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Components of road grime on drivetrain/wheels

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Components of road grime on drivetrain/wheels

Old 01-08-17, 09:04 PM
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Components of road grime on drivetrain/wheels

Almost all my cycling is on road (sometimes sidewalk) in Southern Calif.

The most common grime I see on my drivetrain components (and buildup on spoke and rims) is some sort of fine black stuff. I'm thinking "powdered" rubber from automotive tires. Comes off with rag easy enough. And I don't think its silica (sand/gravel) because it does not feel rough/gritty in fingers.
What else could it be???
May have to follow thru with some pix.

Last edited by elcyc; 01-12-17 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 01-09-17, 11:53 AM
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Grease and drivetrain wear. Plus some dirt. Rims? Rim brakes? Leftover residue from braking.
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Old 01-09-17, 12:04 PM
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grime from the ground, lots of road debris carries up onto the sidewalk, mostly rubber, fine dust, and various oxidized metals mixed with dirt, grease, oil, and fuel residue.
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Old 01-09-17, 12:23 PM
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brake pad residue, grease, maybe some poop, dirt, etc.
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Old 01-09-17, 12:33 PM
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Horse poop if you are on equestrian trails
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Old 01-09-17, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by ypsetihw View Post
grime from the ground, lots of road debris carries up onto the sidewalk, mostly rubber, fine dust, and various oxidized metals mixed with dirt, grease, oil, and fuel residue.
Particulates from combustion as well. All that black stuff out the pickup-exhaust goes somewhere.
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Old 01-09-17, 12:44 PM
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I have rim brakes. But at the rate/volume I see the "black stuff" build up on spokes/rims/drivetrain, it's gotta be from the road (auto tire "nanos").
Could also be powderized asphalt (road tar).
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Old 01-09-17, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Particulates from combustion as well. All that black stuff out the pickup-exhaust goes somewhere.
I actually saw a youtube video where a guy was reclaiming platinum from road dust by refining giant piles of road debris and grime. It was a paltry amount, like a few fractions of a gram from a 2-liter bottle full, but an interesting exercise anyway.
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Old 01-09-17, 06:17 PM
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My rural route grime consists of:
Schmutz
Roadkill gore
Turkey vulture poo
Awful beer offal
Nose rockets
Knee sockets
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Old 01-09-17, 07:08 PM
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The above, but my particular roadkill goo is made up of 2/3 Armidilllo and 1/3 coon.

On Strava segments there is lots of grime from other cyclist's broken dreams.

Last edited by shafter; 01-09-17 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 01-09-17, 08:03 PM
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My bikes don't get dirty.
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Old 01-09-17, 10:35 PM
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Drivetrain grime should be mostly metal (aluminum for most) powder from wear.
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Old 01-10-17, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
Almost all my cycling is on road (sometimes sidewalk) in Southern Calif.

The most common grime I see on my drivetrain components (and buildup on spoke and rims) is some sort of fine black stuff. I'm thinking "powdered" rubber from automotive tires. Comes off with rag easy enough. And I don't think its silica (sand/gravel) because it does not feel rough/gritty in fingers.
What else could it be???
May have to flow thru with some pix.
While it doesn't feel "gritty", it is probably still silica. If you get the particles small enough, they won't feel gritty. Water does a pretty good job of classifying the particles by size.

I also doubt that it is rubber from automobile tires as that doesn't last long in our atmosphere in small particles. Rubber also isn't gritty which you can often feel when you apply the brakes.

Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Particulates from combustion as well. All that black stuff out the pickup-exhaust goes somewhere.
Absolutely not. Soot from diesel combustion is extremely small. It's in the range of 0.1-0.2 m (human hair is in the 17 to 181 m range). It doesn't really settle out of the atmosphere except in areas where the air is extremely still. There's also not enough of it around to make a significant contribution to "road grim".

Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
I have rim brakes. But at the rate/volume I see the "black stuff" build up on spokes/rims/drivetrain, it's gotta be from the road (auto tire "nanos").
Could also be powderized asphalt (road tar).
It might be pulverized stone from the aggregate used for making the roads but the organic part of asphalt probably isn't a significant contributor. Like rubber, it quickly oxidizes and forms small enough molecules to become volatile and, eventually, oxidizes fully to carbon dioxide.

As for the tire rubber, a small part of the grime could be rubber dust but that rubber just doesn't pile up on the side of the road. We drive 2.3 trillion miles in the US per year. Let's say that a tire last for 60,000 miles. That's 38 million tires being worn out every year. A tire loses about 5 lb of rubber over its life so that that would put 190 million pounds of rubber on the side of the road every year. There should be vast drifts of black dust on the side of all of our roads with that kind of wear but there aren't. The reason is that the rubber oxidizes quickly when in the small particulate size.

Originally Posted by ypsetihw View Post
grime from the ground, lots of road debris carries up onto the sidewalk, mostly rubber, fine dust, and various oxidized metals mixed with dirt, grease, oil, and fuel residue.
This is probably the closest to the actual composition so far. Metals and sand can be sized reduced but even at very small particle size they usually aren't volatilized or broken down further. The grease, oil, rubber and other organics probably play only a small transient part.
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Old 01-11-17, 07:22 AM
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Way down here in Atlanta every spring the trees produce unbelievable quantities of pollen. It's a sticky residue that gets all over everything. Around my place it gets so bad that I can fill up a dust pan with it after sweeping my back porch. Like a dust storm.
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Old 01-11-17, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ypsetihw View Post
I actually saw a youtube video where a guy was reclaiming platinum from road dust by refining giant piles of road debris and grime. It was a paltry amount, like a few fractions of a gram from a 2-liter bottle full, but an interesting exercise anyway.
I immediately thought of that video when reading this thread too!

I don't know what the grime is made up of, just that it is gross.
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Old 01-11-17, 09:55 AM
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I believe the muffler smog control devices use platinum as a catalyst.

get out your microscopes and study your local samples.
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Old 01-11-17, 05:47 PM
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I stick to the streets when I can because they are clean (at least in areas I bike) ...



I'm fairly sure the "black stuff" I'm talking about isn't pulverized rock: I'm fairly certain I would know if it was silica as that "crunches" when chain is twisted.
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Old 01-11-17, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post

As for the tire rubber, a small part of the grime could be rubber dust but that rubber just doesn't pile up on the side of the road. We drive 2.3 trillion miles in the US per year. Let's say that a tire last for 60,000 miles. That's 38 million tires being worn out every year. A tire loses about 5 lb of rubber over its life so that that would put 190 million pounds of rubber on the side of the road every year. There should be vast drifts of black dust on the side of all of our roads with that kind of wear but there aren't. The reason is that the rubber oxidizes quickly when in the small particulate size.
.
I think a reason it doesn't pile up is ...

... and rain/snow.
Not sure about busy highways and freeways ... don't think they're swept?

Still, all that rubber stays in "nano" form for while -- on road surface -- until (natural) chemical breakdown.
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Old 01-12-17, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by elcyc View Post
I think a reason it doesn't pile up is ...

... and rain/snow.
Not sure about busy highways and freeways ... don't think they're swept?

Still, all that rubber stays in "nano" form for while -- on road surface -- until (natural) chemical breakdown.
The point I was making is that we, as a nation, go through a lot of tire wear per year. If the rubber didn't break down relatively quickly, you'd see drifts of rubber particles along the road way. Some one did a study of this long ago when tires wore out more quickly...sorry I don't have a link...and oxidation of the particles was the conclusion they came to to explain the lack of huge quantities of along our roads.

Additionally, apply Occam's Razor. The Earth is made of "earth". The most likely thing to get splashed off the Earth is "earth". That will be silicates of various forms and various hardnesses. They make up 90% of the Earth's crustal material after all.

It's also been my experience that street sweepers only do a marginal job of removing debris from the roads.

I'm fairly certain I would know if it was silica as that "crunches" when chain is twisted.
Most people would say that their chain "crunches" after riding in the rain.
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Old 01-12-17, 08:41 AM
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This time of year, there is a lot of MUD. If we've had ice or snow then sand from sanding roads for traction. No salt here, but that woudl be possible in some places.
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Old 01-12-17, 08:52 AM
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This is one of those questions where I think of obvious answers, but then beyond that isn't immediately apparent. The second most common element on Earth, silica, would be silicates in dust, picked up from the road, you'd expect mostly that. There are probably oxides, oxygen being the most common element including in the earth's crust and highly reactive. But what, exactly? Surely there are a lot of byproducts of incomplete combustion from car engines. A lot of oil, and rubber.

And I've got a hunch that what happens to the rubber from tires isn't as clear as we'd think. The black smears we see on roads are from tire rubber, and some of it combines with the road since rubber and some of the road composition are made from petroleum oils. But I think a lot of it winds up as small particles that gets washed away and winds up in the soil, and in bodies of water. So a lot is also going to be on the road surface and picked up and thrown onto my frame and drive train.
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Old 01-12-17, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
This is one of those questions where I think of obvious answers, but then beyond that isn't immediately apparent. The second most common element on Earth, silica, would be silicates in dust, picked up from the road, you'd expect mostly that. There are probably oxides, oxygen being the most common element including in the earth's crust and highly reactive. But what, exactly? Surely there are a lot of byproducts of incomplete combustion from car engines. A lot of oil, and rubber.
Yes to the silicates (and aluminosilicates). Not all of them are quartz nor are they all hard like quartz. Feldspars (sodium, potassium and calcium aluminosilicates) are the most abundant minerals in the crust (about 60%) and have a hardness of about 6 which is softer than steel. They are less resistant to weathering than quartz which is why sand is mostly quartz. But they would still be around.

No to any incomplete combustion products from engines, however. There just aren't many of those around anymore. Catalytic converters remove those from the exhaust.

No (mostly) to engine oils. Again, it just not that large of a problem. Yes, there is some but not in very large quantities.

Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
And I've got a hunch that what happens to the rubber from tires isn't as clear as we'd think. The black smears we see on roads are from tire rubber, and some of it combines with the road since rubber and some of the road composition are made from petroleum oils. But I think a lot of it winds up as small particles that gets washed away and winds up in the soil, and in bodies of water. So a lot is also going to be on the road surface and picked up and thrown onto my frame and drive train.
Rubber, yes. Tire rubber, no. If you are using rim brakes, the rubber is coming from the pads. Add in a bit of sand as abrasive and the mixture becomes sand, small bits of aluminum and small bits of rubber. Mix in water and it "looks" like a lot of schmutz but it really isn't.

Consider this: if the material was coming off the road, wouldn't you find the same deposits of material on bikes equipped with hub mounted disc brakes? My disc brake rims are certainly dirty...I ride them off-road...but they aren't coated with oils or the same black schmutz I've seen with wet rim brakes. My rotors are never dirty because they don't use rubber as the friction pad and the rotors aren't aluminum.
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Old 01-12-17, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Yes to the silicates (and aluminosilicates). Not all of them are quartz nor are they all hard like quartz. Feldspars (sodium, potassium and calcium aluminosilicates) are the most abundant minerals in the crust (about 60%) and have a hardness of about 6 which is softer than steel. They are less resistant to weathering than quartz which is why sand is mostly quartz. But they would still be around.

No to any incomplete combustion products from engines, however. There just aren't many of those around anymore. Catalytic converters remove those from the exhaust.

No (mostly) to engine oils. Again, it just not that large of a problem. Yes, there is some but not in very large quantities.



Rubber, yes. Tire rubber, no. If you are using rim brakes, the rubber is coming from the pads. Add in a bit of sand as abrasive and the mixture becomes sand, small bits of aluminum and small bits of rubber. Mix in water and it "looks" like a lot of schmutz but it really isn't.

Consider this: if the material was coming off the road, wouldn't you find the same deposits of material on bikes equipped with hub mounted disc brakes? My disc brake rims are certainly dirty...I ride them off-road...but they aren't coated with oils or the same black schmutz I've seen with wet rim brakes. My rotors are never dirty because they don't use rubber as the friction pad and the rotors aren't aluminum.
I would expect that the grime on the rims, and the grime on the chain and on the downtube to be somewhat different. I don't imagine that the tire throws much off the road onto the rim - it's all going the other direction.

If there is rubber on the road, and it gets washed out into rivers and so on, wouldn't that same rubber get picked up by bicycle tires and thrown onto the frame and chain? I see that someone from Bucknell University was looking into it, but that was in 2002 and I don't see the final research. However there seems to be some support for the idea that road dust includes rubber particles.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Most people would say that their chain "crunches" after riding in the rain.
If you twist a dirty chain perpendicular to the axis of travel, you can feel/hear it crunch (hard particles in the links -- silica, metal, etc.)
Not sure about the rain ref.???
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Old 01-12-17, 12:02 PM
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Speaking of brakes ... all that grind-off from automotive pads/drums/rotors. All part of the "road kill"
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