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Drivetrain cleaning

Old 01-01-18, 09:59 AM
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mfcity
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Drivetrain cleaning

Having just spent an unreasonable length of time trying to clean the old grime off a chain, I wondered if other people have a method other than this painstaking fuss with an old toothbrush, degreaser, bare hands, etc.

Iíve had to learn the lesson about not mixing lubricants more than onceóI followed the advice to keep the chain lubed and just wipe off excess lube as a way of cleaning, but this chain had its factory lubricant overlaid with Green Oil, which ended up very sticky and dry, and did not dissolve much in degreaser. I even soaked it in water overnight to start trying to pre-soften the gunk.

Does anyone have a favorite chain cleaning machine that can scrub the chain all over? I plan to stick with just wax lubricants from now on, and never have to remove such a tenacious variety of muck again, but Iíd appreciate hearing about anyoneís trusted approach to cleaning. Leaving the chain as it is now, with just the chain rings and jockey wheels to go (the cassette wasnít so bad, relatively).
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Old 01-01-18, 10:10 AM
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Looks pretty clean to me. I'm guessing if it's functional and isn't actually contaminated with water at this point, the best "cleaning" might be to put some regular lightweight lube on it and ride it for a few weeks until the remaining gunk loosens up. If there's water involved, then I have no idea.
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Old 01-01-18, 10:17 AM
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I have used the Park Tools chain washer and have been fairly pleased with its results. But I prefer to put the chain in a jar (a peanut butter jar works nicely) and shake the heck out of it with several changes of kerosene. The last rinse should be reasonably clear (note: it's never *completely* clear unless you go crazy). You can let the kerosene settle out and use it next time; it will be darker in color, but clear. Let the chain hang for a while to drain.

Soaking in water does nothing for you, because water and oil don't mix. If you start with a citrus-based degreaser, you can transition to hot soapy water, but then you have a wet chain and it will begin to rust. I've used this technique with stainless steel chains, but I put the water-rinsed chain in a low-temperature (~200 F) oven to get the water out ASAP. I no longer do this, BTW.
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Old 01-01-18, 12:32 PM
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https://thelashop.com/products/jewel...nt=45219195210
Clean ever 800 mile and relube with a mix of mineral spirits and chainsaw bar oil.
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Old 01-01-18, 12:41 PM
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My suggestion(s):

How to lubricate a bicycle chain
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Old 01-02-18, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Looks pretty clean to me. I'm guessing if it's functional and isn't actually contaminated with water at this point, the best "cleaning" might be to put some regular lightweight lube on it and ride it for a few weeks until the remaining gunk loosens up. If there's water involved, then I have no idea.
Ok, thanks. I see no corrosion on the chain, but the remaining dirt is pretty dry and hard, requiring more of a scraping than I am used to in cleaning a chain. I think Iím reaching a point where I can compromise and leave a little grime after improving on the dire state the drivetrain was in when I started.
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Old 01-02-18, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Nice page, thank you! I am glad to have the tip about odorless mineral spirits.
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Old 01-02-18, 09:21 AM
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In my commuting days, I'm almost ashamed to admit, I didn't clean the chain at all, just kept it wiped and lubed. I kept a stock of inexpensive chains and just replaced them fairly often. Same with cassettes. The time needed to clean wasn't worth it in my busy schedule. Now, post-retirement, I'll spend more time on it and I appreciate the tips and links (so to speak) so far.
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Old 01-02-18, 09:34 AM
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I use this method for cleaning chains before I dip them in wax and never clean them again.
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Old 01-02-18, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
...relube with a mix of mineral spirits and chainsaw bar oil.
Well there's the reason you have to clean the chain every 800 miles.

Don't use glop on it and you won't have to clean it all the time. This chain has been cleaned once when I installed it by shaking it in mineral spirits for about 30 seconds. The picture was taken in the dead of winter with regular winter riding.

IMG_1155 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

A similar picture on another bike. This has been my very foul weather commuter and off-road touring bike for about 5 years now. I can't recall the last time I lubricated the chain but it wasn't recently.

image by Stuart Black, on Flickr

The key to keeping the drivetrain clean is to not use something that is dirty on it
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Old 01-02-18, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mfcity View Post
Having just spent an unreasonable length of time trying to clean the old grime off a chain, I wondered if other people have a method other than this painstaking fuss with an old toothbrush, degreaser, bare hands, etc.

I’ve had to learn the lesson about not mixing lubricants more than once—I followed the advice to keep the chain lubed and just wipe off excess lube as a way of cleaning, but this chain had its factory lubricant overlaid with Green Oil, which ended up very sticky and dry, and did not dissolve much in degreaser. I even soaked it in water overnight to start trying to pre-soften the gunk.

Does anyone have a favorite chain cleaning machine that can scrub the chain all over? I plan to stick with just wax lubricants from now on, and never have to remove such a tenacious variety of muck again, but I’d appreciate hearing about anyone’s trusted approach to cleaning. Leaving the chain as it is now, with just the chain rings and jockey wheels to go (the cassette wasn’t so bad, relatively).
It took you an inordinate amount of time because you used the wrong cleaner and the wrong procedure. Soaking a chain with oil on it overnight in water does zero to remove the oil. They aren't miscible so it's a useless step.

A bottle (I use a wide mouth Gatorade bottle) with about a cup of mineral spirits in it will clean a dozen chains. Drop it in, shake it vigously for about 30 seconds and fish it out. Hang to dry. Total time is about 15 minutes including taking the chain off and putting it on. It doesn't need to be hard.

I agree with the wax based lubricant. I used Phil's Tenacious Oil for a while until White Lightning was introduced. I haven't used anything since nor have I had to do a whole lot of cleaning. The above pictures speak volumes.
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Last edited by cyccommute; 01-03-18 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 01-02-18, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Well there's the reason you have to clean the chain every 800 miles.

Don't use glop on it and you won't have to clean it all the time. This chain has been cleaned once when I installed it by shaking it in mineral spirits for about 30 seconds. The picture was taken in the dead of winter with regular winter riding.





The key to keeping the drivetrain clean is to not use something that is dirty on it

How many miles do you get on a chain?
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Old 01-02-18, 11:18 AM
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All my chains have a quick disconnect link so taking them off is easy. I have a small parts washer with mineral spirits in it. It has a small immersion pump with a brush connected to a rubber hose. After cleaning in parts washer I rinse it off with soapy water and dry it with compressed air. This a quick and easy way for me. After installation I lubricate it with White Lightning or equivalent lubricant. Whole process takes less than 25 minutes. Easy peezee.
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Old 01-02-18, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by davidad View Post
How many miles do you get on a chain?
About the average 3500 miles as nearly everyone else claims here. Yes, I know there are people who claim 5 times that but they are outliers based on what other people claim.
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Old 01-02-18, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
About the average 3500 miles as nearly everyone else claims here. Yes, I know there are people who claim 5 times that but they are outliers based on what other people claim.
Dry lubes are not champions of wet weather performance. The more rain and humidity, the less of a good choice they are. And vice-versa for dry and/or sandy/dusty conditions. Does your (vast) experience differ in those terms?
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Old 01-02-18, 02:00 PM
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A few answers here: Link
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Old 01-02-18, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
About the average 3500 miles as nearly everyone else claims here. Yes, I know there are people who claim 5 times that but they are outliers based on what other people claim.

I get over 15000 miles on a 7 and 8 sped chain. So that makes me an outlier. I tried White lightning and found it to be crap.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:14 PM
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For dry lubes, I just use 120 psi out of my compressor. It's fast, easy, and clean.

Peace.
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Old 01-02-18, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
A few answers here: Link
I'm in the process of switching over to this method myself. It seems like a worthwhile winter task. I'm using my heated "Prosonix" 3.5 gallon ultrasonic cleaner to clean and then to work the heated wax into the chain. I may have to switch to a small crock pot but so far, when I place a pyrex 4 cup measuring cup with the wax granules into the hot water bath of the ultrasonic - it seems to be working. I can see why getting the chain, the chainrings and the cassette as clean as you possibly can will improve your results of getting (clean) wax into all the places you want it.
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Old 01-02-18, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
It took you an inordinate amount of time because you used the wrong cleaner and the wrong procedure. Soaking a chain with oil on it overnight in water does zero to remove the oil. They aren't miscible so it's a useless step.

A bottle (I use a wide mouth Gatorade bottle) with about a cup of mineral oil in it will clean a dozen chains. Drop it in, shake it vigously for about 30 seconds and fish it out. Hang to dry. Total time is about 15 minutes including taking the chain off and putting it on. It doesn't need to be hard.

I agree with the wax based lubricant. I used Phil's Tenacious Oil for a while until White Lightning was introduced. I haven't used anything since nor have I had to do a whole lot of cleaning. The above pictures speak volumes.
Mineral oil recommendation duly noted. So this would clean a bike chain?
Ebay UK mineral oil

I doubt my experience with this chain is unique, but I havenít seen anyone else mention Green Oil as a chain lube, and the grime remaining now is really dry, rather than oily. Iím happy togive mineral oil a try, though, after the range of endorsements here.
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Old 01-02-18, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by mfcity View Post
Mineral oil recommendation duly noted. So this would clean a bike chain?
Mineral spirits, maybe?
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Old 01-02-18, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Dry lubes are not champions of wet weather performance. The more rain and humidity, the less of a good choice they are. And vice-versa for dry and/or sandy/dusty conditions. Does your (vast) experience differ in those terms?
Honestly, wet lubricants aren't champions of wet weather performance either. Neither lubricant does all that well in wet conditions and needs to be refreshed after use. The difference is that dry lubricants don't float off the surface of the metal as easily as oil based lubricants do. As an added bonus, dry lubricants don't attract the grit that wet lubes do and work to keep it out of the chain.

I haven't used any other lubricant for (about) 20 years. In that time frame, I've toured throughout most of the US in every summer condition imaginable and not found dry lubricants to be all that bad even during downpours.

I've also commuted to work extensively over that same time period in every imaginable condition including snow, ice storms, thunderstorms and even a few inches of hail. The only problem I've encountered has been applying dry lubricant to a cold chain. It doesn't work all that well. Thankfully, I'm allowed to bring my bike into the building at work so I add lubricant there if needed.
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Old 01-02-18, 05:16 PM
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Drivetrain cleaning except when you are trying to sell the bike or parts is stupid.
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Old 01-02-18, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by mfcity View Post
Mineral oil recommendation duly noted. So this would clean a bike chain?
Ebay UK mineral oil

I doubt my experience with this chain is unique, but I havenít seen anyone else mention Green Oil as a chain lube, and the grime remaining now is really dry, rather than oily. Iím happy togive mineral oil a try, though, after the range of endorsements here.
Not mineral oil! Mineral spirits. You may know it as "white spirits". It goes by other names like petroleum spirits, solvent naphtha, Varsol or Stoddard solvent. If you type in "mineral spirits" on the page you linked and click on "painting prep" you can get to this page. Any place that sells painting supplies should have it.
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Dinosaurs in Colorado A mountain bike guide to the Purgatory Canyon dinosaur trackway
Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
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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Old 01-02-18, 05:36 PM
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You did say mineral oil @cyccommute. I was about ready to raid my wife's medicine cabinet. She thanks you for the clarification.
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