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Lubrication has no effect on chain efficiency!?

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Lubrication has no effect on chain efficiency!?

Old 12-13-06, 02:36 PM
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Pete Hamer
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Lubrication has no effect on chain efficiency!?

I just came acros this article from the John Hopkins University. It doesn't seem very techy but is from a reliable source.

http://www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/ho...ug99/bike.html

"The researchers found two factors that seemed to affect the bicycle chain drive's efficiency. Surprisingly, lubrication was not one of them."
"The first factor was sprocket size," The second factor that affected efficiency was tension in the chain."

"The team purchased three popular products used to "grease" a bicycle chain: a wax-based lubricant, a synthetic oil and a "dry" lithium-based spray lubricant. In lab tests comparing the three products, there was no significant difference in energy efficiency. "

Last edited by Pete Hamer; 12-13-06 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 12-13-06, 02:55 PM
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All the tests were done with clean chains. Dirt and rust would make a big difference.
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Old 12-13-06, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by AndrewP
All the tests were done with clean chains. Dirt and rust would make a big difference.
Yep, they acknowledge that in the article. The findings can still be useful for helping decide on a type of lubricant though.
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Old 12-13-06, 04:53 PM
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I chose a chain lubricant for other reasons than "effiecncy." Durability of the lubricant, ease of use, how clean it stays, how long it lasts, and how well it protects the chain are all reason for choosing one lubricant over another for me.
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Old 12-13-06, 07:17 PM
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Lubricant definitley affects how annoyed I get when it starts squeaking.
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Old 12-13-06, 07:50 PM
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right..
the problem is wear
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Old 12-13-06, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by coelcanth
right..
the problem is wear
Hmmmm, I thought wear affected efficiency, I guess that's incorrect.
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Old 12-13-06, 09:12 PM
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Here more info on the same subject.

http://www.ihpva.org/HParchive/PDF/hp50-2000.pdf
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Old 12-13-06, 09:31 PM
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Wear does effect efficiency, but the Hopkins test is just a very short term test that failed to demonstrate whether or not wear would cause efficiency problem. Kinda of like testing a car engine for a couple of seconds for efficiency without oil, the engine will run but the longer it runs the less efficient it becomes till the engine seizes; the same, though not as extreme, would happen to a chain. But of course I have no way of testing this.
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Old 12-13-06, 09:31 PM
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Try the extreme and don't do any maintenance on your drive chain (like many, many people do). Let the lubrication expire, let the chain and sprockets rust, etc, and see how that works out. It's sage advice and commonly accepted that keeping your drive train clean and lubricated will extend the life of the components and keep shifting smooth. You'll have a hard time finding anyone who will argue against regular cleaning and lubrication, despite the specifics of how you clean and what lube you use. The important thing is to pick a program and stick with it. It ain't rocket science. After proper tire inflation, drive train lubrication is the most important bike maintenance.

Last edited by cascade168; 12-13-06 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 12-13-06, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by operator
Lubricant definitley affects how annoyed I get when it starts squeaking.
+ twenty thousand
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Old 12-13-06, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by cascade168
Try the extreme and don't do any maintenance on your drive chain (like many, many people do). Let the lubrication expire, let the chain and sprockets rust, etc, and see how that works out. It's sage advice and commonly accepted that keeping your drive train clean and lubricated will extend the life of the components and keep shifting smooth. You'll have a hard time finding anyone who will argue against regular cleaning and lubrication, despite the specifics of how you clean and what lube you use. The important thing is to pick a program and stick with it. It ain't rocket science. After proper tire inflation, drive train lubrication is the most important bike maintenance.
I've learned a lot from personal experience as to the limited effect that lube has on chain life. I used to clean and lube like a mad man, but eventually learned that it does no real good. In fact it causes more harm in some instances where a person lubes too much. (dirty environments are examples)

On my mountain bikes I ride them daily and only lube them very lightly maybe once or twice per week. The drivetrain stays much cleaner and lasts just as long.
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Old 12-13-06, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Portis
I've learned a lot from personal experience as to the limited effect that lube has on chain life. I used to clean and lube like a mad man, but eventually learned that it does no real good. In fact it causes more harm in some instances where a person lubes too much. (dirty environments are examples)
.
Your "experience" is quite a bit different from anyone I've ever known, in fact quite the opposite. Let me guess, you don't change your car oil either!
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Old 12-13-06, 10:10 PM
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How many people do you know that ride every day on dirt and gravel roads, to the tune of almost 20,000 said miles in the last 3 years? So maybe my experiences are unique but I can assure you my comments are accurate for my situation.

Also, as stated earlier, i do lube, i just do it sparingly.
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Old 12-13-06, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Pete Hamer
Yep, they acknowledge that in the article. The findings can still be useful for helping decide on a type of lubricant though.
That's why the one I recently bought claims to clean the chain as you ride. I've been using it for about 2 weeks now so we'll see how it works. But yeah, I always figured lube didn't help much in a sprocket/chain combo, but it does help to keep dirt out and to prevent excessive wear.
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Old 12-14-06, 12:11 AM
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It was intresting reading about how the chain plates distort on the spockets and a larger sprocket will result in more efficiency, but something tells me that they didn't point the infrared camera at the bearings if they conclude tighter chain tension increases efficiency. I have an internal hub and can hear the inefficiency when the chain tension is too tight. The bearings probably are distorting like the chain plates are and would generate heat.
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Old 12-14-06, 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Portis
I've learned a lot from personal experience as to the limited effect that lube has on chain life. I used to clean and lube like a mad man, but eventually learned that it does no real good. In fact it causes more harm in some instances where a person lubes too much. (dirty environments are examples)

On my mountain bikes I ride them daily and only lube them very lightly maybe once or twice per week. The drivetrain stays much cleaner and lasts just as long.
So, if you believe that it does no good, then why do you even bother lubing once or twice a week? Once or twice a week is WAY more than most cyclists. My whole point was based on my observations in the shop where I see many, many bikes come in that have obviously not had regular drive train lube and, as a result, need new chains and cassettes. Many of these cases don't have many miles, either.

I did not mean to imply that you need to be obsessive about it. But, it does need to be done regularly, with respect to the type of riding your are doing and the environment you are doing it in. I live near the seacoast and salt air is a much bigger problem than dirt, as far as drive train life goes.
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Old 12-14-06, 01:23 AM
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i know what effect good lubrication has on my motorcycle chain. with a scottoiler it'll last nearly 20,000 miles. without one and using spray grease fairly regularly it'll last just over half that. that was on two identical bikes, one with a scottoiler and one without. this test is almost worthless.
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Old 12-14-06, 04:01 AM
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I've tested myself using a range of different methods, and have found that it is practically impossible to clean the chain inside (where the relevant wear takes place). So, clean the outside using a clean rag and lube when cleaned, then dry the chain off.
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Old 12-14-06, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by froze
Wear does effect efficiency, but the Hopkins test is just a very short term test that failed to demonstrate whether or not wear would cause efficiency problem. Kinda of like testing a car engine for a couple of seconds for efficiency without oil, the engine will run but the longer it runs the less efficient it becomes till the engine seizes; the same, though not as extreme, would happen to a chain. But of course I have no way of testing this.
I think that the Hopkins test is right on-to an extent. Lack of lubrication is not a direct cause of loss of efficiency, nor is wear from lack of lubrication. Their effect on efficiency is indirect. Lack of lubrication causes wear. Wear causes chain stretch, which would cause a looser chain and gear/chain mismatch. That's where the efficiency issue comes into play. The Hopkins study was a scientific study, and as such, has a very limited focus. Here, it was the direct impacts on efficiency.

Last edited by koine2002; 12-14-06 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 12-14-06, 10:50 AM
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Quit lubing chain a while back-but not for this reason.

I'm have been doing an experiment for the last 6 months. I bought a Wippermann SS chain, and I'm not lubing it ever.I really should have stripped off the original lube, but I was too lazy.
I fully expect it to not last as long, and to be less efficient.
My reason for doing this is that I just hate getting that black grunge on stuff when you accidently touch the chain, or brush the chain or sprockets on anything.Now, I only ride 5 miles a day, and I don't go off road, so it might take forever to wear out a chain anyway..I decided I would rather replace chains and sprockets more frequently(if necessary) than deal with the grunge.The bikes live in a spare bedroom right off the living room, and I'm constantly lifting them on and off the racks in close quarters with furniture etc.
My intention was to periodically hose the chain/bike/sprockets/freewheels off with water and simple green then dry then. I have to admit, I've been a bit lazy in that respect.Maybe I should have started with a teflon coated wippermann chain rather than ss, but too late now.
Luck,
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Old 12-14-06, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
That's why the one I recently bought claims to clean the chain as you ride. I've been using it for about 2 weeks now so we'll see how it works. But yeah, I always figured lube didn't help much in a sprocket/chain combo, but it does help to keep dirt out and to prevent excessive wear.
Hang on a minute there: how exactly does lube help to keep dirt out?
I will always be lubing my chains (with motor oil), because I believe in it's usefulness, but I wouldn't say it keeps dirt away from the chain. At best, some lubes won't let as much dirt attach as others (for example, wax-based, or teflon-based lubes), but they will always cause more dirt to stick, than without any lube.

As for Hopkins U. research: a hundred million cyclists worldwide can't be all fools, I guess? I am a scientist at heart, but come on.
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Old 12-14-06, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by wroomwroomoops
Hang on a minute there: how exactly does lube help to keep dirt out?
I will always be lubing my chains (with motor oil), because I believe in it's usefulness, but I wouldn't say it keeps dirt away from the chain. At best, some lubes won't let as much dirt attach as others (for example, wax-based, or teflon-based lubes), but they will always cause more dirt to stick, than without any lube.
To me this seems to be the most useful information of the article for us to draw our conclusions on.

I don't agree that all chain lubricants will cause dirt to stick. Some lubes attract dirt, some block and shed the dirt. The ones that block and shed the dirt are going to offer the best long term, real world benefits. The ones that attract dirt might be more efficient on the first ride but then the dirt will come into effect.
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Old 12-14-06, 12:19 PM
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I tend to agree with Koine2002: this sort of science is useful only as far as it goes. IOW: they asked a pretty specific question and got a pretty specific answer (subject to an evaluation of the validity of their methodology).

IIRC, the other study posted showed maximum efficiencies in the big/big cog combination--something that--for other reasons entirely--most of us choose to avoid. Their data might be correct, but I won't be running around in my 53/26 just to eke out maximum efficiency.

Probably
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Old 12-14-06, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by koine2002
I think that the Hopkins test is right on-to an extent. Lack of lubrication is not a direct cause of loss of efficiency, nor is wear from lack of lubrication. Their effect on efficiency is indirect. Lack of lubrication causes wear. Wear causes chain stretch, which would cause a looser chain and gear/chain mismatch. That's where the efficiency issue comes into play. The Hopkins study was a scientific study, and as such, has a very limited focus. Here, it was the direct impacts on efficiency.
I agree. The information might be %100 percent accurate, some conclusions might be flawed though. The John Hopkins report did not conclude that we should stop lubriacting our chains, that was brought up on this thread.
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