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Oil Theory ?

Old 08-11-11, 11:05 PM
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Oil Theory ?

Lately I've seen a lot of bikes that were either gummed up or bearing large quantities of sand etc. embedded in thick oil. Owners tell me that they were using oils sold and recommended by their LBS. I'm new to properly servicing bikes so I'm confused by the thick oil being pushed by the LBS. I paid $9.00 for a 200 ml bottle of oil at a local bike store and was terribly disappointed with it considering the price. Its consistency is somewhere between motor oil and STP. It doesn't spread well, remove rust or seem to serve any purpose other than gathering dirt and sand. When I complained about the oil I was told to try TRI FLOW. I love it and use it for almost everything, especially disslving thick gooey oil and mud. A day after using it, rusty chains perform well but look almost dry. I assume that a lot of the volume must evaporate or penetrate the steel.

Now I am really wondering why our local bike shops are recommending thick oils that turn gummy and gather great quantities of sand and other debris. The cynic in me suspects that they are trying to sell more bikes by destroying the ones that are already on the road.

Does thick gooey bike oil have some purpose that I don't understand that offsets its negative aspects ?
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Old 08-11-11, 11:14 PM
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I don't know if most LBS's really recommend heavy oil.

I happen to like automatic transmission on my chain and the rest of my bike. My car mechanic says it holds particles in suspension, which makes it good for chains.

But really, anything will do if you apply it often enough. Those dirty chains were dirty from neglect, not the wrong kind of lubricant.
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Old 08-12-11, 05:52 AM
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I use the thickest lube that I know about -- Chain-L. It works fine, and collects less grit than anything of the thinner lubes that I've tried. I put a drop onto each roller, let it work its way insider the rollers, and wipe off all that I can wipe off.

Some people will spin the chain and dribble oil into it. That's the intended method for some types of lubes that come mixed with solvent, but it's a messy method when lubing w/any type of oil.

You might suggest to your customers that they wipe the chain down with a rag whenever they see dirt and grit beginning to accumulate.
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Old 08-12-11, 07:57 AM
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The conventional wisdom (at least around here) has usually been to use a thin lube, or a lube mixed with solvent which later evaporates (whether this lube should be wet or dry is a different debate). The reasoning is that this will penetrate better into the inner links of the chain. Lately though, thick gooey lubes seem to be coming more into vogue. I've been using Chain-L myself for a while, and it penetrates into the chain just as well, lasts a long time (I haven't gone much over 200mi on a single treatment, but they claim a 1000 miles), and doesn't appear to get any dirtier than the thin lubes. I can't say I've noticed particularly greater chain life overall, but then again I don't track that very carefully. It certainly isn't any worse though. Before Chain-L I was using Finish Line Pro Road which is also on the thick side, as well as Phil Tenacious Oil, which is similar in consistency to Chain-L.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:04 AM
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Lube is a crazy topic. Awhile back I counted up all the different bottles of lube in my drawer. I think I had like 27 bottles representing eight or nine different brands and varieties.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:06 AM
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I'm curious, do the maintainers of the bikes you are seeing clean the chain, prior to re-lubrication? Any oil should work (But, Everything Works (tm) ) if the drivetrain is cleaned prior to re-lubrication.

Me? I use automatic transmission lubricant. One bottle lasts me a long time. I WD-40 the hell out of the chain, and scrub it down good before I re-lubricate though.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:19 AM
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I use a 50/50 mix of mineral spirits and 30 weight motor oil. Chain gets dumped into a plastic jug and gets agitated by me and then allowed to soak.
I allow the sediment to settle to the bottom and carefully remove the chain, hang it up to drain, wipe it down and it's good to go.
The oil/spirit is then filtered into another container so it can be used again.
It is amazing how much crud winds up in the filter. You can use a coffee filter or double up on a paper towel in a funnel.
Works for me.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:22 AM
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I always mark the chain so it goes on exactly the same way it came off.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:27 AM
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I use Mobil 1 Extended. With 7500 miles on my bent, my Park chain wear tool has yet to show .75% wear.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:28 AM
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Chain lube is like dieting...you can argue about low carb vs low fat vs vegan or whatever, but really the best diet is whichever one you can live with and stick to long term, because any of them are better than nothing at all.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:39 AM
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My opinion is that you need to use a chain lube. One that is specifically for chains. Any oil based lure will attract dirt that will cause the chain to wear. No matter ow well you clean a chain some particles will remain in the rollers and cause the chain to wear. You may think I am nits but I replace my chain about every 1800-2000 miles. I find this has worked well over the years.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Metaluna
Chain lube is like dieting...you can argue about low carb vs low fat vs vegan or whatever, but really the best diet is whichever one you can live with and stick to long term, because any of them are better than nothing at all.
+1

Most of us really have no real rigorous method for measuring the effectiveness of what we do anyway. So just choose an approach that you like, and run with it.
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Old 08-12-11, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by kycycler
My opinion is that you need to use a chain lube. One that is specifically for chains. Any oil based lure will attract dirt that will cause the chain to wear.
You do realize that many chain lubes are oil-based, right?
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Old 08-12-11, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Metaluna
Chain lube is like dieting...you can argue about low carb vs low fat vs vegan or whatever, but really the best diet is whichever one you can live with and stick to long term, because any of them are better than nothing at all.
+1. However, I think the cleaning it something that many (Maybe not here) seem to skip. Adding more glue to the paste, so to speak.
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Old 08-12-11, 09:24 AM
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Chain oil will always be debated because everybody's needs and preferences are different.

I formulated Chain-L to need what I felt were my highest priorities; good lubrication under load, long service interval, good weather protection, balanced against reasonable cleanliness. I made it to meet the needs of commuters, messengers, racers who put in lots of miles training, and cycle tourists, who ride lots of miles in all conditions and can't or won't be bothered with daily chain care.

The 1,000 mile service life is an average, with most riders seeing between 800 and 1,200 miles per good application. Those interested might read Century Cycles RAAM report on it on the Chain-L facebook page.

Other people have other priorities, like wanting a cleaner chain (on the outside), are willing to service their bikes more often, or are more concerned about sand than weather protection, and so choose other products more suited to their needs. The fact is that no one product or method is best for everyone, and we're lucky to have so many choices.

The key thing to keep in mind is that chain wear happens inside the chain, and that's where the lube has to work, and where dirt is the enemy. The outside of the chain doesn't matter either way, but should be kept as clean and dry as possible to avoid dirt from migrating in.

Speaking of dirt, about the worst thing you can do is oil a dirty chain, especially with a solvent thinned oil. This just lifts the dirt and carries it into the chain. So whatever oil, wax, or lube you prefer, re-lube as often as needed, and be sure to clean the chain first.
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Old 08-12-11, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Those dirty chains were dirty from neglect, not the wrong kind of lubricant.
Put a drop of any chain lube you choose on your finger. It's usually a light tan color. That means that the black stuff on your chain is something other than lubricant so clean it off. It isn't very hard to do if you don't let it accumulate for too long.
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Old 08-12-11, 09:48 AM
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Wipe the chain down right after you oil it,
inside is the part that the lubricant needs to be,
outside just attracts dirt.
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Old 08-12-11, 09:59 AM
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I don't believe there is an absolute way to clean/lube a chain so it is "Perfectly" clean. If in doubt, replace the chain. They are cheap enough.
Much cheaper than replacing cogs and chain rings.
This is a dicussion that really has no definite answer, just opinions. As was said before, it's what you are comfortable with.
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Old 08-12-11, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY
Speaking of dirt, about the worst thing you can do is oil a dirty chain, especially with a solvent thinned oil. This just lifts the dirt and carries it into the chain. So whatever oil, wax, or lube you prefer, re-lube as often as needed, and be sure to clean the chain first.
I really like not having to lube my chain every single ride. I do though, try to hit it with a rag anytime that I see buildup occurring. A quick wipe with a rag does wonders, at least for me.
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Old 08-12-11, 12:10 PM
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Salvor, I doubt that there's anything sinister about the bike shop's chain lube recomendations. I alternate a wax lube with a pertoleum lube (not exactly 50-50) and I usually get excellant chain life. I also clean them more often than some, less than others.

This year looks to be a chain killer around here due to the drought, which has turned road dust into a fine talc that just floats in the air. I cleaned and relub'd my mountain bike chain after almost every ride and it's unreal the amount of fine particulants I see. Lately I've begun running a damp paper towel down the chainstay to see what is being collected by the chain.

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Old 08-12-11, 09:07 PM
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I use very thick oil on my chains, 80-90 gear oil, but am careful to leave only a trace on the outside of the chain and clean/re-lube often. The result is chains that have lasted thousands of trouble free miles.
When you think about it, gear oil is designed for high pressure, low speed applications not unlike bicycle chains so it makes sense that it would work so well.
Chains present a real lubrication dilemma. You want plenty of lube inside the chain wear points and due to lose tolerances it should be pretty thick, but you also only want a slight film on the cog/chainring contact points and ideally it should not allow grit to adhere at all.
Such a lubricant does not exist.
Best bet is soaking the chain in a nice thick lube and removing as much excess as possible with a wipe down or two after it has been in use and frequent cleaning/re-lube.
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Old 08-13-11, 04:41 PM
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First time oiling a chain (totally newbie grandmother): After reading this thread last night, I decided I probably needed to wipe my bike's chain off although it's only two months old and hasn't been ridden much yet (25 miles?). It's only been ridden on clean (as far as streets go) pavement, so I was surprised to see black streaks on the paper towel. No gunk, but lots of black. Then I decided to put some of the TriFlow that the BS sold me on it. I put a drop on each link, from the top of the bottom run of chain, and then wiped the chain off again. The paper towel basically had only the clean TriFlow.

Today I rode the bike a little in the 98-degree heat, and noticed the chain looked shiny like oil, so I wiped it again. I got some black streaks again, although not as much as last night. Is this normal? I only rode it a bit on clean concrete. Also, is the TriFlow taking out the grease that the manufacturer put inside the chain? I read somewhere (here?) that it is better than anything the consumer can put on it and not to remove it for awhile. Should I have waited about oiling the chain? I guess this sounds like a silly question, but please advise. Thanks!

I still have to take the bike back for its free tune-up, so they will clean the chain or whatever then. I have no tools or mechanical ability and no confidence, so I won't be removing the chain from the bike or anything. Just wondering if I should have left it alone until it goes for the after-purchase tuneup?
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Old 08-13-11, 04:44 PM
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Yes it's perfectly normal for oil to turn black almost instantly on a chain. The balck is a mix of wear byproduct and dust or fine dirt particles in suspension in the oil, but has little effect on the ability of the lube to do it's job.

Is is amazing how little is needed for the oil to look black, but that's the way it is.
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Old 08-13-11, 05:12 PM
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go, even seemingly clean paths and roads all have some dust and grime on them, and it's natural for that to get on the gears and in the chain, along with the wear products of the chain and gears. Don't worry about removing lube unless you are using a solvent (which you are not); the wiping and lubing you are doing is fine. Regarding the free tune-up, my bet is that they won't be cleaning/lubing the chain as part of that, but rather adjusting the brake and shifter cables, making sure bolts are tight, and so forth. While you're there, tell them what you've been doing to keep the chain clean and ask if they have any suggestions.

IIRC, you were having some riding issues -- I hope your riding experience has improved!
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Old 08-13-11, 06:43 PM
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You can wipe your chain all day long, and it will always make your rag black, at least a little. The goal is to get it so it doesn't blacken your rag much.

You did fine, because you reduced the amount of black that your rag picked up.
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