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Who cleans their chain . . . and who doesn't?

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Who cleans their chain . . . and who doesn't?

Old 11-24-12, 08:37 PM
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Who cleans their chain . . . and who doesn't?

I've always cleaned my chains with mineral spirits and a brush box, dried the chain with a heat gun and then lubed, driving the lube in with a heat gun. I've had what I think is very good chain life with this method. I ride in the PNW, so I have to wash the bike and do something with the chain fairly often.

So here's the question: In the recent KMC vs. Shimano chain thread, there was a link to a Tour Magazine chain test. In that article Tour said, never clean your chain with a solvent. The theory is that removes lube from the sleeves and drives dirt into them, so better to just wipe the chain clean and re-lube. I've heard that from other folks, but haven't tried it for thousands of miles, so don't know if it's really better. It sure is quicker not to solvent clean.

So who does what, riding in what conditions, and with what result?
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Old 11-24-12, 08:41 PM
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I use the chain cleaning gizmo from Performance with the bottle of green chain cleaner. Then apply dry lube. I do this about every 150-200 miles or more if needed. I hate a noisy chain.
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Old 11-24-12, 08:48 PM
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3 1/2 hours riding in the sun today. Unfortunately, the roads were wet so plenty of gunk on the drivetrain by the end of the ride. I hose off the bike use a soapy brush on the bike and derailleurs and then bring the bike inside. I dry the chain with a shop towel. Then spray some wd-40 on a shop towel and wipe the chain down, then lube the chain and give it one more wipe with a dry towel.

In the summer I'll wipe the chain and lube as required, usually every couple of weeks. I don't break the chain or clean it beyond wiping.
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Old 11-24-12, 08:49 PM
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I usually just wipe my chain with a rag and lube it with dry lube. Sometimes I will put degreaser on the rag then wipe the chain clean. I have never removed the chain to clean it though.
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Old 11-24-12, 09:09 PM
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Okay, here I go again, not to troll, I use WD-40 and have since 1980. My chains last as long as anyone's out there, it is whisperingly quiet and always rust free. I run the chain through a dry cloth, then clean and lube with WD40. Everyone say's it's dumb but it works and has worked for 32 years.
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Old 11-24-12, 09:48 PM
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I use spray nine to clean after every ride and use a dry lube after the chain dries. I use the cheap 10 speed KMC chain and get a whole season out of one chain. I logged over 10000km this year. I have wore out one cassette since I started riding in 2007, I'm pretty happy with durability.
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Old 11-24-12, 09:50 PM
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I don't think you're dumb at all, SS. My former riding partner, who lives up a long, gravel road, and ciould ride rings around most who post here, and builds his own frames and bikes... has used WD40 for a long time. It's mighty good in dusty conditions, and while it has to be applied more frequently, does its job.

Truth be told, I've used WD40 in the past, too, and had acceptable results. But when running long-distance rides in conditions that could turn out wet, I prefer something that does stick a bit longer... and up to recently, that was plain old 30W motor oil.

Now I am using TriFlow... and I am reasonably happy with its performance.

As to cleaning... well, Machka has run a drivetrain without cleaning for well over 15,000km, and I've done the same with a total well over 10,000km. The lower the number of rear cogs, the beefier the chain. Both gearsets with the long non-clean intervals were 9sp, and my fixie with 7sp chain hasn't had a clean for five years and over 6000km of riding.

I prefer not to go so long on my bikes, and certainly not for the 10sp ones, but I don't get paranoid about it any more if I overrun by 1000km or so. Then I use the Sheldon Brown cocktail shaker method, two washes with clean solvent (diesel) then a clean diesel rinse, and it works well.

Last edited by Rowan; 11-24-12 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 11-24-12, 10:02 PM
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Correct, my routine is weekly or more if the weather is poor. I have used thicker lubes like Ice Wax but find them too thickand causing gunk/sand build up too quickly.
Thanks for not shooting me down on this one.
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Old 11-24-12, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I've always cleaned my chains with mineral spirits and a brush box, dried the chain with a heat gun and then lubed, driving the lube in with a heat gun. I've had what I think is very good chain life with this method. I ride in the PNW, so I have to wash the bike and do something with the chain fairly often.

So here's the question: In the recent KMC vs. Shimano chain thread, there was a link to a Tour Magazine chain test. In that article Tour said, never clean your chain with a solvent. The theory is that removes lube from the sleeves and drives dirt into them, so better to just wipe the chain clean and re-lube. I've heard that from other folks, but haven't tried it for thousands of miles, so don't know if it's really better. It sure is quicker not to solvent clean.

So who does what, riding in what conditions, and with what result?
The issue with most people is that they don't clean their chains adequately anyway. The box-and-brush cleaners that are used with the chain on the bike aren't very good, and as identified in the thread you mention, even KMC says not to use them.

In my experience, the Sheldon Brown shaker method simply is the best, but the wash has to be done twice to remove all the dirt and metal grit that gets between the rollers and the pins.

Much does depend on riding conditions, how often a bike is ridden, how fastidious an owner is in keeping bikes clean, and what lube is used.
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Old 11-24-12, 10:26 PM
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Every 100 miles or after every weekend, I wipe down my bike and just wipe my chain with a rag with WD40 and liberally relube my chain every 400-500 miles or once a month. I let the oil sit on the chain and drip off onto old newspapers over night and then wipe off the excess dirty oil. Sometimes, I just wipe the excess lube off right away.


At 1500 - 2000 miles, I do a complete clean. This involves taking off the wheels and chain. I clean the cassette with a degreaser (Muck-off), brush, water hose (not spray), and then immediately relube the cassette liberally with dry lube and then chain lube - and let sit overnight and wipe the excess lube off. I take the chain and vigorously shake it in a plastic bottle half filled with degreaser, then half filled with water to wash off the degreaser, then immediately relube with dry lube and then chain lube - and let sit in a small pan over night and wipe the excess lube off. My chain last two to three cleaning cycles (or 5000 miles or one year).


At about 3000+ miles, I noticed salt crystals starting to grow out of the steering column spacers so I brought my bike in for complete clean, service, and lube, which also involved cleaning and re-greasing the steering column and the bottom bracket, my bike mechanic also replaced the partially rusted shifter/brake cable so those plus the housing for $40.


My chains cost about $50 and last about 5000 miles or about a year - I think I would rather replace them before they break. My tires (Vittoria Open Pave EVO CG or Corsa EVO CX or Continental GP4000s) cost about $80 - $110 a pair and actually last about 3000 to 4000 miles, or less than a year - I replace the tubes after the second patch and also replace both tires and tubes when the back tire flats the second time due to wear.

As for cleaning agents and lubricating agents, as a bio-organic chemist who has to work with mechanical engineers in pharmaceutical and food factories, please let me offer my opinion. There is nothing chemically wrong with WD-40 or other mineral spirit type oils other than that they are very light weight. This is because they were originally developed to be used primarily for sewing machines and other light load, low heat, and high revolution machines. This aspect most resembles bicycles. However, those sewing machines need to be lubed on a daily if not hourly basis. At the other spectrum of lubricating agents are the motor oil type, both natural and synthetic types. A winter weight motor oil (5W30 or synthetic grade) should theoretically be perfect. These motor oils can withstand high temperature, high heat, super high revolution beyond anything a cyclist can put out and have an additional property of still being able to lubricate in the presence of dirt or other contaminants, present in internal combustion engines. Case in point, motorcycle chains are thicker for strength, do not wear out, and last a while. This aspect would be most advantages for bicycle chains and parts except for one teeny, tiny downside - motor oil is non-biodegradable and probably carcinogenic. Lastly, are the bicycle specific, biodegradable chain lubes or dry lubes. These are probably some form of vegetable oil, the only type of oil that is biodegradable, with additives that keep the oil from turning rancid. Most likely, biodegradable bicycle chain lune would be safer for you and the environment.



Mark

Last edited by MarkThailand; 11-24-12 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 11-24-12, 10:42 PM
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I actually hate the gunk attaction qualities of winter lubes. Yuk.
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Old 11-24-12, 11:15 PM
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Wow, you guys get technical. All I do is spray and wipe the chain down with brake-parts cleaner and lube after after each ride. Takes me 10 minutes and cleans up great.
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Old 11-24-12, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by HoneyDutch09
Wow, you guys get technical. All I do is spray and wipe the chain down with brake-parts cleaner and lube after after each ride. Takes me 10 minutes and cleans up great.
I agre, keep it simple and frequent.
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Old 11-24-12, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by surgeonstone
Okay, here I go again, not to troll, I use WD-40 and have since 1980. My chains last as long as anyone's out there, it is whisperingly quiet and always rust free. I run the chain through a dry cloth, then clean and lube with WD40. Everyone say's it's dumb but it works and has worked for 32 years.
I like WD40 for a cable lube (used it for 20 years for myself and as a pro wrench). For the chain, I like it as a quickie cleaner--spray on rag, hold on chain while cranking, then apply lube afterwards.
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Old 11-25-12, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by surgeonstone
Okay, here I go again, not to troll, I use WD-40 and have since 1980. My chains last as long as anyone's out there, it is whisperingly quiet and always rust free. I run the chain through a dry cloth, then clean and lube with WD40. Everyone say's it's dumb but it works and has worked for 32 years.
I used WD-40 for years in Australia, and the last 9 years here in Japan, CRC 5-56, on a cloth with never a problem. I did however allow a "professional" to clean and lube my bike at a bike race about 3 months ago and the f#%king mess that wanker made with the so called "good" stuff really got on my nerves. I went home and cleaned it once again with my good old 5-56. Then last month I started using a silicone spray as a lube as a test, and it seems ok so far.
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Old 11-25-12, 06:04 AM
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i used to wash with kitchen degreaser, flash liquid, and then hose down. After drying, I lube with home brew. Now I has space constraint, I simply spray liberally with wd40 and wipe thoroughly. Then use a spray lube. It's easier, but I do hate spray lube. It never seems to dry properly.
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Old 11-25-12, 06:43 AM
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I clean the chain with a degreaser a couple times year. Lube frequently and replace the chain every spring. Never had any bigger problems with a chain so far.
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Old 11-25-12, 08:07 AM
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Clean chain = less friction = speeed!
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Old 11-25-12, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by EmilRosenberg
Clean chain = less friction = speeed!
Yeah, I find that my speed is about 2.6 mph faster with a clean chain.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:17 AM
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Did...somebody say lube?
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Old 11-25-12, 09:34 AM
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Chain is sprayed with WD-type stuff any time it gets ridden in the rain, and otherwise gets cleaned every 500mi or so. Yes, I use the on-the-bike cleaner (now), but used to soak about half of the chain at a time in a can full of kerosene and scrub with a toothbrush. I've used all sorts of lubes over the years, but now pretty much use Rem Oil (lightweight gun oil) or Break-free with teflon. Chains last for more than 5000mi. Then again, I'm still using the wider 5-6-speed chains.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:43 AM
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This and wipe excess off with a rag.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:45 AM
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WD-40 is a poor lube. I recall a test of motorcycle chains where they built a test rig to run short chains using different lubes. WD-40 was the worst. It caused more wear than no lube at all. WD-40 is good for cleaning chains and for getting water out of the chain after riding in the rain.

I use homebrew lube which is 1/3 30wt oil (I use left over synthetic two-stroke engine oil from motorcycle racing) and 2/3 mineral spirits. Every couple rides I apply lube and wipe the chain clean. It takes less than a minute.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:47 AM
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I did an experiment a couple years ago where I cleaned with solvents on one chain and then just did the apply and wipe off method on the next chain. I got 1000 more miles on the chain with the 5 minute apply and wipe off method.

I am convinced that it is very difficult to replace the lube where you need it the most after using solvents. It can be done but it takes some work.

This would be like applying solvents inside your car engine with each oil change. You would most likely do more harm than good but it would look nice and shiny.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:52 AM
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Every minute cleaning a chain is one less minute on the bike! Unless it is really a mess, I don't worry about cleaning or lubing. No ill-effects that I've seen. Too each their own, though.
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