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Chain Maintenance Routines and Frequency

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Chain Maintenance Routines and Frequency

Old 08-31-16, 09:15 AM
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lightspree
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Chain Maintenance Routines and Frequency

How and how often do people maintain their chains?

What are the best approaches?

(Or if there is no best, what are the pros and cons of different approaches to this?)
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Old 08-31-16, 09:49 AM
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Do a search here or just Google bicycle chain maintenance. Been discussed thousands of times, but basically:
  • There is no best approach or product
  • Pros and cons depend on your preferences, usage and riding/weather conditions.
  • It's more important to do the maintenance than to use a particular product or procedure.
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Old 08-31-16, 01:36 PM
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Every 200-300 Miles or so...

... (assuming basically dry conditions), I drip my preferred lubricant over the mounted chain, link by link, until I've completed one circuit. All of this done on the stand. I shift through the range of the front and rear a few times and go through about 30 revolutions. Lubricate the pivots on the FD and the RD and repeat for a few revolutions over the complete gear range. Then I wipe down with a soft clean cloth, until the chain outer surfaces are clean. Wipe the derailleur pulleys, wipe any excesses, drips on the chainstay, wipe down the chainrings, and run a rag edge between the rear cogs. Done.


If it rains for several days, I do it more frequently. Of course, any time I can hear the chain, I do it.


Favorite lubricant, you ask? That's a different thread.


Of course, I'm an excellent mechanic who cannot be bothered to remove chains or see how many miles I can get out of them. I replace them annually on several bikes that I rotate through.


You'll find that some folks use paraffin, others Chain-L, others a home brew (I've done this and have two special formulas, one sticky and one thin), some use auto products...the point being that you can do anything and likely be better off than doing nothing but replacing chains annually, which other people do.


Good luck.
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Old 08-31-16, 01:52 PM
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Chain gets worn when it is not lubricated, or when it is dirty (even if lubricated at the time).

To thoroughly clean the chain, it needs to be taken off the bicycle, cleaned in some solvent that cleans dirt and oil (or whatever lubricant was used on the chain). Mineral spirits do a good job. Put it in a jar, shake it, rinse in water, repeat, until clean. Old mineral spirits can be filtered and reused for the purpouse.

Then it needs to be dried, then lubricated.

Quick way to somewhat clean the chain is to run pedals backwards, and hold a rag over the chain. This method leaves dirt between the rollers and pins, but does get some dirt off the outer side of the chain.



Lubricating chain - one drop of lubricant onto each roller, then spin for about a minute to let the lubricant work it's way between the rollers and pins, then use a cloth to hold the chain and clean the extra lubricant off the outer part of the chain - lubricant is needed only between rollers and pins, on the outside it only gathers dirt.


Chain needs to be cleaned and lubricated when it starts making noise, usually. Though some dry lubes leave a chain noisy, even while it is lubricated (teflon for one).


I like cheaper chains so I don't waste much time and mess my flat while cleaning and lubing. Just use the worst method - rag over the chain while spinning, then add lube it with motor oil and that's it. Some clean chains thoroughly. Each to their own.

Dry lubes get less dirty and are good for dry environments. For wet environments, oils are better, but they get more dirt as well. Dry lubes need a very clean chain before they are applied. Oily ones are less demanding.


Wrote a blog post explaining the basics:

Best bicycle chain lube
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Old 08-31-16, 02:04 PM
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I've removed chain for cleaning once. As a previous poster suggested, and used paint thinner. It's the one chain that mow requires the most attention tofor lubing. Apparently whatever lube initially applied shouldn't be completely removed.
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Old 08-31-16, 03:17 PM
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Every 800 to 900 miles I remove my chains and clean them in ultrasonic cleaner with dilute Simple Green, rinse and dry. During the ultrasonic cycle I inspect and clean the rest of the bike. I reinstall the chain and lube it with 1pt chainsaw bar oil to 4pts mineral spirits.
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Old 08-31-16, 04:10 PM
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If you don't have anything on topic and constructive to add to this thread, move on.
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Old 08-31-16, 04:16 PM
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I clean and lube my chain...yep meant "chain"...at regular intervals...whether it "needs" it or not...
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Old 08-31-16, 04:35 PM
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I remember that quite a few years ago someone on the rec.bicycles discussion group decided to do a detailed test to see how much benefit there was from thoroughly cleaning the chain before adding lubricant. They divided the chain in half and used two quick-links to reassemble it. Periodically (I think it was every few hundred miles) they removed the chain and carefully cleaned half of it while leaving the other half alone. They then carefully measured the chain lengths to detect wear before reassembling the chain and adding fresh lubricant. After a few thousand miles the trend in chain wear became evident but unfortunately for their initial hypothesis it showed that the chain half with no cleaning at all was wearing less than the half that was being carefully cleaned.

Of course the subsequent discussion had lots of criticism of the exact details of the cleaning procedure, type of lubricant used, etc. But I've never seen anyone repeat such a detailed test using their own preferred cleaning and lubing method to demonstrate that cleaning actually does extend chain life - and by how much.
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Old 08-31-16, 05:49 PM
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More than you ever wanted to know https://www.google.com/#q=chain+lube...bikeforums.net And for starters, here is the most recent, from two days ago http://www.bikeforums.net/bicycle-me...lubricant.html Enjoy!
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Old 08-31-16, 05:51 PM
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I've tried the lube-once, wipe-when-needed approach. Didn't work for my area. I ride gravel and rural chipseal. Probably too much grit and occasional puddles and rain to make it worse.

So I clean and relube every 2-4 weeks, depending on conditions and how the chain sounds and feels while shifting. Now that I've added a bike with an aluminum triple chain ring set I'm a bit more conscious about avoiding a gritty paste.

I got a cheap White Lightning chain cleaning tool that made the job so easy I'm going to buy a better chain cleaning tool. The White Lightning is flimsy and the brush bearings are easily lost. But it persuaded me that a chain cleaning tool with reservoir for degreaser is much easier and more thorough than the other methods I tried.

For now I'm using Park CL-1 lube but I'm considering something else. I might try a dry lube for awhile. I used to have some moly in a solvent suspension. It's pretty tenacious stuff and needs a solvent to remove it, not just water, so it might be okay for this area's combination of gritty roads and occasional rain.
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Old 08-31-16, 05:58 PM
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I used to regularly lube my chain and clean it. I would clean every link. I had to replace the chain and cassette this spring after about 3,000 miles. This year I stopped lubing. The chain stays clean and everything has performed well. We'll see how it's doing after another season.
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Old 09-01-16, 06:48 AM
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My observation: all of the above is pretty much true, especially post #2. It should be noted that the timing chain on
tandems, which is never shifted, lasts 3-4x as long as the drive chain which is shifted. Presumable the torque transmitted
by the chains is the same and both are exposed to similar dirt/cleaning regimens.
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Old 09-01-16, 07:02 AM
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If you ask 10 riders, you might get 12 different, but quite strongly held, opinions. I don't think that you are going to find a consensus on this.
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Old 09-04-16, 12:19 PM
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Thanks for all the good, helpful information here.

Some people seem to think that because something has been discussed elsewhere, nothing new can come up in a new thread. Again and again, I see that it just isn't so. That's something these forums can do. And I appreciate hearing from people here about what their approaches and understandings are, even if not everything is new. It's interesting hearing about it here.

Ken Kifer, I believe, was someone who did minimal chain maintenance.

Those who talk about silica compounds being abrasive sometimes talk as if these compounds are grinding away at the steel in the chain. The language they use makes it sound as if nothing could be worse, and you're just grinding away at your chain with an abrasive.

The dust particles that get into the chain are usually very small, more like polishing compounds than abrasives in the usual sense.

There may be wear from the small particles, but it is very slow, more like slowly polishing than grinding away with a serious abrasive on a grinder wheel.

I saw an full synthetic oil additive yesterday, made by Lucas, that keeps oil clinging to surfaces inside an engine, and helps keep the engine quiet. It also prevents the wear associated with cold starts.

So I'm wondering if that extra cling, and coating ability, might be useful for chain lubrication?

I'm also wondering if the time spent on chain maintenance, even if it successfully extends chain life (which apparently it may or may not do) is worth the time spent. Maybe it would make more sense not to spend the time and effort (and some money as well, at times) on chain maintenance, and just replace the chain more often. Maybe just work and earn for an extra hour once in a while (if necessary) instead of spending all that time and energy and fuss on the chain....

Last edited by lightspree; 09-04-16 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 09-04-16, 12:58 PM
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When I remember to, I measure my chain. A 12 inch ruler held against a new chain will align with roller centers at the zero and 12 inch marks. When you measure a used chain, and rollers align at zero and 12-1/16", it is time to replace the chain. If you wait until the chain stretches more than 1/16" per foot, then you will probably need to replace both the chain and the cassette.
That has been my experience.
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Old 09-04-16, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by sch View Post
It should be noted that the timing chain on
tandems, which is never shifted, lasts 3-4x as long as the drive chain which is shifted. Presumable the torque transmitted
by the chains is the same and both are exposed to similar dirt/cleaning regimens.
On the other hand, on a non-tandem single-speed, the rider is likely to mash much harder going uphill etc. because there are no gears. I recently replaced the chain on my single-speed hybrid and was kind of amazed at how much it had stretched.
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Old 09-04-16, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by lightspree View Post
The dust particles that get into the chain are usually very small, more like polishing compounds than abrasives in the usual sense.

There may be wear from the small particles, but it is very slow, more like slowly polishing than grinding away with a serious abrasive on a grinder wheel.
This is an interesting assertion and if true, maybe you do have something new to bring to a chain lube discussion. Perhaps you could share your source for this "fact."

Last edited by PhotoJoe; 09-07-16 at 06:29 PM. Reason: Fixed quote tags
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Old 09-04-16, 05:11 PM
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The big bad silica compounds that are often invoked to scare (or at least alert) people about the damage and the horrible grinding away of the chain:

Consider the not-so-lowly diamond. It's much harder than quartz (many times harder), and steel, and even the hardest of the hardened steels.

Why then can you easily reduce a diamond to fractured particles and dust with a lowly steel hammer?

Because diamonds are brittle.

So is quartz.

So are other silica compounds.

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Old 09-04-16, 05:22 PM
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Chain care, wear and skipping by Jobst Brandt
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Old 09-04-16, 05:23 PM
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I have given up trying to keep my chain "clean". It gets a wipedown with a rag when it looks nasty. Then it gets lubed. When it stretches it gets replaced.
I ride too much to spend a lot of time keeping my chains shiny clean.
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Old 09-04-16, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
Yeah, I actually had that one in mind. He talks as if nothing could be worse for your chain.

Balderdash.

Try taking a common 60 grit grinding wheel or cut-off wheel, and going at a chain with it, using a fast 6" angle grinder. It can go right through a chain in less than one second. That's a serious abrasive.

Take more ordinary abrasives, like various sandpapers. You can do a lot to a chain using power tools, and even by hand with these abrasives. It might (will) take some time, but it can be done.

Try taking 1500 grit or 2000 grit sandpaper, or a polishing compound (chock full of "grit"), and see how long it takes. Please get back to us, if you don't die of old age first.

Serious abrasives use materials, like carborundum and zirconium oxide, that are far, far more effective abrasives than the overwhelming majority of what is found in the dust that gets into the small spaces inside a chain, before it gets fractured or expelled.

Contrary to what the scaremongers say, the grit is not "trapped" there inside the chain. Not at all. Most of it gets moved and expelled. Why would it stay right there on the surfaces that are pressing and moving it out of the way? After fracturing it and reducing it to smaller particles that are more akin to polishing compounds?

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Old 09-04-16, 06:06 PM
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OP, to be honest you haven't really produced any factual evidence to back up your reckless assertion that grit doesn't affect chain wear. You've speculated, theorized and guessed about what goes on inside a chain, no facts. Here is an obvious example. "Grit" varies in composition. Red clay in GA, white sand on the Gulf Coast, volcanic dust in the PNW. Different sizes, different hardness, etc. How does the metal of a chain compare? And compare to which? You don't know, or at least you've not shared your source. You've had a lot to say about wanting intelligent discussion but you are bringing nothing. I'm no more a scientist or engineer than you are, but the faults in your argument are apparent to me.
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Old 09-04-16, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
OP, to be honest you haven't really produced any factual evidence to back up your reckless assertion that grit doesn't affect chain wear. You've speculated, theorized and guessed about what goes on inside a chain, no facts. Here is an obvious example. "Grit" varies in composition. Red clay in GA, white sand on the Gulf Coast, volcanic dust in the PNW. Different sizes, different hardness, etc. How does the metal of a chain compare? And compare to which? You don't know, or at least you've not shared your source. You've had a lot to say about wanting intelligent discussion but you are bringing nothing. I'm no more a scientist or engineer than you are, but the faults in your argument are apparent to me.
Be careful of the infraction points.
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Old 09-04-16, 06:18 PM
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Think I'm on solid ground here, not used any terms like "balderdash" or "scaremongers," but thanks. That sort of thing can be pretty subjective around here

Last edited by shelbyfv; 09-04-16 at 06:21 PM.
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