaning it with anything that helps grit get inside the is key. T-9 allows me to get by with just applying and wiping off. I do lube fairly frequently (once every several riding days).

My two companions from the TA have had similar results. I think the chain we are using is KMC-Z9000, which I don't think is anything special since it was standard equipment on an inexpensive bike.
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Old 04-25-08, 05:56 PM   #12
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Neil,
I think the most important point here is to use the least sticky lube for the drive chain. Without Starting another chain lube rant I would offer that if you use the lightweight T9 mentioned here or a wax lube you won't get so much grime built up. With the lighter lube you may need to apply it more often, but in any case try to get off all excess after you apply it before you get on the road. This switch has made a big difference to me on long tours. Good luck.
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Old 04-25-08, 06:21 PM   #13
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Boeshield seems to be pretty nifty. From there package insert:

"Bicycle and Motorcycle Uses

For chains and cables spray or drip on Boeshield T-9®, wipe off excess, and allow to
set for at least one hour. For new chains, dip in Boeshield T-9®, squeegee off excess,
and allow to set for a day or two. Spray inside tubular frames.

Road cyclists can get about 300+ miles (500Km) per application. In wet weather
riding reapply after half that distance. For off road riding reapply after one quarter
that distance, more frequently if conditions require. For best performance, “apply
tonight, ride tomorrow”."
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Old 04-25-08, 11:43 PM   #14
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"Without. My canti brakes make full fenders impossible. (I'm planning to put on V brakes in the near future and I should be able to fit fenders then.)"

How is that possible? I run cantis and fenders all the time What is the problem you have with your rig?
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Old 04-26-08, 08:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Camel View Post

Road cyclists can get about 300+ miles (500Km) per application. In wet weather
riding reapply after half that distance. For off road riding reapply after one quarter
that distance, more frequently if conditions require. For best performance, “apply
tonight, ride tomorrow”."
I went to a bike maintenance course at REI and the instructor swears that the stuff is great but only good for 20 miles.
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Old 04-26-08, 09:25 AM   #16
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I'd consider buying the smallest container of SimpleGreen I could find, and leave it at a hiker/biker spot when you're finished with a sign saying, "Use what you need." Bring a rag, or better, keep your eyes peeled for cloth along the road - an old t-shirt, wash cloth, underwear. I'm always amused by the variety of detritus one sees by the side of the road while on tour.
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Old 04-26-08, 09:44 AM   #17
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I went to a bike maintenance course at REI and the instructor swears that the stuff is great but only good for 20 miles.
That's pretty funny. Does he recommend lubing 4 time during a century ride?

We found it was good for a few 60-85 mile days then we needed to reapply.

FWIW: I don't think that it lubes substantially better than Phil's or Pedro's, but we did find it attracted less buildup and pretty much negated the need to clean the chain.

I know that different conditions may mean something else will work better, but it worked well for us in the range of conditions we found on the TA and at home.

If you like what you are using keep using it, but if not I recommend trying T-9.

BTW: the one time that I do really recommend cleaning a chain is when changing lubes. Then it is a good idea to get the old stuff off before applying the new.
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Old 04-26-08, 10:27 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
We switched to White Lightning and applied according to the directions on the bottle. It was awful! The buildup was terrible and it tatooed us even worse while requiring frequent application. We quickly decided that we didn't like it and paid a shop to degrease our chains.

We then switched to Boeshield T-9 and the chains stayed clean and shiny despite the fact that we rode on a good bit of dirt and dust in many long sections of road construction. I tried to do the lubing when we had access to a few paper towels and just applied liberally, spun the cranks a while, and then wiped it off. I have not done any cleaning of the drive train beyond just hosing it off with plain water since then and only did that when at home and the bike was muddy. The chain had maybe 6000 miles on it and looks bright and shiny and still measures fine for "stretch".

Sorry for going on and on, but I am delighted with T-9 and this method.
That's a stirling endorcement for T-9. I might consider switching, but I'm curious. Before you started your use of White Lightning, did you thoroughly strip all old lubes off of your chain? You know, like submersion in mineral spirits. I ask this because I have had very good luck with White Lightning. I use it on our go fast bikes, our tandem, and my LHT. I used it on my Southern Tier ride last year and got over 3,500 miles out of my chain with infrequent use. I applied it perhaps 5 or 6 times. I haven't experienced the build-up you describe, and the chain stays clean and doesn't seem to rub off. Guess I'll have to try T-9 one of these days to see for myself.
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Old 04-26-08, 12:47 PM   #19
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... I'm curious. Before you started your use of White Lightning, did you thoroughly strip all old lubes off of your chain?
Yes we used an aerosol chain cleaner in a gizmo with brushes to scrub. The aerosol can and the device were sold together. I don't recall the brand name. I did as good of a cleaning as I could manage in camp and using that device along with paper towels. It seemed pretty clean.

As far as the application of White Lightning, we followed the directions on the bottle, which did not say to wipe off the chain after application. We applied it fairly liberally, which is what the directions seemed to suggest. I suspect that we might have had substantially better results if we had applied more sparingly and then wiped off thoroughly. We may have ridden sooner after application than recommended some of the time.

The riding conditions were very dry and dusty, mostly a really fine dust. The waxy lube and dust built up heavily especially on the jockey wheels and between the cogs.

Interestingly the bottle looked different than anything I see on the White Lightning web page now and I don't recall the name being any of the product names listed there now. So I am not sure which of the products listed it was or if perhaps it is even a discontinued product. It may be that the current stuff is better, but I was unhappy enough with it that I am not in a hurry to try any of their current products, especially since I an very satisfied with T-9.
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Old 04-26-08, 01:09 PM   #20
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Staehpj1, I agree with you. I found I didn't like the build up left over from the White Lightening while on tour. I'm sure it did its thing as far as lubrication but if you do a search, that's one product that people seem to love or hate.
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Old 04-28-08, 07:22 AM   #21
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The cables are fairly close to the tires, making clearance an issue, particularly with knobbies. I guess I could jam fenders in there, but it would be tight. I'm doing okay without fenders for now.
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Last edited by neilfein; 04-28-08 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 04-28-08, 11:23 AM   #22
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Raise your straddle wire hight.
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Old 04-28-08, 12:59 PM   #23
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Raise your straddle wire hight.
I actually have new brakes on order, but thanks.
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