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  1. #1
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    Chain care on tour

    I'm running a new chain since my recent bike rebuild, and facing a couple of days of cold and rain here in San Antonio.

    This brings to mind; on all the many tour accounts I've browsed on crazyguyonabike few bring up bike maintenance en route.

    Flats to be sure, followed by new tubes and/or patches. A couple of spoke issues, sometimes replaced with a flexible temporary spoke, sometime resolved at a bike shop.

    I'm not recalling chain maintenance however, at least on the ones I've read so far.

    What does one do about chain maintenance on a long tour?

    All input appreciated.

    Mike
    Last edited by Sharpshin; 02-25-14 at 12:23 PM.

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    Solvent can be squeezed from a diesel or as (petrol) pump into a tin can. there is often sufficient in the hose without paying for any.
    Use an old cut-down toothbrush to scrub.
    In extremis you can use the remnants from an engine oil carton but it is at it too sticky.

  3. #3
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    Bottle of chain lube, applied once a week. Wipe off with extra paper napkins from restaurants or diners.

    Check chain wear every few weeks at a garage or construction site if you can borrow a ruler or tape measure. Replace at next bike shop. You don't really need to carry a spare chain, like I did.

  4. #4
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Bottle of chain lube, applied once a week. Wipe off with extra paper napkins.
    +1. That's what I do. Also if it rains a lot I re-lube more often.

    When I tour >2500 miles I bring a chain checker and then if necessary stop by a bike shop and pick up a new chain.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    +1. That's what I do. Also if it rains a lot I re-lube more often.

    When I tour >2500 miles I bring a chain checker and then if necessary stop by a bike shop and pick up a new chain.
    +2

    I don't bring my chain checker; but stop at a bike shop near the 2500 to 3000 mile point and usually end up replacing it. I generally start out a tour of any distance with a new chain. Also, a light chain lube like White Lightning Epic does not pick up the gunk as readily as the "heavier" lubes. It just requires wiping down the chain and relubing more often, especially in wet weather.

    When our chains get really gunky, I'll stop at a shop and have them cleaned. I've only done this a couple of times, but the shops would not accept payment for their services

    My maintenance kit includes the morning's cut down electrolyte replacement drink bottle (used as a disposable "bucket"), small sponge, and dish detergent. I wash the bikes completely down about once a week, especially the rims and brake pads



    New chain



    Copies of slides I made for a bike maintenance presentation. A 12" machinist's rule works well for this. Start thinking seriously about replacing the chain at the 1/16" mark.

    Last edited by Doug64; 02-25-14 at 04:43 PM.

  6. #6
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    I don't mess with solvents. I just clean the chain with more lubricant. Put a drop of triple flow on every link every other day or two. Then wipe off VERY well. I know some people say you need to really clean the chain. But I say not. I get very normal wear from what I can tell.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    I don't mess with solvents. I just clean the chain with more lubricant. Put a drop of triple flow on every link every other day or two. Then wipe off VERY well. I know some people say you need to really clean the chain. But I say not. I get very normal wear from what I can tell.
    +1
    I am convinced that cleaning a chain with detergents or solvents shortens it's life by allowing the grit to penetrate deeper in the chain. Also I think it tends to kill the lube deeper in the chain. Clean as little as you can get by with and as non aggressively as possible. I do that and my chains have lasted in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I oil mine regularly, on the trip. and then put a new one on when I park it at home
    to be ready for the next trip.

    older 5~8 speed chains are what I ran*, as I never adopted the 9+ speed drivetrains , ..

    Now I adopted an IGH bike , and get to use even wider chains.
    full bushing 1/8" chains are really long wearing.

    *Typically Sedisport chains.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Bottle of chain lube, applied once a week. Wipe off with extra paper napkins from restaurants or diners.

    Check chain wear every few weeks at a garage or construction site if you can borrow a ruler or tape measure. Replace at next bike shop. You don't really need to carry a spare chain, like I did.
    pretty much this, except i don't measure my chain. i wait 'till it slips on a cog, which i will avoid using until i get a new chain and cassette or cog.

    BTW, the cog is always the one most used, which is usually in the middle somewhere.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    I like to use this: http://boeshield.com/features-benefits/bicycles/
    Cleans and lubes the chain at once, and is a lot less messy than other chain lubes I've used.

  11. #11
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    On tour I do not do anything different than at home. Wipe the chain down by squeezing it with a rag and back pedaling, apply lube, wipe excess. My drivetrains never get very nasty, even off road and last a long time.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I fall somewhere in between the just lube and wipe and the really clean it folks. I believe that if a chain can not be cleaned properly, dried and lubed then it is better to just lube and wipe.

    This is my wife's derailleur and chain after 3000 miles of lubing and wiping. Four hundred of those miles were over dirt roads and trails. The grass was just picked up when we rode through some freshly mowed hay along a farm lane. I would really have liked to get this cleaned properly, but we were approaching the end of our tour and the chain would be replaced when we got home.



    At home for Shimano chains I use a Park chain cleaner with degreaser, then rinse in hot water and let dry before applying fresh lube.



    For Sram chains with quick links, I remove the chains and place the chain in a plastic jar with a degreaser, and shake vigorously. Again it is rinsed in hot water, dried and fresh lube applied.

    You can't convince me that the chain treated like the one above will last as long as this regularly cleaned and lubed chain.

    Last edited by Doug64; 03-02-14 at 12:13 AM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    You can't convince me that the chain treated like the one above will last as long as this regularly cleaned and lubed chain.
    I wouldn't try to convince you of that. The thing is that in all of my touring which includes a couple cross country tours and a number of other long tours my chain has never looked like that with only one exception and I did clean it then, but immediately stopped using the lube that caused it (White Lightning). I have since used Boeshield T-9 with just apply and wipe method and never seen anything like that again.

    I also do make two other exceptions. When my MTB chain is muddy from off road riding I rinse it with plain water and as little pressure as possible. The other exception was a couple times when the chain got covered with sand in that case either plain water at low pressure or as a last resort a quick spray and wipe with WD40 before relubing and wiping again.

    I have had good luck with T=9, but do not think there is anything magic about it. Other lubes like Prolink work fine as well.

  14. #14
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    I oil mine regularly, on the trip. and then put a new one on when I park it at home
    to be ready for the next trip.

    older 5~8 speed chains are what I ran*, as I never adopted the 9+ speed drivetrains , ..

    Now I adopted an IGH bike , and get to use even wider chains.
    full bushing 1/8" chains are really long wearing.

    *Typically Sedisport chains.
    This is pretty much my take on it too

    On my one cross country tour way back in 1977 I seem to recall using a bit of stove fuel to clean a nasty chain, then putting more oil on it. Now I run the SS chains and use something like Boeshield on it. Currently my most ridden bikes have chainguards/cases and fenders on them so maintenance is minimal.

    Aaron
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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I wouldn't try to convince you of that. The thing is that in all of my touring which includes a couple cross country tours and a number of other long tours my chain has never looked like that with only one exception and I did clean it then, but immediately stopped using the lube that caused it (White Lightning). I have since used Boeshield T-9 with just apply and wipe method and never seen anything like that again.

    I have had good luck with T=9, but do not think there is anything magic about it. Other lubes like Prolink work fine as well.
    Pete,

    I have to admit that was an extreme example. We'd been riding in a lot of rain over unsurfaced roads. It did not usually look that bad. I took the picture because my wife seemed to be harvesting hay as she rode.

    I'll give the T-9 a try and see if I can get better results.

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    Hi All,

    I've just been reading this thread and hope it's ok that I post a slightly off-topic question ... I'm underways with cleaning the chain on my touring bike - which has been paused for a year or so - and notice that it is as if the dirt (that is there) & the oil used has somewhat "dried" onto the chain & chainring & cassette. Reading in the thread I wonder if this could be a consequence of the oil I've used - or is it quite normal when the bike has not been used for some time?

    Thanks for any insights you may have

    Jesper

    A P.S. to staehpj1 or all: Might you have a tip for a grease for the bearings that make them last long? - environmentally friendly would be preferred
    Last edited by irpheus; 03-04-14 at 02:49 AM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irpheus View Post
    \A P.S. to staehpj1 or all: Might you have a tip for a grease for the bearings that make them last long? - environmentally friendly would be preferred
    I don't do anything very special. I apply Boeshield T-9 and spin the cranks for a minute or so before thoroughly wiping the chain off. I do this every few days on tour.

    I also try to avoid cross chaining, mostly using gears with a fairly straight chain line. I try to shift smoothly. I use medium quality chains similar to what came on my bikes. I start thinking about replacing them when 12 complete links measure 12-1/16" and make sure to do it well before they measures 12-1/8".

    I like to say it is my silky smooth spin that makes my chains last, but I really do not believe that to be true.

    I have to say that I am kind of puzzled when folks say that their chains last only 2 or 3 thousand miles. My chains have always lasted much longer as have those of my family and friends whose bikes I have maintained. I know that the three of us who did the trans america together all had the same chain for the whole tour and then used it for a long time after.

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    Hi - & thanks for replying and telling about how you do things. I just measured my chain and it is very close to 12-1/16" inch so sounds as if it's got some way to drive. Reassuring - not least because I use the chain in a way similar to yours - smooth shifts & very straight chain lines when selecting the gears.

    I don't have any Boeshield T-9 but will see if I can find some onwards - and then just wipe-clean the chain & apply lupe. Possibly with a bit of water if needed. To me it sounds very gentle on the chain ;-)

    Cheers,

    Jesper

  19. #19
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I don't do anything very special. I apply Boeshield T-9 and spin the cranks for a minute or so before thoroughly wiping the chain off. I do this every few days on tour.

    I also try to avoid cross chaining, mostly using gears with a fairly straight chain line. I try to shift smoothly. I use medium quality chains similar to what came on my bikes. I start thinking about replacing them when 12 complete links measure 12-1/16" and make sure to do it well before they measures 12-1/8".

    I like to say it is my silky smooth spin that makes my chains last, but I really do not believe that to be true.

    I have to say that I am kind of puzzled when folks say that their chains last only 2 or 3 thousand miles. My chains have always lasted much longer as have those of my family and friends whose bikes I have maintained. I know that the three of us who did the trans america together all had the same chain for the whole tour and then used it for a long time after.
    I have seen chains hit the wear limits in as few as 1500 miles. However those are the very narrow chains being used on the modern 9/10/11 speed drive trains being ridden by strong riders. I have an OEM Raleigh chain on a Raleigh Sports that went over 15,000 miles before getting to the point it HAD to be replaced. It probably should have been replaced a bit sooner.

    Aaron
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  20. #20
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I have to say that I am kind of puzzled when folks say that their chains last only 2 or 3 thousand miles.
    I agree with wahoonc that modern narrow (9/10/11) chains don't last. On my 9-speed rigs I was only getting around 3000 touring miles. I'm sure the fact that my touring includes a good bit of back-country dirt and gravel is a factor. It's one of the reasons that I built my latest touring bike with the beefier chain on an 8-speed drive-train. So far the 8-speed chain measures fine after 3000 miles.

    For those doing a cross-country tour on 9/10/11 speed chains I'd definitely start with a fresh chain and measure or have it checked at 3000 miles. Those of you who wait for shift-skips are making a mistake, in that your chain-rings and cassette are probably compromised by that point.

  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    I agree with wahoonc that modern narrow (9/10/11) chains don't last.
    The chains we used on the TA were 9 speed chains and all three of us made the trip on one chain and used the same chain for a lot of miles after. I know that two of us got 10K miles out of those chains and the other rider in our group used the same chain for quite a while after, but I do not know her mileage. I have not kept good track of the 10 speed chain on my road bike, but it seems to be holding up quite well too.

    I actually had worse life out of the 7 speed chains that I have used. It may be that they weren't as good of a chain or that I didn't care for them as well.

  22. #22
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
    For those doing a cross-country tour on 9/10/11 speed chains I'd definitely start with a fresh chain and measure or have it checked at 3000 miles. Those of you who wait for shift-skips are making a mistake, in that your chain-rings and cassette are probably compromised by that point.
    I mostly agree on both counts. It is a good idea to start with a fresh chain and check it at 3000 miles. I also agree that waiting for skipping is a bad idea and means that you have probably damaged the rings and cogs.

    That said these days I tend to just keep track of where I am mileage wise and not necessarily start a long tour with a fresh chain. If I take one off I never use it again and it has gotten to where a long tour is less of a big deal in that the large majority of my riding is done on long tours and they tend to be fairly frequent. I feel the same way about tires. It is a good idea to star with fresh ones, but again I have stopped doing that for the same reason.

  23. #23
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    I have no experience with worn 9 speed chains, but I would expect them to wear almost as well as 8 speed. The length of the bushing that wears and the length of the pin that wears is not that much shorter than the corresponding lengths of the pin and bushing on an 8 speed chain. The reason I went with 8 speed in my builds is that there is a bit more cable pull per shift, thus the rear shifter stays in adjustment better. All my bikes that are newer than 20 years old use 8 speed. (Exception, one bike is internally geared hub.)

    My utility bike is 7 speed and is stored outside, but I rarely ride that more than 3 miles per errand so that chain does not get much use. I suspect that chain life is more hampered by lack of maintenance, I think I only oiled it once last summer. Have not ridden that bike for several months now, as you can probably guess.

    20IMGP0409.jpg

  24. #24
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I did a quick mental inventory of my bikes, I don't believe I have anything over a 7 speed cluster, my most used derailleur bike is a 6 speed freewheel bike from 1989. Just put a new freewheel and chain on that one last year. My most ridden bikes are all single cog with IGH.

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