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Chain Lube

Old 09-22-17, 05:41 PM
  #1  
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Chain Lube

I’m somewhat OCD about keeping my chain clean. I live in Houston and all the MUPS are covered with a fine silt. By the end of these last couple of weeks (100 miles a work week) my chain has been filthy. I normally use a light lube, lube one section at a time with a single drop per link and then wipe clean. So I don’t think it is a too much lube issue. Do I need to go to a dry lube in this situation?
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Old 09-22-17, 06:05 PM
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CHAIN LUBE THREAD!!!

Spoiler: Wax.
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Old 09-22-17, 06:12 PM
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You're in Houston and riding MUPs and doing OK. Given the circumstances, count your blessings and don't with against success. Yes, your chain will get dirty, but you can address that by dry wiping as needed.

OTOH - if you want to experiment, you should do so, even if only to prove that you can stay with your current method.
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Old 09-22-17, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
You're in Houston and riding MUPs and doing OK. Given the circumstances, count your blessings and don't with against success. Yes, your chain will get dirty, but you can address that by dry wiping as needed.

OTOH - if you want to experiment, you should do so, even if only to prove that you can stay with your current method.
I should have clarified. Silt is from the hurricane. MUP is normally pretty clean.
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Old 09-22-17, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Tombaatar View Post
I should have clarified. Silt is from the hurricane. MUP is normally pretty clean.
No need, I gathered that much. All the more reason to stay with the proven, since the silt will all be blown off the MUP soon enough, though you can expect some to wash back every time it rains for a while.

There's no magic answer, so it's a question of balancing the various issues according to your preference.

If you're happy, stay the course, if not, try something else.
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Old 09-22-17, 06:50 PM
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<cough>wax<cough>
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Old 09-22-17, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
CHAIN LUBE THREAD!!!

Spoiler: Wax.
And it's only the first day of fall, imagine what winter will bring.
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Old 09-22-17, 07:45 PM
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Sorry.
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Old 09-22-17, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Tombaatar View Post
Sorry.
IMO there's never a need to apologize for asking. That's what this forum is for. Folks are then free to answer or pass, or as they will engage in long debates on related or unrelated side issues. But that's not your fault.

Chain lube threads are especially problematic because there's no single answer, nor even two or three. The "best" approach (to the extent that there might be one) depends on the specifics including where and how people ride, their preferences about how chains look, and what they consider worthwhile in terms of cost or time to invest in chain care.

So, asking about chain lube is like asking which is better, steak or lobster, and you have to expect lots of partisanship, despite the fact that there's no answer.

As said of academic politics, the debate is so vicious because the stakes are so small.
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Old 09-22-17, 08:15 PM
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Serious answer: If you ride in the rain you may need to renew the wax lube more often. Even then I find it easier than messing with wet oil lubes.

Two of my three bikes are on wax now. The third will be converted to wax when I put on a new chain later this year.

How much difference does it make?
  • It's quieter and smoother shifting, especially on my road bike.
  • It lasts longer per treatment than I'd expected -- usually about a month or 400-500 miles on the road bike. I did the errand bike in June and it hasn't needed any attention, although it gets ridden only 10-50 miles a month.
  • It holds up to occasional rain or brief downpours. Rumors aside, it's not water soluble soap or cotton candy.
  • It's much cleaner. No more chain tattoos on my legs, furniture and cats. I just wipe off the bike with a dry rag or microfiber mop. My bikes are in my apartment living room, so that's important.
  • Easier cleanup overall. Less schmutz on the chainrings, freewheel/cassette, bottom bracket, chain stays, etc. I haven't washed the errand bike since June. It just doesn't accumulate schmutz anymore, even the rims.

Last night I removed the freewheel from the road bike without cleaning up first, after a couple of weeks of rides on gritty, grubby rural chipseal and some gravel. Handling the waxed chain and relatively clean freewheel left only a few smudges on my fingers, which I wiped off with the paper napkin I'd used for dinner. Before I tackle the hub bearings this weekend I'd only need to wipe down the rims, spokes, hubs, etc., with a dry rag -- if I wasn't so particular about things. In reality I'll probably wash them outside first just to be sure.

But the hybrid that's still running an oiled chain (I've alternated between Park CL-1 and Tri-Flow)? No matter how carefully I apply the lube and thoroughly I wipe down the excess, even using a rag moistened with mineral spirits or alcohol, there's always just enough oil residue spattered onto the wheels, chain stays, bottom bracket, etc., to accumulate enough schmutz that the bike needs a thorough cleaning more often.

I hate wasting time on tedious cleanups. That's time I could be riding. Waxed chains minimize cleanup.

Renewing the wax is easy with the right equipment. I use a spinny brush chain cleaning doodad with water based solvent. I don't want to strip the wax, just wash out the little bit of debris between the plates. Dry it (usually over a high fan or the recirculating air filter), then dip it back into the crock pot of melted paraffin where it sits overnight. I have two identical chains for the road bike so I don't need to get to the chain immediately to be ready to ride. KMC Z72 chains and Missing Links, pop 'em on and off, ready to ride. When the freshly waxed chain is done I let it cool, roll it up and stick it in a heavy duty ziplock bag for next month. I rotate 'em about once a month since my mileage is about 400-500 miles per month on the road bike.
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Old 09-22-17, 08:47 PM
  #11  
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Mr. Canklecat ... supposing I had a friend who didn't look anything like me or ride any of the bikes I ride <cough> ... who wanted to possibly test this ridiculous paraffin wax method you describe. Is there any special type of wax my friend should buy? Should he heat it in a double boiler? How easy is it to clean the pans afterwards (supposing my friend had a wife like mine who might freak out over such things)?

Just toss a couple ounces of wax in a pan, melt it, toss the chain in, and let it harden? Then yank the chain out with a pair of pliers, breaking the dried wax?

I had a chain break mid-ride last night ... and my friend saw how much crap I got on my hands and said A.) I need to bring nitrile gloves and B.) maybe that guy Canklecat has a solution.
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Old 09-22-17, 09:56 PM
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You just need plain paraffin. I bought 3lbs of it on Amazon for 8 bucks. I have used less than half a pound total, and I've been at this for months. My guess is I'm using around $2 a year in wax-- and I ride 10,000 miles a year.

A double-boiler would work, but the Little Dipper Crockpot may as well have been specifically made for the job. I never even bother to clean it out. Plug it in, then about an hour later drop in a chain. Leave the chain in there as long as you feel like. I try for an hour, usually forget it's in there and it ends up longer. I fish the chain out with a dental pick, give it a quick wipe with a cloth, and put it on the bike still piping hot-- I use a cheap pair of leather work gloves. I used to hang the chain to cool, but found it goes on a whole lot easier and lasts a bit longer when re-installed hot.

Later, you can order yourself a jar of powdered PTFE and mix some of that in. Supposedly it makes the chain faster or somesuch. It does make the chain feel slicker to the touch.
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Old 09-22-17, 09:56 PM
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chain lube thread!!

Chain L
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Old 09-22-17, 10:10 PM
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This.

Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
You just need plain paraffin. I bought 3lbs of it on Amazon for 8 bucks. I have used less than half a pound total, and I've been at this for months. My guess is I'm using around $2 a year in wax-- and I ride 10,000 miles a year.

A double-boiler would work, but the Little Dipper Crockpot may as well have been specifically made for the job. I never even bother to clean it out. Plug it in, then about an hour later drop in a chain. Leave the chain in there as long as you feel like. I try for an hour, usually forget it's in there and it ends up longer. I fish the chain out with a dental pick, give it a quick wipe with a cloth, and put it on the bike still piping hot-- I use a cheap pair of leather work gloves. I used to hang the chain to cool, but found it goes on a whole lot easier and lasts a bit longer when re-installed hot.

Later, you can order yourself a jar of powdered PTFE and mix some of that in. Supposedly it makes the chain faster or somesuch. It does make the chain feel slicker to the touch.
I use plain Gulf wax. I might eventually try some PTFE or moly. I used to have moly powder and paste, popular with airgunners, but probably wouldn't buy more if it's all lost. Good lube but it will get stubborn black muck on stuff. PTFE would be cleaner.

I used a Little Dipper crock pot. Came free with my big crock pot. Never even used the Little Dipper until I was cleaning out a neglected kitchen cabinet and thought "Heeyyyyy...". Got a box of Gulf wax from the nearby hardware store. Melted about 3 bars in the little crock pot.

The only tricky bit is stripping the original factory lube. I used a sturdy plastic container with screw cap, shook up some mineral spirits followed by 91% isopropyl alcohol until the chain sounded clean. There's a distinct clinky, thin, pingy metallic sound to the chain when it's cleaned of any residual lube. Kinda like the difference between a new quarter and an old silver quarter, if you've handled both.
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Old 09-23-17, 12:28 AM
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Thanks both of you. I would have left the chain in overnight, turned off the heat, and then had to chip the chain free.

I might try this .... well, I mean my friend might.
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Old 09-23-17, 06:21 AM
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Great wax summary

Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Serious answer: If you ride in the rain you may need to renew the wax lube more often. Even then I find it easier than messing with wet oil lubes.

Two of my three bikes are on wax now. The third will be converted to wax when I put on a new chain later this year.

How much difference does it make?
  • It's quieter and smoother shifting, especially on my road bike.
  • It lasts longer per treatment than I'd expected -- usually about a month or 400-500 miles on the road bike. I did the errand bike in June and it hasn't needed any attention, although it gets ridden only 10-50 miles a month.
  • It holds up to occasional rain or brief downpours. Rumors aside, it's not water soluble soap or cotton candy.
  • It's much cleaner. No more chain tattoos on my legs, furniture and cats. I just wipe off the bike with a dry rag or microfiber mop. My bikes are in my apartment living room, so that's important.
  • Easier cleanup overall. Less schmutz on the chainrings, freewheel/cassette, bottom bracket, chain stays, etc. I haven't washed the errand bike since June. It just doesn't accumulate schmutz anymore, even the rims.

Last night I removed the freewheel from the road bike without cleaning up first, after a couple of weeks of rides on gritty, grubby rural chipseal and some gravel. Handling the waxed chain and relatively clean freewheel left only a few smudges on my fingers, which I wiped off with the paper napkin I'd used for dinner. Before I tackle the hub bearings this weekend I'd only need to wipe down the rims, spokes, hubs, etc., with a dry rag -- if I wasn't so particular about things. In reality I'll probably wash them outside first just to be sure.

But the hybrid that's still running an oiled chain (I've alternated between Park CL-1 and Tri-Flow)? No matter how carefully I apply the lube and thoroughly I wipe down the excess, even using a rag moistened with mineral spirits or alcohol, there's always just enough oil residue spattered onto the wheels, chain stays, bottom bracket, etc., to accumulate enough schmutz that the bike needs a thorough cleaning more often.

I hate wasting time on tedious cleanups. That's time I could be riding. Waxed chains minimize cleanup.

Renewing the wax is easy with the right equipment. I use a spinny brush chain cleaning doodad with water based solvent. I don't want to strip the wax, just wash out the little bit of debris between the plates. Dry it (usually over a high fan or the recirculating air filter), then dip it back into the crock pot of melted paraffin where it sits overnight. I have two identical chains for the road bike so I don't need to get to the chain immediately to be ready to ride. KMC Z72 chains and Missing Links, pop 'em on and off, ready to ride. When the freshly waxed chain is done I let it cool, roll it up and stick it in a heavy duty ziplock bag for next month. I rotate 'em about once a month since my mileage is about 400-500 miles per month on the road bike.
As a waxer, for years, I would add just one thing. After the waxed chain dries after its wax bath, take a minute to flex all the links and rub it down with a towel to remove little bits of wax that it sheds upon the link flexing. This takes a grand total of about 60 seconds. Otherwise those little wax bits and flakes get thrown onto my dress pants, socks and shoes as I commute to my office job. I bike commute rain, shine and snow and get about six to eight weeks out of each waxing. I also use a nickel plated chain, which seems effective in rust prevention.
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Old 09-23-17, 06:36 AM
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Anyone using wax is just fooling themselves. Wax is not a lube.
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Old 09-23-17, 06:58 AM
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Thanks for all the input. I am cleaning my chain currently about every 100-150 miles. Then again, i am somewhat OCD about it.
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Old 09-23-17, 07:00 AM
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How many miles do you get out of a chain and does using wax make any difference in this?
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Old 09-23-17, 08:42 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Tombaatar View Post
How many miles do you get out of a chain and does using wax make any difference in this?
Although FBinNY said there is no answer, there is one: It won't matter.

There are some who will claim 100,000 miles on a chain but for the rest of us mortals, between 3000 and 4000 miles is about par for mileage on a chain. If you use wax or home brew motor oil/mineral spirits or WD40 or commercial oil based lubes or liquid wax based lubricants (which is still wax just in a more convenient form) or, perhaps, nothing, you will probably get about the same mileage. If you clean the chain every hour of every day or never clean it, you will probably get the same mileage.

The difference is that with some of the lubricants...wax and "dry" lubes...you won't have to spend all your time cleaning. I clean a chain once when I install it and never have to clean it again. So the question to ask is do you want to clean or would you rather ride?
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Old 09-23-17, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Although FBinNY said there is no answer, there is one: It won't matter. If you clean the chain every hour of every day or never clean it, you will probably get the same mileage.
Pay no attention to this poster. He is irresponsible citing factual information and using common sense and experience to assist others.

This sort of thing should never be tolerated.


The only reason I am considering wax is the cleaning issue he mentions. I tried White Lightning and a bunch of similar "Miracle Lubes" before settling down with a big old bottle of Tri-Flo, which I have just about emptied after a couple decades ... and it has always worked just fine. But ... it does ten to collect dirt.
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Old 09-23-17, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Tombaatar View Post
I’m somewhat OCD about keeping my chain clean.
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/chainclean.html
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Old 09-23-17, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Anyone using wax is just fooling themselves. Wax is not a lube.
But it is a friction reducer, and has been used as such for hundreds and hundreds of years. I'm getting significantly better results with wax than I did with any wet lubricant, and I tried a lot of them. So it is just as accurate to say, "anyone using wet lube is making a gigantic mess of their drivetrain for no defensible reason... unless they ride in pouring rain all the time."
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Old 09-23-17, 11:46 AM
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It might be cost prohibited but they make permanently lubricated chains for industrial use. Why don't they for bikes?
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Old 09-23-17, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
Anyone using wax is just fooling themselves. Wax is not a lube.
Wax/paraffin ranked #1 in efficiency/lowest watts, in a test comparing just about every available lube -- wet, dry, thin, heavy: Velo/Friction Facts Chain Lube Efficiency Tests.

The test emphasized measured efficiency, not residual durability over time and in mixed weather. But it turned out wax/paraffin also performed well in bad weather.

The differences between all tested lubes would be negligible for most average cyclists in terms of efficiency, ranging from just under 5 watts to just over 7 watts. For my 35 lb errand bike with wide, heavy tires, squishy saddle and upright riding position, that difference wouldn't be noticeable.

What I do notice is the drivetrain is clean, which means my legs, furniture and cats are clean. And it's eliminated most routine cleaning. Same with the road bike, although I do care about power efficiency with that bike. If a hunk of the same stuff my grandmother used for canning peaches in Mason jars works to make my road bike more efficient, I'd be foolish to ignore it when similar power savings in tires would cost far more than a carton of Gulf wax.

But efficiency alone isn't enough reason to switch, if folks are already satisfied with their current lubes. The main advantage for me is it's cleaner, which means more time riding and less cleaning up.
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