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  1. #1
    Senior Member smurray's Avatar
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    Noisy drivetrain when cold?

    I haven't ridden my fixed gear since October when the temp started to drop below freezing. I pulled it out of the garage yesterday to relube the chain and give it a once over in preparation to start using it to commute to and from my second job. I noticed that the drivetrain seemed to be a lot noisier than I remember it being. It isn't necessarily a "bad" sound, just a lot louder. Would having the bike sit in a cold garage over the last couple months cause this to happen? Only thing I can think of is the chain became super cold and that somehow was causing to be louder than normal. I cleaned off and relubed the chain and didn't notice an immediate difference, however I decided to keep the bike indoors from now on in hopes that it will get quieter as it warms up. Anyone have any thoughts as to what else could be causing the issue? All the bearings are sealed, and the noise seems to be originating more from the rear wheel than the cranks.

  2. #2
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Give your bike a quick inspection to make sure nothing is damaged or out of alignment. If no problems are found and it is properly lubricated, then just ride it. Nothing works as well in cold weather. Switching to a lighter lubricant might help. Wax based lubes suck in cold weather in my experience. I use a synthetic with teflon in cold or wet weather and it seems to work as well as anything. The chain doesn't stay as clean as with dry lubes, but it's reasonably quiet and smooth even at below zero F.
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  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurray View Post
    I haven't ridden my fixed gear since October when the temp started to drop below freezing. I pulled it out of the garage yesterday to relube the chain and give it a once over in preparation to start using it to commute to and from my second job. I noticed that the drivetrain seemed to be a lot noisier than I remember it being. It isn't necessarily a "bad" sound, just a lot louder. Would having the bike sit in a cold garage over the last couple months cause this to happen? Only thing I can think of is the chain became super cold and that somehow was causing to be louder than normal. I cleaned off and relubed the chain and didn't notice an immediate difference, however I decided to keep the bike indoors from now on in hopes that it will get quieter as it warms up. Anyone have any thoughts as to what else could be causing the issue? All the bearings are sealed, and the noise seems to be originating more from the rear wheel than the cranks.
    It's unfortunate that bicycles don't have radios Myosmith is spot on about riding it if nothing is damaged or out of adjustment. If the noise really gets to you, I suggest learning Broadway show tunes. Oklahoma works very well when sung at the top of your lungs...with the added benefit that most people will think you are even crazier than a bicyclist riding in the winter and give you wide berth

    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    G Wax based lubes suck in cold weather in my experience. I use a synthetic with teflon in cold or wet weather and it seems to work as well as anything. The chain doesn't stay as clean as with dry lubes, but it's reasonably quiet and smooth even at below zero F.
    I haven't noticed any appreciable problem with wax based lubes in winter other than applying them (I do it at work where I can park my bike inside). There really should be any differences in performance between hot and cold with waxes since the viscosity doesn't change much with temperature. Oils, on the other hand, can change viscosity a lot with temperature. If an oil based lubricant is applied warm, it will flow to the bottom of the chain. If the chain is then cooled enough to gel lubricant, the chain could be starved of lubrication. Wax lubricants are already set so they don't flow appreciably.

    I will say that this could be regionally specific, however. I can seen temperature fluctuations of up to 50F on any given day. If I used a light weight oil in the hopes of keeping it on the chain on a cold morning, it would flow right off if the temperature jumped to 60F on the way home.
    Stuart Black
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  4. #4
    Senior Member smurray's Avatar
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    It's not so much that the noise bothers me as I was just trying to make sure there wasn't some mechanical issue going on. Since the noise is coming from the rear wheel I wasn't sure if bearings have a tendency to seize up when cold or something. If it's simply an issue of it being noisy when cold and nothing else then I'm fine with that.

  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurray View Post
    It's not so much that the noise bothers me as I was just trying to make sure there wasn't some mechanical issue going on. Since the noise is coming from the rear wheel I wasn't sure if bearings have a tendency to seize up when cold or something. If it's simply an issue of it being noisy when cold and nothing else then I'm fine with that.
    It's hard to say without seeing the bike in person. In the mean time, it's not that hard a song to learn

    Stuart Black
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  6. #6
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I haven't noticed any appreciable problem with wax based lubes in winter other than applying them (I do it at work where I can park my bike inside). There really should be any differences in performance between hot and cold with waxes since the viscosity doesn't change much with temperature. Oils, on the other hand, can change viscosity a lot with temperature. If an oil based lubricant is applied warm, it will flow to the bottom of the chain. If the chain is then cooled enough to gel lubricant, the chain could be starved of lubrication. Wax lubricants are already set so they don't flow appreciably.
    I'll freely admit that I have only used a couple of wax based lubes and my biggest problem was applying them when the temps were well below freezing as my winter bike stays in an unheated shop in my garage. When I say cold, I generally mean below freezing. 30-60 F is "cool" weather. Even in warmer weather, my complaint with the wax lubes I tried was that I seemed to be constantly reapplying them. The drive train would be quiet and smooth for a while but soon would get noisy and sound dry (often after a hundred miles or less).

    The Dupont Multipurpose Teflon lubricant I have come to favor is a "semi-dry" synthetic liquid product with both teflon and molyebdenum in a wax and synthetic oil base. It goes on wet, even at temps around zero F, and wicks into the links quickly. I spin the cranks by hand and shift through the gears, then wipe the chain down. The final film is drier than other "wet" lubes and does not attract much dirt (though more dirt than traditional dry lube), repels moisture well and doesn't wash or melt off. It is rated for -20F to temps well above human endurance. My favorite part is that the characteristics of the lube don't seem to change appreciably at any temperature or from contact with moisture. I've also noticed that any chain tats on skin or marks left on clothing or gear seem to wash out more easily and completely than with other wet lubes.

    I like having one product that I can use for all conditions, and for me, this seems to be it.
    Last edited by Myosmith; 02-04-14 at 01:31 PM.
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  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    I'll freely admit that I have only used a couple of wax based lubes and my biggest problem was applying them when the temps were well below freezing as my winter bike stays in an unheated shop in my garage. When I say cold, I generally mean below freezing. 30-60 F is "cool" weather. Even in warmer weather, my complaint with the wax lubes I tried was that I seemed to be constantly reapplying them. The drive train would be quiet and smooth for a while but soon would get noisy and sound dry (often after a hundred miles or less).
    I'm not talking about 30F to 60F either. I can see 50F swings in temperature starting at 15F or lower. It's kind of hard to dress for that temperature change I end up carrying a lot of clothing around rather than wearing it.

    I think what you are missing on the wax lubricants is that they are supposed to sound dry. My drivetrain is well lubricated but it does make a bit more sound than if I drowned it with oils. I go for weeks and weeks between application of chain lubricant. Granted I don't deal with a lot of water due to Denver's dry climate but even when I've used wax lubricants on tour in the eastern US, I've not had to apply it much more frequently than I do here. As a bonus, I don't have to worry about chain tattoos at all. Nor do I have to worry about a bunch of grit prematurely wearing out my chain. In my dry climate, oil is a magnet for dirt.
    Stuart Black
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    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
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  8. #8
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I'm not talking about 30F to 60F either. I can see 50F swings in temperature starting at 15F or lower. It's kind of hard to dress for that temperature change I end up carrying a lot of clothing around rather than wearing it.

    I think what you are missing on the wax lubricants is that they are supposed to sound dry. My drivetrain is well lubricated but it does make a bit more sound than if I drowned it with oils. I go for weeks and weeks between application of chain lubricant. Granted I don't deal with a lot of water due to Denver's dry climate but even when I've used wax lubricants on tour in the eastern US, I've not had to apply it much more frequently than I do here. As a bonus, I don't have to worry about chain tattoos at all. Nor do I have to worry about a bunch of grit prematurely wearing out my chain. In my dry climate, oil is a magnet for dirt.
    I hear ya. Spring and fall around here result in a lot of layers coming and going throughout the day. I gave up and put a rear rack and stuff bag on my old Trek and just carry the extra layers back there when I plan a several hour outing and expect big temperature swings. Not that I do long trips this time of year, but just a week or so ago we went from -14F actual temp in the early morning to +30F in the afternoon. That's rare this time of year, usually once we get cold we stay cold.

    Now about the wax lubricants. With the semi-dry lube I'm using I apply it sparingly allowing it to wick into the links and then wipe the exterior of the chain as clean as possible. The chain stays quiet and smooth for days (a couple hundred miles of various conditions). I usually clean and lube my chain on the bike about once a week but if I forget, I can tell by the sound when it is lacking lubrication. With the dry wax lubes, if the chain sounds dry for weeks and weeks, how do you know if you let a chain go to long without a relube? How do you know it is the sound of a dry lube and not an underlubricated chain? I'd be interested in trying dry lubes again. The cleanliness was nice, but the chains would sound bone dry and unlubricated within just a couple of days if I was putting in any significant miles. I agree that no chain should be "drowning in oil" even in wet conditions.

    Our climate here is highly variable. On the edge of the plains we have a lot of spring flooding but by late summer it can get quite dry. A ways over into lakes country, it is more humid with frequent thundershowers and thunderstorms to keep things interesting. You can go from hot and dry to cool and soggy and back within an hour. In the spring and fall, the wooded trails are cool and moist. In August the highway is hot, dry and windswept. On some of the singletrack you can cross peat bogs and sandhills on the same trail.
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  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    I hear ya. Spring and fall around here result in a lot of layers coming and going throughout the day. I gave up and put a rear rack and stuff bag on my old Trek and just carry the extra layers back there when I plan a several hour outing and expect big temperature swings. Not that I do long trips this time of year, but just a week or so ago we went from -14F actual temp in the early morning to +30F in the afternoon. That's rare this time of year, usually once we get cold we stay cold.
    We tend to be all over the place. Jan 3, we were at 62F/25F then on Jan 4 were were at 38/10. On Jan 5 we were at 12/-10. The widest variation we've had recently was on Jan 21 when our temperature was 65F/25F followed by 42/19 on Jan 22 (the 42F reading occurred around midnight), then 24/4 on Jan 23 and back up to 57/22 on Jan 24. We never get cold and stay that way for more than about a week.

    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    Now about the wax lubricants. With the semi-dry lube I'm using I apply it sparingly allowing it to wick into the links and then wipe the exterior of the chain as clean as possible. The chain stays quiet and smooth for days (a couple hundred miles of various conditions). I usually clean and lube my chain on the bike about once a week but if I forget, I can tell by the sound when it is lacking lubrication. With the dry wax lubes, if the chain sounds dry for weeks and weeks, how do you know if you let a chain go to long without a relube? How do you know it is the sound of a dry lube and not an underlubricated chain? I'd be interested in trying dry lubes again. The cleanliness was nice, but the chains would sound bone dry and unlubricated within just a couple of days if I was putting in any significant miles. I agree that no chain should be "drowning in oil" even in wet conditions.
    I use White Lightning and their suggestion is to flood the chain and let it dry. I do strip the chain of the factory lubricant prior to use because I haven't found the factory lubrication to do anything except make the chain dirtier. That's the only time I "clean" my chain as well. I'm willing to accept a bit of chain noise as long as the chain doesn't squeak at which point I add more lubricant. If the chain seems to hesitate upon shifting, I'll also lubricate it.
    Stuart Black
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    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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  10. #10
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    Rear hubs pawls? What kind of rear hub are you using ? Maybe a lighter gear lube for the pawls?

  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    We tend to be all over the place. Jan 3, we were at 62F/25F then on Jan 4 were were at 38/10. On Jan 5 we were at 12/-10. The widest variation we've had recently was on Jan 21 when our temperature was 65F/25F followed by 42/19 on Jan 22 (the 42F reading occurred around midnight), then 24/4 on Jan 23 and back up to 57/22 on Jan 24. We never get cold and stay that way for more than about a week.
    A great illustration of our stupid weather is happening right now. Where I work it has been hovering around 0F all day. 4 miles to the west, the temperature has been 35F to 40F all day. It's about 2000 feet higher but DAMN!....

    Stupid state.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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