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  1. #1
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    Chain maintenance on tour?

    I know there are always a lot of chain cleaning/lube threads around but I had a search and couldn't find one about what to do on a long tour. I am thinking of 1-2 months plus where you would need to really service the chain while on tour rather than just temporary maintenance until you get home to do it properly.

    My chain is currently is need of a good clean and I was going to use Finish line wet lube on it but thought I might start a tour suitable regime.

    Obviously lube would be easy to carry but degreaser and cleaning kit wouldn't be so a full clean would be difficult. I was thinking of whether one of these clean lubes such as the wax ones would be good for touring. However, the only time I tried one, Pedro's Ice Wax, I didn't have much luck with it although I think that might have been my fault for not using it properly. I have heard good reports of prolink but in general it seems that some people rave about these types of lube and others have problems.

    Another strategy could be a lube and wipe approach with a more normal lube and just avoid full cleaning.

    Interested to hear from people who have been on long tours how they dealt with the issue?

    thanks

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    I used WD-40 as a cleaning agent to wash off the chain two or three times.
    After the WD-40 bath and wiping I would lube with White Lightning.
    NY to LA 4200 miles.
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  3. #3
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    I use simple green... available just about anywhere and cheap. Non toxic as well. Simple dry lube of your choice. I have a scrub brush that I use with the simple green and then just rinse off.

    Good stuff for cleaning your hands as well.
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  4. #4
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    take a extra new chain with you on tour ,and on a nice night while away a hour cleaning your old one.i find progold to be excellent lube .

  5. #5
    Flandrien
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    Take along a good rag, wipe down your chain EVERY day after your ride, apply oil, in the morning before riding wipe off any excess oil, ride, repeat. Takes you 3min in the evening and 1 min in the morning and you will get home with a chain that is the cleanest in the neighborhood. Only 1 disadvantage to this method : you need to be very disciplined, because each time you skip a day, the dirt gets harder to get off.

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    Just add oil as needed. An 'empty' oil container at a gas station trash can usually still has enough oil to lubricate a chain.

  7. #7
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    Another variation of the above is to buy a bottle of Simple Green, dump some in an empty plastic soda bottle, diute with equal parts water, detach your Sram or Wipperman chain (you didn't use a Shimano chain did you?), and shake it in the bottle with the solution. Repeat. Then rinse in water. Spray the rest of the Simple Green on your drive train and brush off the gunk with your toothbrush. Rinse with water. Fish the chain out of the bottle with your spare spoke (you have a spare spoke, right?), dry the chain and rest of the drive train with a rag, put the chain back on your bike and lube with an oil based product like Prolink - unless you don't mind the water-based stuff like White Lightning washing off in the rain. Dump the rinsate in the nearest toilet. Flush.

    Oh, and buy another toothbrush.

    I do this about once every two weeks while touring. In the interim, I wipe off the chain with a rag.

  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I use the apply and wipe method. I get 10k miles on a chain and think that not cleaning is a help. My theory is that cleaning with solvents or degreasers just helps grit get deeper into the chain.

    I tried White Lightning on the Trans America and the buildup was awful. I switched to Boeshield T9 early in the tour and my chain stayed clean and shiny the rest of the tour. I am now a big fan of T9.

    I do clean if switching lubes from one type to another so I had the chain degreased at a bike shop when I stopped using White Lightning. The rest of the tour I only lubed liberally with T9 and wiped off the excess as is my normal practice.

    I break my "no clean" rule in two cases. One is my daughter's chain when she commutes daily it seems to get really gunked up commuting in a way it never does on tour. I clean that one once in a while with WD40. The other exception is if the chain is covered in mud. In than case I run plain water over the chain with no force beyond just running water over it. I let it dry well before lubing if possible.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I use the apply and wipe method. I get 10k miles on a chain and think that not cleaning is a help. My theory is that cleaning with solvents or degreasers just helps grit get deeper into the chain
    I agree and note that this was confirmed in the only semi-controlled experiment on this subject that I've seen. The person who did it put a small mark on one link of his chain and used a couple quick-links so he could separate the chain into two equal-length pieces and keep track of which was which. Every few hundred miles he separated the chain and thoroughly cleaned only one of the halves, measured the length of each, and reassembled before relubricating. The half that was never cleaned showed less wear over time (i.e. less elongation) than the half that had been cleaned periodically.

    I'd expect in a chain with sufficient oil that any grit particles are moved around quite rapidly until they find themselves on the outside surface of the chain where they do no further harm (other than looking ugly and making a mess if touched by hands or clothing). On a tour I wouldn't concern myself with the chain's appearance and just make sure it doesn't touch anything.

  10. #10
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I use the apply and wipe method. I get 10k miles on a chain and think that not cleaning is a help. My theory is that cleaning with solvents or degreasers just helps grit get deeper into the chain.

    I tried White Lightning on the Trans America and the buildup was awful. I switched to Boeshield T9 early in the tour and my chain stayed clean and shiny the rest of the tour. I am now a big fan of T9.

    I do clean if switching lubes from one type to another so I had the chain degreased at a bike shop when I stopped using White Lightning. The rest of the tour I only lubed liberally with T9 and wiped off the excess as is my normal practice.

    I break my "no clean" rule in two cases. One is my daughter's chain when she commutes daily it seems to get really gunked up commuting in a way it never does on tour. I clean that one once in a while with WD40. The other exception is if the chain is covered in mud. In than case I run plain water over the chain with no force beyond just running water over it. I let it dry well before lubing if possible.
    For the life of me............ I can't figure out how you do it. My chains regardless of brand are done between 1700-2200 miles. Maybe it's my massive guads.
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  11. #11
    Macro Geek
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    The only proper way to clean a chain, on tour or not, is to slavishly follow the procedure described by Tom Deakins and the late Sheldon Brown:

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html

  12. #12
    Senior Member Cyril's Avatar
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    rock and roll gold.

    solvent and lubricant.

    Cyril

  13. #13
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    N+? for wipe and oil, or is it oil and wipe. FWIW- I use White Lightning Epic, a light oil. I've used it on some pretty lengthy tours, oiling and wiping the chain every other day unless we got into really bad conditions (heavy rain). If things get really gritty or gummed up, I'll stop at a shop and get it cleaned. It seemed about half of the time they would not charge me for it. I carry a dedicated rag for the job, but napkins, and paper towels work great for getting the heaviest off first. Chain life is about 4500 miles under touring conditions.

    When I am at home, I am a lot more thorough, and use a Park chain cleaner with Simple Green, rinse, dry it with a hair drier and use the White Lightning Epic. Chainlife is about the same , but I feel better!

  14. #14
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    I just apply a wet lube (e.g., ProLink) every 200 miles and wipe it off. These products both clean and lube in one operation. No need for anything else. Start with a relatively new chain, and it should last for months. Nothing fancy required here.

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    Maybe it's my massive guads.
    No, it is just my silky smooth spin.

    Seriously... do they actually measure as worn out after 1700-2000 miles? i.e. does 12" of chain measure more than 12-1/16"? Or do they just start getting noisy and shifting poorly without measuring as worn out?

    I know there are lots of things that factor in. Lube used, method of application, frequency of application, method of cleaning if any, frequency of cleaning, load carried, gear selection, shifting technique, brand and model of chain, conditions where you ride. I notice for example that my daughter is much tougher on chains when she commutes than when she is on tour.

  16. #16
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    No, it is just my silky smooth spin.

    Seriously... do they actually measure as worn out after 1700-2000 miles? i.e. does 12" of chain measure more than 12-1/16"? Or do they just start getting noisy and shifting poorly without measuring as worn out?

    I know there are lots of things that factor in. Lube used, method of application, frequency of application, method of cleaning if any, frequency of cleaning, load carried, gear selection, shifting technique, brand and model of chain, conditions where you ride. I notice for example that my daughter is much tougher on chains when she commutes than when she is on tour.
    Yes.. I'm getting them out to 1/16" and I swap. I do live in the Northwest.. I suppose I ride in the rain more than most? I keep the chain clean.

    It doesn't matter if it's my roadie or touring bike.

    Chains used almost always Shimano DA but from time to time I'll go Ultegra... From time to time I'll go Sram as well with the same results.

    I'm going to stick with my massive guads being the reason!
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  17. #17
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    A drop of RocknRoll lube on each link every couple hundred miles and after a rain.

  18. #18
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    What about using white gas? Since some/many camping tourers use white gas stoves, it'd be handy. A splash on a rag to remove the worst grime on the outside of the chain, followed with a drop of Prolink, Rock & Roll or other lube to each roller. Has anyone done this?

  19. #19
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    If it squeaks, oil it. Otherwise, leave it alone.

  20. #20
    Crazyguyonabike
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    I like the FinishLine chain cleaner. You also need to carry a bottle of the degreaser liquid, but I found that my chain seems to last a lot longer when I keep it clean regularly with this kit. The nice thing about the FinishLine is that you don't have to remove the chain - just clamp it on and back pedal for a minute or two, the chain works through the brushes inside the unit and it gets very clean. Then wipe it off with a clean rag and let it dry for a few minutes before applying lube again (I like the FinishLine dry teflon for summer use, it doesn't pick up too much dirt).

    I remember when I took my bike into a shop and told them how many miles I had on the chain, they didn't believe me because they couldn't detect the sort of stretch that they would usually expect from that kind of distance. So I think it extends the life of the chain, as well as helping it run very smoothly with minimum of fuss.

    http://www.rei.com/product/722253

    Neil

  21. #21
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
    What about using white gas? Since some/many camping tourers use white gas stoves, it'd be handy. A splash on a rag to remove the worst grime on the outside of the chain, followed with a drop of Prolink, Rock & Roll or other lube to each roller. Has anyone done this?
    White gas and gasoline are extremely flammable, using either to clean a chain is not a good idea, one spark and you could have a chain on fire.

    Thinking about all the methods, if your chain is fairly new, give it a good cleaning and lube before you go, if your chain is older, then replace before you go. On tour, just wipe with a rag every few days, give it a good lube, wait a minute or two, wipe off the excess. If the rag from after is black, repeat the process. Chains are relatively cheap, so replacing one before a tour, makes sense if you don't think it will last the tour. Alternatively, just get a spare before you go, if the chain reaches the end of life, put on the new one. It's not like a chain is $500 after all.

  22. #22
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    We always managed to make our chains last about 10,000km although we probably pushed them about 3,000km than we technical should have. I just started an Ask A Mechanic feature on our blog and chain wear was the first question covered.

    Part of the advice goes as follows...

    "You can delay the wear by oiling the chain lightly when it needs it, using mudguards, which keeps most dirt off the chain and not pedaling standing up.... There are so many factors affecting chain wear itís not possible to give a mileage after which it should be replaced. Inspect every 1000 miles."
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  23. #23
    Bicycle Student bokerfest's Avatar
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    I get a wide mouthed 1 liter soda bottle. Put an inch of diesel fuel in the bottom. Take chain off. Put chain in the bottle with diesel fuel in it. Close it. Shake it well. Let it sit a few minutes. Shake it again. Take out the chain. Rinse chain off with water. Let it dry. Discard dirty fuel. Put chain back on. Lube chain. Wipe excess lube. Spotless and good to go.

    This method has done me good. 6000 miles on last chain.
    I take a few pairs of latex gloves with me on tour so it is not that bad of a mess.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by freebooter View Post
    I am thinking of 1-2 months plus where you would need to really service the chain while on tour rather than just temporary maintenance until you get home to do it properly.


    thanks
    the only real servicing I'd do would be from the bike being dragged through mud or sand. If it's just riding on roads lube and wipe as needed. If you're riding through hard rains or the bike sits out in the rain and your lube doesn't keep it from rusting then lube it more often.

  25. #25
    Crazyguyonabike
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    Re wiping the chain to keep it clean - I always feel like this is going to force little particles of grit further into the space between the links. With a "bath" type tool such as the FinishLine, the grit is actively being flushed out, without having to remove the chain. It's extra stuff to carry, but worth it in my opinion for such a major part of the drivetrain. I also carry one of the Park Tools chain brushes for cleaning off the chainrings and rear cassette:

    http://www.rei.com/product/546216

    Neil

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