How often to clean a chain?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by Paul, Aug 12, 2003.

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  1. Paul

    Paul Guest

    This might be a pretty basic question but I'm a fairly recent convert to the cycling scene so here
    goes. Is there a rule of thumb about how often a chain should be cleaned and re-lubed? Is it as
    simple as when it looks dirty?

    I've always wiped off my chain with a rag when it looks grubby and cleaned it with a chain bath and
    degreaser thoroughly when it sounds in need of some more oil (every few weeks) before ru-lubing.
    Despite this a chain only seems to last me about 1000miles and I needed the cassette replaced with
    my 3rd chain after about 3100miles which seems a bit too often to me.

    I prefer the quietness and shifting qualities of a wet type oil (Finishline Crosscountry) over dry
    type lubes (I've tried both Finishline Teflon Plus and Weldite Smax) so I do need to clean more
    frequently.

    A final question, the degreaser I use (Finishline Citrus) recommend a 5:1 dilution with water. After
    degreasing the chain I usually spray it with GT85 to disperse the water and leave this to evaporate
    before oiling. Does this sound ok or should the degreaser by washed off with water before using the
    GT85 and oil?

    Sorry again if this is basic stuff.

    Thanks for any thoughts, With Kind Regards, Paul.
     
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  2. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On Tue, 12 Aug 2003 19:33:09 +0100, "Paul" <[email protected]> may have said:

    >This might be a pretty basic question but I'm a fairly recent convert to the cycling scene so here
    >goes. Is there a rule of thumb about how often a chain should be cleaned and re-lubed? Is it as
    >simple as when it looks dirty?

    Opinions vary. Based on your comments below, in your case, I'd say the appropriate answer is "more
    often than you've been doing it."

    >I've always wiped off my chain with a rag when it looks grubby

    This may make you feel better, but accomplishes very little. The dirt on the outside isn't what
    causes the wear, and you won't get the inside dirt by wiping down the chain with a rag. You might
    even end up shoving some of the dirt into the load-bearing parts of the chain and making the wear
    problem worse in the process, in fact.

    >and cleaned it with a chain bath and degreaser thoroughly when it sounds in need of some more oil
    >(every few weeks) before ru-lubing.

    Depending upon how much and where you ride, this may not be often enough. Once again, the
    replacement rate that you've been experiencing seems high, and that would be the biggest clue to me
    that your chain needs more cleaning, or different cleaning, than it's getting.

    >Despite this a chain only seems to last me about 1000miles and I needed the cassette replaced with
    >my 3rd chain after about 3100miles which seems a bit too often to me.

    Three chains to a cassette seems fairly typical from what I've heard. Three chains and a cassette in
    3100 miles is too much in my opinion.

    >I prefer the quietness and shifting qualities of a wet type oil (Finishline Crosscountry) over dry
    >type lubes (I've tried both Finishline Teflon Plus and Weldite Smax) so I do need to clean more
    >frequently.

    Opinions about lubes are plentiful.

    Various contributors here have reported good results *for them* using plain motor oil, paraffin wax,
    a number name-brand chain lubes with varying and sometimes opposite properties, various other
    products, and even automatic transmission fluid. After reading a good many of these posts, the
    conclusion that I've personally extracted from the debate is that in general, the presence of lube
    is more important than its nature, with certain exceptions for a small number of lubes and lube-like
    things that are known to be of little value, such as WD40. I have also concluded that the extraction
    of dirt before it has a chance to cause wear is at least as important as the lube. That said, I will
    note that a Google cruise through the posts in the past two months looking for the chain lube and
    cleaning threads should get you an ample supply of reading material on the subject.

    >A final question, the degreaser I use (Finishline Citrus) recommend a 5:1 dilution with water.
    >After degreasing the chain I usually spray it with GT85 to disperse the water and leave this to
    >evaporate before oiling. Does this sound ok or should the degreaser by washed off with water before
    >using the GT85 and oil?

    I see no problem with the technique you describe, as long as it's actually getting the grit out of
    the chain. Have you ever dismounted the chain after cleaning, and checked to see if it felt gritty
    when flexed? This would be your best indicator of your technique's effectiveness.

    Like the opinions about lubes, opinons about the best methods of cleaning chains, and the frequency
    to do so, are as varied as the people posting them. Good results have been reported with a number of
    remarkably diverse techniques. My personal method involves the use of a spray degreaser that's
    commonly available from auto parts stores, followed by hitting the chain with my pressure washer.
    You probably don't have access to that equipment, so my method is likely to be of no value to you.
    Others have reported good results from a variety of techniques. One that seems to be easy and
    effective is to drop the chain into a plastic soda bottle with a pint or two of mineral spirits or
    degreaser solution, and shake it until the chain comes out clean and grit-free; the spirits or
    solution can be allowed to settle out, decanted off the dreck and used again several more times at
    least. In my experience, discolored cleaning materials are OK to re-use as long as the chain comes
    out of them with no grit hanging on. (Most automotive repair shops use mineral spirits in their
    parts washers, and some replace it only when the washer gets to the point that the crud collected in
    the bottom of the tank is deep enough to interfere with the operation of the pump. This does not
    appear to cause any important reduction in the effectiveness of the cleaning process.)

    My advice, given what you report: Increase the frequency of cleaning first, and experiment with
    different lubes if you want to. If you're riding an mtb on dirt, and your chain gets mud and crud on
    it a lot, then a little hosing down after each major muddy or heavily dusty ride would probably be a
    good idea. Additionally, for an mtb, the hot-wax method described in a previous thread may be
    useful, since the wax seems less likely to collect crud and more able to keep the crud from getting
    in between the plates and rollers of the chain.

    --
    My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
     
  3. Richard Ney

    Richard Ney Guest

  4. Kbh

    Kbh Guest

    My program: About 4 or 5 times a season. A new one is $16.

    "Paul" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > This might be a pretty basic question but I'm a fairly recent convert to
    the
    > cycling scene so here goes. Is there a rule of thumb about how often a
    chain
    > should be cleaned and re-lubed? Is it as simple as when it looks dirty?
    >
    > I've always wiped off my chain with a rag when it looks grubby and cleaned it with a chain bath
    > and degreaser thoroughly when it sounds in need of
    some
    > more oil (every few weeks) before ru-lubing. Despite this a chain only
    seems
    > to last me about 1000miles and I needed the cassette replaced with my 3rd chain after about
    > 3100miles which seems a bit too often to me.
    >
    > I prefer the quietness and shifting qualities of a wet type oil
    (Finishline
    > Crosscountry) over dry type lubes (I've tried both Finishline Teflon Plus and Weldite Smax) so I
    > do need to clean more frequently.
    >
    > A final question, the degreaser I use (Finishline Citrus) recommend a 5:1 dilution with water.
    > After degreasing the chain I usually spray it with
    GT85
    > to disperse the water and leave this to evaporate before oiling. Does this sound ok or should the
    > degreaser by washed off with water before using the GT85 and oil?
    >
    > Sorry again if this is basic stuff.
    >
    > Thanks for any thoughts, With Kind Regards, Paul.
     
  5. Lee

    Lee Guest

    "Paul" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > This might be a pretty basic question but I'm a fairly recent convert to
    the
    > cycling scene so here goes. Is there a rule of thumb about how often a
    chain
    > should be cleaned and re-lubed? Is it as simple as when it looks dirty?
    >

    Every ride or two, one drop of Slick Willy Bike lube on each pin does it for
    me. The stuff is awesome...it picks up virtually no dirt.

    I clean the chain and cogs every 1,000 miles or so.

    I cleaned my chain a week ago, then rode 90 miles in the rain. Not a peep from the chain.

    You can find the stuff in bike shops in New England or online at http://www.slickwillylube.com/.

    I found it through the Boston Road Club, of which Slick Willy is a sponsor...

    Lee
     
  6. "Lee" <[email protected]> wrote:
    >I clean the chain and cogs every 1,000 miles or so.
    >
    >I cleaned my chain a week ago, then rode 90 miles in the rain. Not a peep from the chain.

    But did you relube the chain immediately after the rain?
     
  7. Scott C

    Scott C Guest

    I recently purchased the Blue chain cleaning kit - don't recall who makes it, but the chain goes
    into this blue 'washer' and you run the chain through this about 30 revolutions of the pedals. There
    were pro's and con's about this, but one person wrote.. I clean the chain much more often now, as
    it's easy to do. Well, he was correct. I run my chain through this every weekend, takes about 10 min
    on Sunday after my rides. My plan will be to remove the chain once a year for complete cleaning, and
    use this blue thing every week. Yes, I oil after - let it sit overnight on Sunday, wipe away the
    excess on Monday after work. This routine works well for me.

    sc

    "Garrison Hilliard" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    >
    > "Lee" <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >I clean the chain and cogs every 1,000 miles or so.
    > >
    > >I cleaned my chain a week ago, then rode 90 miles in the rain. Not a peep from the chain.
    >
    > But did you relube the chain immediately after the rain?
     
  8. "Paul" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > This might be a pretty basic question but I'm a fairly recent convert to the cycling scene so here
    > goes. Is there a rule of thumb about how often a chain should be cleaned and re-lubed? Is it as
    > simple as when it looks dirty?
    >
    > I've always wiped off my chain with a rag when it looks grubby and cleaned it with a chain bath
    > and degreaser thoroughly when it sounds in need of some more oil (every few weeks) before
    > ru-lubing. Despite this a chain only seems to last me about 1000miles and I needed the cassette
    > replaced with my 3rd chain after about 3100miles which seems a bit too often to me.

    Me too. But, you don't say what kind of riding you do. Can you explain the rapid wear by the
    presence of much sand or mud or some other form of contamination?

    If you are on the road mostly, something is not right.

    >
    > I prefer the quietness and shifting qualities of a wet type oil (Finishline Crosscountry) over dry
    > type lubes (I've tried both Finishline Teflon Plus and Weldite Smax) so I do need to clean more
    > frequently.
    >
    There's nothing wrong with plain motor oil. It does get dirty, but rain does not wash it off and it
    lasts me a lot longer then 2 weeks with 100 to 150 miles per week including a few rainy days. It is
    very good at lubricating. The general idea is to put it on and leave it alone until you are ready to
    thoroughly clean the chain again. Adding oil will tend to carry the dirt that is on the outside
    towards the inside. So, it's not a good idea to oil between cleanings. It is unavoidable for me to
    miss the chain when hosing down my bike after a muddy or sandy ride but the gentle hosing does not
    seem to effect the chain oil. I clean my chains every 2 to 4 weeks depending on..well how I feel.
    They never squeek and always shift quietly and smoothly. For all I know, they may be good for 8 or
    12 weeks of silent operation. I can say that with over 1K miles on my present chain, there is no
    measurable stretch. But that's not why I follow the regimin I do, it's because I like the smooth
    quiet running and shifting.

    > A final question, the degreaser I use (Finishline Citrus) recommend a 5:1 dilution with water.
    > After degreasing the chain I usually spray it with GT85 to disperse the water and leave this to
    > evaporate before oiling. Does this sound ok or should the degreaser by washed off with water
    > before using the GT85 and oil?

    Wash it off. It makes no sense to mix de-greaser with fresh lube. Especially if the degreaser is
    inside where you must displace it to get the lube to be where you want it. Also the degreaser mixed
    with the lube plus some rain will tend to wash the lube out of your chain. Perhaps this is why your
    chains wear so fast. Use the bottle washing technique and rinse thoroughly with hot water after
    degreasing. Nothing is easier. See:

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html

    In fact, this is a good read all about chains.

    After washing, dry the chain with a hair dryer, hot air gun or even in the oven at just around 200F
    for 15 minutes or so if you are in a hurry. In any case, get rid of the water before oiling.
    Starting with a clean dry chain, the oil does not have to push something out of the way to coat the
    internal parts. Then, just oil it, wipe down the outside as well as you can and you're done.

    Finally, when you install a new chain, how long does the factory lube last? I've found that the
    stuff that SRAM puts on their chains lasts mighty long...longer than oil or anything I've tried.
    I've tried to convince them to sell it, to no avail.

    Steve Shapiro [email protected]
     
  9. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On 12 Aug 2003 19:38:34 -0700, [email protected] (Steve Shapiro) may have said:

    >Finally, when you install a new chain, how long does the factory lube last? I've found that the
    >stuff that SRAM puts on their chains lasts mighty long...longer than oil or anything I've tried.
    >I've tried to convince them to sell it, to no avail.

    If you can get enough people together to make it worthwhile to buy a case of it, I've found a
    supplier. 400ml cans, case of 12, $281.90 plus shipping from North Carolina. Damned pricey, if you
    ask me. That's over $20 for a can of about 14 ounces. Still, it seems to be not too much higher than
    some of the boutique lubes, and as you say, it does seem to last longer.

    --
    My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
     
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