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Chain: cleaning and lubricating?

Old 09-02-10, 10:46 AM
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Chain: cleaning and lubricating?

I'd like to clean my bike chain and gears.

Should I use special cleaners and lubricants, or anything will do?

I have tried to use brake cleaning spray that I bought at autoshop on end of the chain, it looks it's working ok.
Do I have to soak the chain in acetone or something? Or just spraying will do the job?
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Old 09-03-10, 12:06 AM
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IMHO to do a good job of cleaning your chain you need to take it off. Get a quick link and learn how to remove an old link and substitute a quick link. With that installed you can remove it and clean it easily at any time. Acetone is dangerous and gives no advantage over other chain cleaning solvents. Any bike shop will have some varieties. Take of the chain, put in a smallish container with solvent, shake, dump solvent, repeat. Repeat till the chain is completely clean. Let dry. Some folks recommend rinsing with water then allowing to dry. Whether you need this depends on whether there is any solvent left on the chain. Some leave residue some don't. For derailleurs and such, spray cans of solvent are hard to beat. You can clean the chain on the bike with things like the Park cleaning tools that attach to the chain. They work OK but never as well as removing the chain entirely.
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Old 09-03-10, 09:03 AM
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Don't take your chain off and clean in solvent ever. After each ride, just clean the chain by grasping the chain at the bottom run with a rag in your hand and turning the cranks backwards. Lube the chain every 3-5 rides. The cassette and chainrings can be cleaned with solvent.
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Old 09-03-10, 09:09 AM
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I use Kerosene, on the rag . above described proceedure. wipe the grit off .
let the kero evaporate , run the chain backwards , apply chain lube..
wipe excess chain lube off .. if any..

careful not to drip on the rims , Lube wont help the brakes work..

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-03-10 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 09-03-10, 09:19 AM
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G-B, I use WD40 or LPS1 on a rag while spinning the chain in reverse. If the drive train is exceptionally gritty I use a tooth brush also. For the cassette/freewheel I remove it and use a brush. Don't forget to clean the tension and jockey wheels on the RD.

Brad
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Old 09-03-10, 12:47 PM
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Oops, I already removed the chain... My back wheel need to be trued so I took the chain off too. Luckily it has the quick link, so it was easy. I did not dip it yet, just did not have time, but why some say take it off, and the others never take it off?
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Old 09-03-10, 12:50 PM
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ShelBroCo, anyone?
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Old 09-03-10, 01:06 PM
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Since you've removed the chain, the easiest, cheapest and possibly best way to clean it is to put it in an empty soda bottle, add dish detergent, and hot tap water. close the cap and alternate soaking and shaking like crazy. Drain and repeat until the liquid stays clean, then for a final rinse same thing but only a tiny drop of detergent to break the surface tension. Now dry it on a sheet of foil in an over or toaster oven (not microwave) at 200 for 10-20 minutes.

You now have a clean, dry chain ready to accept your favorite lube. Note oven drying is critical if water washing chains, otherwise the water stays trapped inside by capillary action (like what happens if it runs under a sheet of glass) and prevents your lube from wicking in.

If you prefer solvents to water, use mineral spirits or naphtha, and let dry in the sun. (I hope I don't need to tell you not to put a chain washed with flammable solvents into the oven). Solvent cleaning is best on a bike because it evaporates dry without heat.

With decent care you shouldn't need to wash a chain except maybe once in a while, periodic dry wiping by backpedaling through a dry paper towel does a decent job of keeping it clean. If you want you can dampen the towel with a bit of solvent. But remember that if you wash out all the lube, you need to dry the chain before relubing.
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Old 09-03-10, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso
ShelBroCo, anyone?
+1

I think of that every time I see one of these chain cleaning threads.

It amuses me when people swear that doing this thing or that thing will irreparably wreck your chain. C'mon folks... a bicycle chain is not exactly high tech gear. It's a consumable item that's going to wear out, no matter what you do.

Maintenance is simple:
Remove chain.
Swish it in some mineral spirits until clean.
Dry it.
Lube it.
Install it.
Quit obsessing over your chain.

Just for curiosity... why exactly should we never ever remove our chain for cleaning?
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Old 09-03-10, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Hydrated
Maintenance is simple:
Remove chain.
Swish it in some mineral spirits until clean.
Dry it.
Lube it.
Install it.
I do same except substitute "ultrasonic cleaner with water/Simple-Green" for "Swish it in some mineral spirits until clean".
Just for curiosity... why exactly should we never ever remove our chain for cleaning?
I'm guessing because of people following the Shimano/Campy party line that master links don't exist.
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Old 09-03-10, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by San Rensho
Don't take your chain off and clean in solvent ever. After each ride, just clean the chain by grasping the chain at the bottom run with a rag in your hand and turning the cranks backwards. Lube the chain every 3-5 rides. The cassette and chainrings can be cleaned with solvent.
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/chain-care.html
I remove my chain every 650 to 750 miles and clean it in an ultrasonic cleaner with Simplegreen and water. My 8sp chain has almost 12k miles on it. I lube with 4parts mineral spirits to one part chainsaw bar oil.
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Old 09-03-10, 04:00 PM
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Personally, I never remove a chain if I can avoid it. Here's my method:

1) Lube
2) Wipe
3) Ride
4) Repeat steps 1 to 3
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Old 09-03-10, 04:29 PM
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This....



or something similar.

I clean the chain each time I wash my bike which is about 1-2mths or 50-100km if riding.

Stuff I use are:

- Spray some WD40 on the chain. Wait a while
- The fill the chain cleaning device with degreaser and some water
- Run chain through it a few times and refill with degreaser until water is no longer murky.
- Wipe dry
- Let it sit for a day
- apply "Home Brew" lube followed by wipe down

My Home Brew recipe is 3 part OMS and 1 part motor oil (5w30)
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Old 09-03-10, 05:14 PM
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chain is galvanised steel of some sort. solvents won't hurt it, but manufacturers discourage users because solvents can harm other parts on bikes, like rubber and paint.

I respect Sheldon's opinion but if a regular cyclist worries about chain getting bust by debris and dust from the road, then thrashing it in a bottle with all that grit isn't a good idea. get a tall container, like motor oil bottle. you can take off the chain or remove jockey sprockets to get it just hanging from a chainring. zig-zag it in the container filled with white spirit or gasolene and gently brush it with a nylon brush.

but hey what works for you is best for you. after all chains are relatively cheap, I just recently bought a new shimano HG50 8 speed for 8€
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Old 09-03-10, 06:02 PM
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Brake cleaning solvent will work fine. Just spray about a 3 inch spot on a nappy towel and grip the chain while rotating it. When the spot of cleaner has run out, do it again. Then grip the chain with dry parts of the towel and rotate quickly. You'll be able to see when the chain is clean by the stains on the towel. Let chain dry for 5 minutes or so, and re-lube. This works fine for people who ride pavement. If you ride dirt; forget it. bk
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Old 09-03-10, 11:41 PM
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I have tried mechanical cleaners and have found they offer very little advantage, except that you can clean the chain on the bike.
All I use is an old polycarbonate soft drink bottle and unleaded petrol.
Just give it a good shake and repeat with new petrol 3, or 4 times.
Then take it out and leave in the sun for an hour, or so.
Then re-lube it.
I don't like the idea of using water on steel components.

Regards,
Roger
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Old 09-04-10, 01:06 AM
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I have yet another method I forgot to mention, you can use it while cleaning the whole bike. lube the chain with motor oil beforehand and go on a short drive. motor oil contains anti-sediment additivies, which are practically solvents and sulphur. this will get your chain unsticky and really wet. then just give it a good blast with a garden hose on the chain and it's clean. drying is best and fastest with an air compressor.
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Old 09-04-10, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by constant mesh
I have yet another method I forgot to mention, you can use it while cleaning the whole bike. lube the chain with motor oil beforehand and go on a short drive. motor oil contains anti-sediment additivies, which are practically solvents and sulphur. this will get your chain unsticky and really wet. then just give it a good blast with a garden hose on the chain and it's clean. drying is best and fastest with an air compressor.
So you lube, ride, rinse (w/ water), let dry and then...lube again? or just hope the water doesn't rinse off the oil?
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Old 09-04-10, 09:47 AM
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yes, I just lube it up with motor oil, ride it and all gunk gets loose and wet. then give it a good spray of water at stable pressure, some car shampoo won't hurt it either. I dry by blowing it with my air compressor gun. it will be dry like pepper.

I mainly drive off road so when I am about to clean my bike, my last ride is usually on motor oil. it can be a bit messy for your accessories, so if you have a highly praised wheelset and tyre, you're on your own.
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Old 09-04-10, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Hydrated
+1

I think of that every time I see one of these chain cleaning threads.

It amuses me when people swear that doing this thing or that thing will irreparably wreck your chain. C'mon folks... a bicycle chain is not exactly high tech gear. It's a consumable item that's going to wear out, no matter what you do.

Maintenance is simple:
Remove chain.
Swish it in some mineral spirits until clean.
Dry it.
Lube it.
Install it.
Quit obsessing over your chain.

Just for curiosity... why exactly should we never ever remove our chain for cleaning?
The theory is that cleaning in solvent will remove the lube (especially the factory lube) deep inside the chain. When you put it back on the bike, it takes a while for the new lube to penetrate the chain and you damage the chain by essentially running it temporarily with little or no lube.

The wipe method I use leaves the chain visually clean and working perfectly.
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Old 09-04-10, 04:19 PM
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I had a mountain bike with a chain that I never cleaned. I just kept adding lubricant. When done with a particularly messy MTB ride, I would hose the bike off, and squirt some more lube on the chain. This was a scientific experiment. Probably at least 20K miles on it over 12-13 yrs. None the worse for the wear. Finally gave away the bike for free to a friend.
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Old 09-04-10, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by San Rensho
The theory is that cleaning in solvent will remove the lube (especially the factory lube) deep inside the chain. When you put it back on the bike, it takes a while for the new lube to penetrate the chain and you damage the chain by essentially running it temporarily with little or no lube.

The wipe method I use leaves the chain visually clean and working perfectly.
And it washes the grit down to the pins making grinding compound that will shorten the life of the chain.
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Old 09-05-10, 02:30 AM
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Don't use acetone. It will damage any paintwork and/or plastics. Acetone is highly flammable and is used by women for removing their nail polish.

I never clean the chain - just add more rock and roll lube when required.

Last edited by 009jim; 09-05-10 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 09-05-10, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Gege-Bubu
but why some say take it off, and the others never take it off?
Because there is not universal agreement on the art and science of chain maintenance.
Recently I have been wiping down my chains with a WD40-saturated rag, letting them dry, then wiping with a ProGold ProLink-saturated rag.
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Old 09-05-10, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Gege-Bubu
but why some say take it off, and the others never take it off?
I think most would agree that it's easier to wash chains off the bike. But most times washing isn't necessary, and a quick dry or damp rag wipe is all that's needed, and that's easier on the bike.

There's also the issue of which closure. If you have a reusable master link, there's no reason not to remove the chain. But otherwise removing the chain entails the expense of a new link or closure pin each time.

So the answer depends on the circumstances.
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