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Lube and chains

Old 10-08-10, 09:47 PM
  #1  
merganser22
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Lube and chains

So I purchased a used road bike and put 200 or so miles on it and I think its probably time to do some basic maintenance like maybe lubricating the chain. I'd like to do this on the cheap. What are the downsides to going with a 1 step cleaner / degreaser like the product finish line offers? Would I be significantly better off buying a degreaser product to clean the chain and a seperate lubrication product? If so what are your preferred decent quality lower cost degreaser and lubrication products?
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Old 10-08-10, 10:36 PM
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Consider the source, since I make a chain lube, but I'm not a believer in the concept of combined cleaner lubes. IMO they work about as well as one size fits all clothing. But in all fairness, lots of folks are happy with them.

I don't think it's necessary to wash road chains whether with solvent, water and detergent, or those little chain washer gadgets. I'm not alone in that opinion, most of the chain makers recommend against washing their chains. Unless your chain is dirty to the point of sounding gritty, simply dry clean it as well as possible, by running it through a rag or paper towel, until it's as clean as you can get it, then lubricate with your favorite chain lube.
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Old 10-09-10, 12:48 AM
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Well, the necessity of washing chains varies with prevailing conditions. My winter commuter gets it SRAM PC-870 chain boiled once a week whether it wants a bath or not, water being the ONLY thing that can dissolve salt. This also gives me an opportunity to use WD-40 for its only good use, which is displacing water.

Tri-Flow is a pretty acceptable all-around chainlube, though I prefer a foaming moy lube I get through industrial supply sources.

The rule of thumb is that you don't want to run your chain bone-dry, but you don't want it wet enough to pick up grit. I tend to err on the side of wet in the wintertime; I reckon any grit that accumulates will at least be really well-lubricated grit; maybe that helps.

But... yeah. Clean, clean, clean.
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Old 10-09-10, 09:40 AM
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I like CLEAN chains to start! IMO the best riding is done with a fresh cleaned and lubed chain. Two chains with master links is the ultimate! Start by soaking in paint thinner then dry with compressed air and repeat with a second soaking in clear thinner, and then dry again with compressed air. (keep the two thinners in jars and they can be reused for a long time as the grit settles) Install the clean chain lube with your favorite lube and ride. After some lenth of time in Seattle for example it might be 15 day other areas shorter or longer, point is when dirty simply remove chain and install the clean second chain, lube and ride. Repeat and you are good to go. Keep the cassette, pulleys and chain rings clean and your drive train will last a long happy life! Sometimes old school is better than the new "chain cleaners" recycle the grime method. Bottom line, the inside of the rollers are where the cleaning needs to happen and the lube there needs to be grit free.
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Old 10-09-10, 12:10 PM
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The original lube on the chain is the best it will see. I usually go at least 1000 miles before I remove, clean and relube my chain.
I use 4pts. mineral spirits to one pt. chain saw bar oil from Ace hardware. After I start using my home brew I remove the chain every 750 miles and repeat. My last 8sp chain lasted 13,000 miles. I do use an ultrasonic cleaner.
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Old 10-09-10, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by merganser22 View Post
So I purchased a used road bike and put 200 or so miles on it and I think its probably time to do some basic maintenance like maybe lubricating the chain. I'd like to do this on the cheap. What are the downsides to going with a 1 step cleaner / degreaser like the product finish line offers? Would I be significantly better off buying a degreaser product to clean the chain and a seperate lubrication product? If so what are your preferred decent quality lower cost degreaser and lubrication products?
The downside is that no single solution is best for all conditions. A thick, heavy oil that would be best for rainy, wet conditions is probably not best for dry dusty conditions which is why most folks have both types of lubes available. In any case, you can't really get a chain fully clean unless you remove it. If you remove it and use your one-step cleaner/lube stuff it to fully clean the chain it might actually be OK for some conditions but if it can really get in and degrease the chain it won't be thick enough to provide much protection on a rainy wet day. It will also be much more expensive than cleaning the chain with mineral spirits, followed by rinsing in soapy water to dissolve the mineral spirits, then rinsing in clean water and drying. If you do THAT...then lube the chain with either a thick oil for wet conditions or a thin teflon or other thin "oil" for dry conditions you'll save money in the long run and have a better lubed chain. All in one solutions are for those that want to use a simple Park type tool to just run a chain through but that will never get the internal areas as clean as they can be. But people often over-think this kind of stuff. If you use that stuff regularly it will work just fine even if it's not as good as removing the chain. With a master link it's easier to just take the chain off and clean it properly.
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Old 10-09-10, 12:59 PM
  #7  
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I've cleaned chains both off the bike and on the bike with the aid of the little three brush wheel gizmos. And being a year round commuter in a very sloppy weather part of the country I have to clean them a lot to avoid that horibble gritty sound. The way I found to be the least trouble and quickest was with the cleaning gizmo and using mineral spirits as the cleaner. The mineral spirits is re-useable for a LONG time if you pour it into an old pickle jar and let it settle out between uses. The dirt and grit settles to the bottom and leaves a clear tea coloured mix above which is fine to re-use a lot of times. And using the spirits means you can skip the part where you flush the water out of the chain that you used to rinse the chain with after the water based degreaser.

Using the gizmo and mineral spirits some loss due to dripping as well as blotting it off the chain using paper towels is inevitable but I get roughly a year out of a gallon of the stuff. And in my case it's used for a lot more than just cleaning bike chains. So it's actually a pretty frugal way to do it and not all that harmful to the environment when you figure you reuse it a lot. And when the solvent is just too muddy to settle any longer I mix it with the car and motorcycle drained oil for recycling. So all in all it is a cheap and effective way to clean that does not involve a big time commitment. I truly did find it faster to do it on the bike this way than to take off the chain and soak and shake it around in a jar. Much faster actually.

A good budget lube to oil the chain with after is the thick honey like chainsaw bar oil you can buy from Home Depot. It's less than $10 for a gallon of the stuff and that much will last you for years to come. Mix it 1:1 with mineral spirits and it thins it enough to soak into the chain easily and is still thin enough to wipe off the unneeded excess from the outside. I use this mix on both my 5 to 7 bicycles and my 4 motorcycles as well as mixed with a bit of STP as a bed lube for my metal lathe and mill/drill. I finally need to get another gallon after working on the first one for about 9 or 10 years worth of using the first one. The mix is also a handy round the house oil as well as once the MS dries away the light film of thick oil left behind doesn't run and drip. Great for squeaky door hinges, folding closet door quide wheels and anything else that moves and squeaks. It's not boutique'y like some options but it does the job and does it well.
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