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Effect of salt corrosion on chain wear

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Effect of salt corrosion on chain wear

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Old 02-11-19, 10:28 PM
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alias5000
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Effect of salt corrosion on chain wear

Hello all,
I am finding myself contemplating the value of rust resistant chains to my cycling. Is it really worth the investment once I disregard any considerations on looks or rusty dirt.
I live in an area that is very generous with regards to salting roads, so it really is no challenge to get a block of plain steel completely orange overnight during winter (if I wanted to).
I have been using a KMC EPT chain which is supposed to be more rust resistant (I guess it's thoroughly nickel plated?) than others. Winter 1 worked without a single spot of rust - very happy with that. Now it's winter 2 and I'm back to rust. It seems to me that I wore off the plating over the summer.
I must say that I spent considerable effort on making my current winter bike as rust proof as reasonable. This includes not letting is deteriorate during winter past normal standards (it's not a beater).

I will have to replace the chain very soon and I started to think about whether it's actually worth investing in a more corrosion resistant chain. Essentially, as long as inner and outer plates do not get stuck together, the only negative impact of rust would be, if inner links rust and deteriorate faster as a result.
To keep a clean chain and void accumulating lots of grime on my chain, I am a member of the 'apply light lube often faction' (ProLink, soon Squirt).

Has anyone observed premature chain elongation due to salt corrosion / rust on a chain that was not neglected beyond normal care standards? (My own reference points in this regard date back to days when I did not know about chain wear, yet - so absolutely unreliable.)

If inner links do not experience very serious extra deterioration, I am not sure if I am missing any other mechanisms that make a chain last much shorter in winter when kept clean. The outer plates might be rusty orange, but I doubt that it will be very soon to get them past their ultimate strength. Am I missing anything?

What is your experience and/or knowledge?

TL;DR: Is the KMC EPT chain more than just optical bling on a winter drive train that is kept clean lubed with ProLink? Give me your knowledge and/or long-term experience!
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Old 02-11-19, 11:21 PM
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I'm hard on chains, especially during the winter.

I rarely get rusty chains (plenty of oil on 'em), but the rain gets to them.

My latest attempt for longevity has been Wippermann Conex 11SX stainless chains. But, I noticed a couple of spots of rust on the chain pins.

I think KMC may also have some stainless chains.

I don't know how damaging light rust is. Dirt, water, lack of lube? Ewww...

I finally blew out my cassette with the first Wippermann experiment. I knew it was getting up there in mileage, but I didn't think it was that bad yet.
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Old 02-12-19, 12:33 AM
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I doubt going to a wax-based lube will help. As much as I generally try to do a good job of wiping off the chain after applying oil, I leave it a little sticky in the winter to avoid corrosion. Seems to work.
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Old 02-12-19, 07:13 AM
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Fenders. Full fenders. Front fender with a mudflap. Rear fender that drops below the chainstay bridge. Wheels throw water and brine directly at the drivetrain. Get good full coverage fenders and a mudflap within 2" of the ground and you will be surprised how much cleaner the chain remains. Everything else stays cleaner too.

Lived in Chicago all my life. Salt City. Use enough oil. Spots of rust are unavoidable. A generally rusty looking chain means you are not oiling enough. Forget wax or anything waxy. Will not work. Exact brand of oil matters a lot less than having some oil. BF seems to be entirely unaware of NFS Chainlube. In winter you will need to ignore their directions and oil heavier. Still the amount of oil used is so much less than normal oils that you will save time and money. And your chain will be oily rather than buried in grease and crud. If you would rather stick with normal oil fine, just use enough.
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Old 02-12-19, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Fenders. Full fenders. Front fender with a mudflap. Rear fender that drops below the chainstay bridge. Wheels throw water and brine directly at the drivetrain. Get good full coverage fenders and a mudflap within 2" of the ground and you will be surprised how much cleaner the chain remains. Everything else stays cleaner too.
I already do that.
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Old 02-12-19, 08:21 AM
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The only thing you can do is to be constantly cleaning and relubing after every ride, if you do that the chain will be fine. Now according to a MTB site I looked at where people were riding on wet salty sandy conditions they seem to prefer Squirt for those conditions; you can read the discussion here: https://forums.mtbr.com/fat-bikes/ch...er-834868.html
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Old 02-12-19, 09:48 AM
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I'm running a KMC rust resistant chain right now, after several winters with normal chains.

Definitely worth it.

It allows me to be less fastidious about constant cleaning and lubing in the winter, and with periodic cleaning/lubing has held up very well to the nasty and salty conditions. It cost 3x a normal chain, but I think it is a conservative estimate to say it will last 3x as long, not to mention the time saved on cleaning. With my old chains, if I didn't hose it down and lube immediately after most winter rides, it was often unrideable the next time I tried to go out. With this one, I've hit it up with some TLC a couple of times this winter, and by and large don't worry about it very much.
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Old 02-12-19, 09:59 AM
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When I lived , and owned a LBS, in Cleveland (the city with a road salt mine a few miles off shore, with almost no transportation costs guess what that does for the cost of using road salt...) we had a number of messengers and die hard commuters go all year round. Generally after the first winter and they saw the wear on their bike (the "good" bike that they liked to ride) they either regulated that bike to second class status or got a second one specifically for winters. It was not uncommon to see a winter rider swap out their chain/cog(s), cables and pads every spring as the winter stuff would get pretty well worn rusted.

Even with stainless (note the "less" not "proof"), frequent cleaning and lubing the winter conditions (and this includes the temp swings as well as un frozen water) bikes will see a lot of wear and corrosion (not limited to FeOxide, check those seat posts and stems!) Andy
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Old 02-12-19, 10:08 AM
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A quick squirt with a fresh water hose after each ride will help a lot. As for the chain you can smear a very thin layer of grease over the top and bottom pivots and the sideplates. Clean and lube the chain first and then apply the grease. The grease just adds a more durable extra layer of protection.
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Old 02-12-19, 10:21 AM
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That water hose is in San Diego and the OP is in Ontario. It would be nice to have a heated garage with enough space to hose and not destroy everything nearby. For a few winters I once had access to a largely unused basement and did hose the bike regularly. It helped a lot. Then the landlord came around and wanted to know WTF I was doing. Oh well.

OP already has good fenders. Wonderful. Only other step is constant maintenance.
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Old 02-12-19, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
Hello all,
I am finding myself contemplating the value of rust resistant chains to my cycling. Is it really worth the investment once I disregard any considerations on looks or rusty dirt.
I live in an area that is very generous with regards to salting roads, so it really is no challenge to get a block of plain steel completely orange overnight during winter (if I wanted to).
I have been using a KMC EPT chain which is supposed to be more rust resistant (I guess it's thoroughly nickel plated?) than others. Winter 1 worked without a single spot of rust - very happy with that. Now it's winter 2 and I'm back to rust. It seems to me that I wore off the plating over the summer.
I must say that I spent considerable effort on making my current winter bike as rust proof as reasonable. This includes not letting is deteriorate during winter past normal standards (it's not a beater).

I will have to replace the chain very soon and I started to think about whether it's actually worth investing in a more corrosion resistant chain. Essentially, as long as inner and outer plates do not get stuck together, the only negative impact of rust would be, if inner links rust and deteriorate faster as a result.
To keep a clean chain and void accumulating lots of grime on my chain, I am a member of the 'apply light lube often faction' (ProLink, soon Squirt).

Has anyone observed premature chain elongation due to salt corrosion / rust on a chain that was not neglected beyond normal care standards? (My own reference points in this regard date back to days when I did not know about chain wear, yet - so absolutely unreliable.)

If inner links do not experience very serious extra deterioration, I am not sure if I am missing any other mechanisms that make a chain last much shorter in winter when kept clean. The outer plates might be rusty orange, but I doubt that it will be very soon to get them past their ultimate strength. Am I missing anything?

What is your experience and/or knowledge?

TL;DR: Is the KMC EPT chain more than just optical bling on a winter drive train that is kept clean lubed with ProLink? Give me your knowledge and/or long-term experience!


IME, Prolink is not up to the task.

Better results with whatever chain and a nice, heavy engine oil & don't worry about the gunk.
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Old 02-12-19, 11:49 AM
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1 winter i rode the same bike every day and that seemed to help keep the chain viable.
but another bike i rode in snow and stopped riding it in the spring. that bike's chain I had to replace often. it was solid rust.

I posted about it a few years ago and got some good advice winter bike chain rusting stiff
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Old 02-12-19, 12:18 PM
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I rode winters in Boston and Ann Arbor many years ago. My approach was very simple. 1) ride fix gears. 2) replace running gear, spokes and rims at the end of winter (after the potholes are filled) and ride the nice new stuff all summer and fall, 3) pay as little as possible for running gear since it is all going to be trash come March and even the cheap stuff runs fine one season.

Fix gear for a multitude of reasons. I was a racer some of that time and fix gear was what you did off season. Fix gears (once you know what you are doing) have far more control on snow and ice. (Think standard transmission vs automatic in the old days.) Fix gears are so simple. They work with very little attention and after right-side falls on ice so you can always ride the bike home. When the chain links freeze up, you just slide the wheel forward a little to put slack back in the chain. (I usually tended to the chain after two links froze.) Total cost of drivetrain is $40 (chainring), $35 (cog) and $20 (chain) if you go minimum velodrome standard or less if you look around. The cog and chainring may well go another year. You also have another layer of redundancy braking. Brakes are subject to the same miserable conditions as the drivetrain.

I am a huge fan of winter beater bikes; bikes that may ride well but that I am not attached to. Bikes with horizontal dropouts and room and eyes for fenders and larger tires. Good all purpose tires. I used to ride fine tread cyclocross sewups on cheap 400gm rims. Grippy, very forgiving and I could run them near flat being sewups. Of course, this lead to wheels that were a rough interpretation of square by March, hence the need to replace rims and spokes as mentioned above. Oh, and Mafac Racer brakes. The power to work in the wet and abillty to run not too badly on those square rims.

I guess to sum it all up - use your smarts to dumb down your rig as much as possible. IAnd make that rig NOT your summer steed.)

Edit: WRT chain elongation - if you take my approach, your chain gets shorter (as links freeze)!

Ben

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Old 02-12-19, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Crankycrank View Post
A quick squirt with a fresh water hose after each ride will help a lot. As for the chain you can smear a very thin layer of grease over the top and bottom pivots and the sideplates. Clean and lube the chain first and then apply the grease. The grease just adds a more durable extra layer of protection.
Easy for a Californian to say, In much of the country, that fresh water hose got disconnected and the hose bib shut down a month and a half ago. In my apartment days in Boston and Ann Arbor, I just carried my bike with all its collected junk, slush and salt indoors and set it on a 6' carpet runner. By morning it had dried and was safe to carry back outside to ride. Yes, it was a mess. But it worked. I didn't have a car.

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Old 02-12-19, 01:17 PM
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Replace in shorter time frame .. ie, more often.. buy several chains at once, to cut down on shopping time..
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Old 02-12-19, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
That water hose is in San Diego and the OP is in Ontario. It would be nice to have a heated garage with enough space to hose and not destroy everything nearby. For a few winters I once had access to a largely unused basement and did hose the bike regularly. It helped a lot. Then the landlord came around and wanted to know WTF I was doing. Oh well.

OP already has good fenders. Wonderful. Only other step is constant maintenance.
Actually, the winter-proof approach to this is to use a hand-pump garden sprayer that is stored inside. I'm doing this give-or-take once a week after particularly salty rides. Storing the bike inside becomes mandatory after that, as everything freezes up. I'm storing the bike inside every day.

Lots of good comments so far, thank you. I'll check them out in more detail after work.
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Old 02-12-19, 03:55 PM
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Hand pump garden sprayer is simple and brilliant. How many years have I done this and never thought of that? Really sounds as if you have thought this through and are doing all the reasonable things. And no, I do not believe a stainless chain will make any significant difference. Since you have tried it all and then some, give NFS lube a try. The 12 drops instruction is quite serious, just doesn't quite work when the bike is wet and salted. But don't do a drop on every link, you'll make a mess.
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Old 02-13-19, 12:05 PM
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I know that this is a bit tangential, since my solution needs a frame that can accept a belt drive. But I have been commuting for decades in New England with very salty roads, and for many years was finding it a challenge to have a chain last more than one winter season. So after riding for many years, I realized that I was going to be doing this for a while, and got a dedicated winter bike (stainless steel fenders, disk brakes, hub dynamo, internally geared hub, studded tires) with a Gates belt drive. I've had it for six seasons now, and all I've needed to do is tighten it after about three years.

Again, I know you need to have a drop out that can separate to use a belt drive but, for winter riding, a belt drive is incredibly convenient.
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Old 02-13-19, 12:15 PM
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I wouldn't ride fixed in winter. There are times when I really need to stop pedaling and neutralize the pedals. Winter roads can sometimes present similar challenges to mountain biking.
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Old 02-13-19, 10:51 PM
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Thanks again everyone.

Originally Posted by Banzai View Post
I'm running a KMC rust resistant chain right now, after several winters with normal chains.

Definitely worth it.

It allows me to be less fastidious about constant cleaning and lubing in the winter, and with periodic cleaning/lubing has held up very well to the nasty and salty conditions. It cost 3x a normal chain, but I think it is a conservative estimate to say it will last 3x as long, not to mention the time saved on cleaning. With my old chains, if I didn't hose it down and lube immediately after most winter rides, it was often unrideable the next time I tried to go out. With this one, I've hit it up with some TLC a couple of times this winter, and by and large don't worry about it very much.
This basically describes how I was thinking about this too, when I got my KMC EPT chain and how much maintenance to do. Even though my chain is now in rusty-land, I still seem to be considerably away from stiff links, so maybe it is worth it. How long do your rust resistant chains last with respect to the rust resistance before rust settles in (1 winter, 2 winters,...)? Maybe I just need to bike more on this bike, so that chain stretch prevents these chains to see a second winter.
Do you keep that chain for summer? Arguably, if rust is the lifetime limit, it doesn't matter. If stretch was the limit, it would make sense to run a simple standard chain during non-winter seasons.

Thanks for the tip regarding NSF. It sounds a little bit similar to Chain-L (...?). Not quite my taste, but I'll keep it in the back of my mind.

All in all, I guess there really isn't a derailleur bike that can stay rust-free for multiple winters, unless very thorough maintenance is done daily (and even then?). I specifically built this winter bike to be as rust-defeating as I could reasonably make it (lots of stainless steel and aluminum). But the weak parts are the drivetrain components, and a casual spray-down doesn't seem to do the job in winter 2 (in full contrast to the first winter). Now, the nickel/chrome plating are worn and the derailleur cage has a few rust spots that are to close to moving parts to be repainted. So where I'm coming from with this chain topic is to find out for myself whether it's worth continuing on the non-beater path. For that, I got some very good input from you guys. Maybe I will end up on Andy's path, maybe there are some ways around some pitfalls...

On the other topics touched in this thread:
- IGH + belt drive: Yup, sounds awesome. When my life is settled to the point that I will know that many more winters such as these will be in store, this would be a very nice consideration for the next commuting bike. To bad that a conversion from a derailleur bike frame isn't possible. I see the point in fixies but personally dislike them.
- Winter beater: been there, done that. I set out to make a nicer riding bike "winter-proof" in order to have more fun in the winter season. Now it's winter 2, I'm happy to have a nicer bike, but winter is taking some toll on it.
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Old 02-14-19, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Banzai View Post
I'm running a KMC rust resistant chain right now, after several winters with normal chains.

Definitely worth it.

It allows me to be less fastidious about constant cleaning and lubing in the winter, and with periodic cleaning/lubing has held up very well to the nasty and salty conditions. It cost 3x a normal chain, but I think it is a conservative estimate to say it will last 3x as long, not to mention the time saved on cleaning. With my old chains, if I didn't hose it down and lube immediately after most winter rides, it was often unrideable the next time I tried to go out. With this one, I've hit it up with some TLC a couple of times this winter, and by and large don't worry about it very much.
I never noticed 3X wear life between the cheapest and most expensive chains, double at most.

The cheapest chain I used probably wasn't even heat treated, a fake KMC 1/8", that lasted 5000KM.

The best chain I have used has over 10,000KM (KMC X8) and is still in use, probably quite close to the end of its life, still shifts OK and doesn't skip yet.
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Old 02-14-19, 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
- Winter beater: been there, done that. I set out to make a nicer riding bike "winter-proof" in order to have more fun in the winter season. Now it's winter 2, I'm happy to have a nicer bike, but winter is taking some toll on it.
Belt drive, or even a chain drive IGH setup might be worth the expense.
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Old 02-18-19, 03:26 PM
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Alright, I have made up my mind. Your responses have helped me gauging the trade-offs again - merci, merci, merci. I'm renewing my KMC EPT chain, however I will also obtain a simple and cheap 9-speed chain which I will run in summer. This way, the expensive EPT chain will be a little bit better of an investment. And I will try out squirt, once my current supply of ProLink has run out. If that is underwhelming, I'll give NSF a try.

IGH and belt is a very cool thing, but my frame won't allow the belt drive part. But it'll stay on the radar for any future commuter bikes.
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Old 02-18-19, 07:51 PM
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The biggest difference between Chain-L and NFS (not NSF) is that Chain-L is very demanding about chain prep before lube application. "Effort=Results" is printed right on the bottle. NFS you put 12 drops on the chain at random and that's about it. IMO the NFS is longer lasting too, and survives better in rain. About the only warning or limitation on NFS is that it doesn't play well with chains that have been waxed. In that case you might want to meticulously clean the chain. Or just expect it will be a while before the wax is purged and the NFS shows at its best.

NFS is also the ticket for cheapskates. The wife and I have 7 bikes between us. I ride more, maybe 5 or 6 thousand a year. She parks in the rain a lot more. Both of us are known to give the chains salt baths in winter. Just finished first small bottle of NFS after 4 years. The twelve drops is for real. Add two drops after 50 miles. Wipe the chain often. That's all.
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Old 02-18-19, 09:23 PM
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That is good to know, thanks!
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