Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
No doubt you’ve heard of the cobbler whose children are without shoes because he’s too busy fixing everybody else’s to attend to his own family. That’s kind of like yours truly’s chain care program. A bit like the soul man, I’m busy enough working on other people’s bicycles that I have less time for my own. So, I follow the most basic clean and lube chain care procedure on my everyday ride.
One thing I know, though, is that chain care is close to religion for many roadies. So, I’m not here to tell you to change how you baby your links or heaven forbid – to try a different lube. But, I’d like to share for new road riders my quick and relatively easy approach. It’s a handy skill to master for year-round maintenance and especially so in winter.
Please note that my procedure is for oil- not wax-based lubes.
For anyone interested in a more obsessive care routine, I have one to show you from Silca, who recently came out with their wax-based Super Secret Chain Lube.
To go with it, Silca head Josh Poertner tested and determined the best chain cleaning techniques and also did an extensive study of ultrasonic cleaners. That’s at the end of this article, so please scroll if you like a squeaky clean chain (well, hopefully your chain never squeaks!).
My 15-30 Minute Chain Care Routine
Actually, this isn’t just my routine. It’s how race mechanics usually do it, too. The time range is because sometimes it takes a little longer if there’s a build-up of grime on your chain, derailleur pulleys, front derailleur cage and chainring(s). You can prevent that, however, by doing this job more frequently. That way you never get the build-up.
All you need is your regular chain lube and a few rags. Or an old ride T-shirt you no longer wear works nicely, too. While you can clean with the bike upright on the ground, it’s easier when it’s in a repair stand.
The frequency you clean and lube your chain depends on how much you ride, the lube you use, where you cycle and other factors. As I mentioned, a telltale sign that you’re not doing it enough is a build-up of grime on the drivetrain. That can also indicate you’re applying too much lube or you might be using the wrong type of lube for your riding conditions, such as a wet lube when you mostly ride when/where it’s dry.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure this out over time. And, that’s easy to do by experimentation once you start with this basic routine.
Wet, wipe and go
The first step is wetting your chain with your preferred lube. About a drip on each link is enough. Put the lube on top of the links on the section of the chain below the chainstay. Turn the crank and repeat until every link is wet. Now, let this sit long enough to penetrate the chain. At least 30 minutes.
The reason to use lube rather than degreasers or solvents is 1) because you already have it – so there’s no need to buy and store other chemicals; 2) because it works as well as solvents; and 3) because solvents and degreasers should be removed before re-lubing, which can mean twice as much work.
Wipe the chain
Now that the lube has worked its way into the links, go to work wiping the chain clean. But first, shift into a middle cog so that the chain is straight rather than angled. And if you have two chainrings, shift onto the large one. For triples, put it on the middle ring.
It’s your choice. You can wipe the chain quickly and mainly get the easy-to-clean outer sideplates. Or, you can go to town and fastidiously scrub the outer & inner plates plus in between them and the rollers, too.
Cleaning “Clean” Chains
The fast way to clean chains – the way race wrenches do it – is by holding the rag inside your hand and making a fist over the chain. Grab the section above the chainstay. Depending on the rag you may want to double it up. The goal is to clean the chain without getting black grime all over your hand. If the rag’s thin, the gunk will come right through it.
Now you can hold your hand like this, pedal the crank forward and squeeze to clean all surfaces of the chain as it passes through your hand. Do this as long as it takes for the links to come clean. Keep moving the rag in your hand. As part of it becomes black, move it so you’re cleaning with a fresh part.
Cleaning Dirty Chains
Or alternatively, for filthier chains, you can hold the rear wheel to keep it from turning. Then grab the chain with your rag in your hand on the section of links below the chainstay (photo). Doing it this way, you don’t pedal. Instead you pull back with your hand and rag to squeeze, wipe and clean that section of links. Once that section is clean, rotate the crank and work on the next and so on until the chain is completely clean.
I find it easier to clean dirty chains with this method. You can squeeze harder with the rag when holding the wheel. And that helps get it down into the inside sideplates and rollers. But try both and see which one you prefer.
Clean the pulleys if needed
If there’s any grime on the rear derailleur pulleys, rest the rag against each pulley and turn the pedals to clean them. Do it on both sides. Also look for crud on the pulley cage and run the rag through it to clean it off, too.
Do the other parts if necessary
Likewise on the chainrings and front derailleur, wipe off any grime. The other component that might need wiping is the cassette/freewheel cogs. The easiest way to do this is to remove the rear wheel. Apply a little more lube so that all the cogs are a little wet. Then it’s relatively quick work to run the rag between cogs to clean them.
As a last step, since you wiped off all the lube while cleaning, you need to apply lube to the links as before. But you don’t need as much since some residue is likely still on the links even after cleaning. Let the fresh lube dry before riding. If you don’t do this and ride immediately after lubing, the lube will usually get flung all over the rear wheel – a mess you’d rather not have to clean up.
Silca’s chain cleaning – really clean!
Silca instructs users to completely clean chains before applying their new Super Secret Chain Lube. And they go into great detail on how and with what to do it in this video.
Then, since anytime the subject of super cleaning things comes up, ultrasonic cleaners can come to mind, this Silca video is great, too.
Whichever way you choose to go, a clean chain means more efficient pedaling and longer lasting components. Plus, it’s super satisfying on rides looking down and seeing those sparkling links.
Ride total: 9,878
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
I love Silca and (most of) its products. However, until re-usable “quick links” for 12-speed become readily available, their cleaning techniques and their lubes are not practical for Campy 12-speed. Disposable pins or single-use links add up to a substantial “routine” expense.
I’ve used many approaches to cleaning and lubricating chains over the past 50 years. For about the past 15 years I’ve been very happy with the clamp-on chain cleaning systems offered by some of the major bike tool companies. I find these tools very fast, effective, and tidy, especially attractive since my family has a lot of bikes. I use an aqueous citrus solvent, which I buy cheap by the gallon from the auto store, and a teflon-based dry lube that I buy in a quart size and transfer to 3-oz squirt bottles. Cleaning and lubing a chain takes me about 5 minutes or less. From reading on-line, I get the impression that these tools are not popular with pro mechanics. Do you agree with that, and if so, why aren’t they?
Jim Langley says
I don’t have any stats that support it, but I do think you’re correct that most pro mechanics don’t use chain cleaner devices containing solvent that snap on the chain. I can’t speak for other pros, but I can tell you why I don’t use them.
NOTE: I’m not trying to run down these tools, just answering your question. Also, as you read my reasons, understand that I’m comparing using the tool & solvent approach to my quick clean, where all you do is lube, wipe clean with a rag/T-shirt and relube.
1. I don’t want to put solvent on chains because then any solvent residue left behind after wiping might contaminate the lube I apply lessening its ability to lube and how long it lubes
2. These tools bathe the chain in solvent and you pedal to pull the chain through the brushes built into the tool. When pedaling the solvent travels with the chain wetting the cassette and chainrings. This can make a mess of both, meaning a bigger clean up job
3. You need to buy the tool and the solvent
4. With solvent you usually need to store it somehow and dispose of dirty solvent safely
5. Some of the tools contain the solvent fine but some leak and can make a mess
6. With use the tool gets dirty and needs cleaning
Those are some of the reasons I can think of why I don’t use these tools and I bet why other pros don’t as well. But, again – I am not trying to talk you out of not using yours 😉
Richard Radcliffe says
I use the clamp-on with a bit of environmentally friendly citrus cleaner. That solves the disposal problem. Then I rinse by squirting a water nozzle onto the chain at close range. Dry as best I can with a clean rag (multiple times) and waiting til it’s completely dry before applying lube.
This is a chain cleaning tip I picked up from RBR several years ago from Uncle Al. I use my chain cleaner, in may case a Parks. Instead of degreaser, I ‘fill’ the chain cleaner with lube and spin it. I let it sit while I put away the lube and chain cleaner and then rag it off. Once a month, if I’m really ambitious, I use Chain Brite first.
I do this after my Sunday ride so I have a schedule and a very clean and well lubed chain every week. it takes about 15 minutes including setting up the stand and putting it back.
This routine, in my experience, has a positive effect on shifting, chain life and cassette life.
Joseph Kohler says
I love the Park Tool chain cleaning tool too. Works like a charm.
Brian Nystrom says
I do pretty much the same thing as far and the lubing and wipe down afterward go, but I typically run the chain through a rag moistened with odorless mineral spirits (a.k.a. “paint thinner”) before applying the lube. It removes dirt and any lube residue from the outside of the link plates and rollers. This reduces the likelihood of dirt getting washed INTO the chain by the lube application. It may also help the lube penetrate, since my “homebrew” chain lube uses mineral spirits as a carrier (many commercial lubes do as well).
Greg Titus says
Ditto your habit of wiping the chain first, before applying fresh lube. It only makes sense to wipe off all the gross dirt/greasiness first. Then the lube, then a final wipe-down.
Tony M says
I agree with the two previous comments. This method seems to be overkill, involves removing the chain (which isn’t always feasible), and requires the use of a solvent. I would love to see how this compares with the type of cleaner Bert mentioned, I’ve been using a Park Tool manual cleaner (various models over the years), and it seems to work great when needed. I see “when needed” because regular lubing/wiping combined with a good scrubbing when washing the bike seems to keep my chains relatively clean.
Doug (Madison, WI) Kirk says
I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one not using solvents. Like the others above I use the clamp-on cleaner (with Pro-Link) and then wipe off excess. The easiest system I’ve tried.
Jeff vdD says
Poertner says the best way to get the lube inside the chain is to apply a drop to each link where the cross-chained chain hits the top of the cassette while back-pedaling. That maximizes opening (via the cross-chaining) and articulation (via the chain snakjng through the pulley wheels).
Clean Fred says
Recently scientists have noted that bicycle chain lubes containing Teflon are considered environmentally polluting as the Teflon is a “forever” chemical with no real benefit to lubrication but important to have solely for marketing purposes. The key is the word “PFAS” and you can look it up if you need more information. Teflon is unnecessary in chain lube.
BTW this is a really solid article on chain cleaning although it didn’t mention wearing disposable gloves (or old dishwashing gloves which is a great re-use once they have a tiny leak and no good for dishwashing anymore)
Also very useful when getting down and dirty with the chain is pumice-based hand cleaners.
Marc B says
Although not an expert, I used the methods above using an old t-shirt for years. I recently tried a Pedro’s Pig chain cleaner it is so much easier to use. I do not have any association with Pedro’s but I thought this video was short and very helpful.
If the link does not work just google Pedro’s Pig and it will show up. About 5 minutes to view.
The change pre-post the Pig cleaning in noise and smoothness of shifting is much greater than when I clean via t-shirt.
Thomas Prehn says
I always wonder how bike chain lube companies can make all these different lubes and in the case of Silca make “NFS Pro” chain lube as the greatest followed by “Super Secret” and now “Synergetic”. It just looks like the latest flim-flam. I use pure wax – Squirt Lube and it’s also 100% biodegradable. Wax is dry to dust doesn’t attach. Wax has been used for years and years as a water repellant. My ENTIRE maintenance = reapply after a ride where I have totaled about 80 miles since previous application.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for the Squirt Lube recommendation, Thomas. I had to look it up – and I found it on Amazon. Here’s a link for anyone interested: https://amzn.to/2XLPFw1 It gets great reviews.
I’m going to buy some and try it. Thanks!
Bike Fitness Coaching says
I will attest to that, a GREAT CHAIN LUBE! Used to be a product tester for one of the major component manufacturers and was given a bunch of chains to test to 90% wear. Every one of the non-wax based lubes I would get 1,500 or so miles out of the chain. Went to SQUIRT (and SMOOVE) and immediately doubled the mileage out of the chains.
I have stopped using a chain cleaning device for all the reasons Langley provides above.
One tool I do use (that none have mentioned so far) is a grudge brush. There are several brands on the market. It is essentially a stiff brush designed to get the larger dirt particles off the chain before performing any other type of cleaning. It takes very little time to spin the chain through the brush. It is especially useful for those who ride in wet or dusty conditions where there is a lot of grit and grime.
Jim, good article. When buying my first bike many years ago I I used one of the clamp-on cleaning tools containing solvent about every (believe it or not) 100 miles or so. I have always kept a ride ledger to record, miles per ride, average speed, etc. as well as notes on maintenance. I eventually got lazy and started using the clean/lube method you describe, except I use a wax-based lube and not not reapply after the cleaning step. But I do let the lube dry for 24 hours prior to riding the bike. Like I said, I keep good records and chain life with the clamp-on tool and rag methods is exactly the same.
Fritz Mueller says
I keep two identical chains; when one gets a little dirty I remove it (I use a reusable quick link) and install the clean chain.. The dirty chain goes into my ultrasonic cleaner and is thoroughly cleaned. I hang it from the eceilingin my shop, blow the cleaning fluid out of the chain into a rag and let it hang to dry completely. When it’s dry, I lubricate each link with a drop of my preferred lubricant and let the chain hang to dry after wiping the excess lubricant off with a paper towel, When the lubricant has dried, I hang the chain inside a length of PVC tubing to keep the shop dust off of the chain. When the chain on the bike is dirty, I repeat the process. It works for me.
Neil Larson says
I’m going to throw a hand grenade in here with my method, but for a chain that’s not too dirty it’s quick, clean and easy. Less than 5 minutes tops.
it’s the same method that Jim has outlined with the rag, spinning the bike while it is upside down and moving the rag around the top and sides of the chain.
BUT, I use WD-40 for both the cleaning and for the lube. Spray it on the exposed straight section of chain, wipe it off, advance the chain 10 inches or so, repeat until whole chain is ‘cleaned’. Then spin the pedals and wipe with a clean part of the rag. The chain is perfectly clean, has WD-40 in the rollers, and wont pick up too much dust or grim like a lube does. The usual response to using Wd-40 is that is it a solvent and not a lube, but after using it for over 10 years on my motorcycle and bicycle chains I get the same chain life as my pals using lube, and in many cases longer chain life. i may not be a lube, but it sure works like one.
Riding in the rain here in Portland, OR requires much more chain care than needed back in dry west Texas.
So after a rain ride, I immediately spray the chain with WD-40 to displace the water in the chain. (WD = water displacement – right?) Then I promptly wipe the outside of the chain off with a clean rag, typically part of an old t-shirt. A few hours or a day later, I apply my home brew chain lube generously and wipe the chain again vigorously.
Occasionally I clean the pulleys using a putty knife.
My chains seem to hold up quite well.
Gary Allen says
What about a brand new chain? I’ve never gotten a good answer about what to do with the “packing” grease that a new chain contains. Should this be removed right away or can it be ridden as is for several hundred or thousands of miles?
If or when the grease gets removed can your cleaning/lubing technique be used or must the chain be removed and immersed in a solvent?
Jim Langley says
That’s a great question. See Jeff’s reply below (thanks, Jeff!)
The issue with the stuff the manufacturers put on the chains is that it’s usually a thick layer of some type of grease preservative to prevent corrosion if the chain sits around for a long time before selling.
It’s not meant to lube the chain on the bike, but to pack, seal and protect it in the package. It’s thick and sticky and can be hard to wipe off with just a rag.
If you leave it on the chain and use the chain on your bike that way it won’t do any harm but it will likely get dirty more quickly than your favorite chain lube. And, as you add your favorite chain lube, it’ll break down the grease and you probably won’t get the results from your lube you’re used to and may end up with greasy mess of a drivetrain.
But, once you clean your chain, cogs and rings, you’ll be fine. So, it’s one of those things that you can deal with before you install the chain or after. But, like Jeff/Josh said, wiping it off before – after applying a little solvent or lube to wet and break it down a bit is the way to avoid ending up with a dirty drivetrain fast after installing that new chain.
Thanks for the great question,
Jeff vdD says
Josh Poertner says clean the factory greaselube abomination off before installing on the bike
Greg Titus says
I don’t really understand the recommendation to put lube on the chain, then let it set for 30 minutes to let it penetrate. Once you put lube on the chain, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from penetrating inside the rollers other than washing it off with a solvent. That lube will penetrate even after you’ve wiped off the surfaces of the chain with a cloth, because you can’t wipe off the inner workings of the chain. My routine: wipe off the chain with an old T-shirt, a drop of lube on each link, run the chain through the derailleurs with a few turns of the crank, and let it set for only a few minutes. Then another wipe with the T-shirt. I do this less-than-10-minute routine after every ride, and if I don’t get 5,000+ miles on a chain, I consider a different brand of chain.
Jim Langley says
Thanks, Greg. People use all different types of lube, thick, thin, sticky and so on. The idea of waiting a bit is to let more of the lube reach the parts of the chain you are going to wipe off so it’s easier to clean. Drip lube sits on top to start and then will run down the sides of the chain, the part you’re going to wipe clean with the rag/T-shirt.
Hope this helps,
Sometime back there was a discussion on stopping pedals/clips from squeaking. I had been using a silicone spray which didn’t seem to last very long. One person said that he used Armorall – which is normally used on car interiors. I sprayed my pedals and clips with Armorall Original. They have not squeaked for several months. I use it on both my spinner and my outdoor bikes. I don’t know what makes it last so long but I’m now a believer in it.
All Year Rider says
Just curious, neither ‘buying or selling’, When the ‘obsessive chain care’ topic was published I contributed that I’ve been using a Park’s chain cleaner for 20 years or so and get great chain and cassette life. I was interested in reading the other ways people were obsessively cleaning their chains which was great! (it’s truly amazing how many people riding $5,000k plus bikes have rusted chains). Anyway, I found it interesting that there seemed to be quite a few anti-clip on chain cleaner comments. I didn’t read a great reason why. I’m sure I’m missing something………..always looking for a better, yet convenient way to maintain my bike. thoughts?
I use an orbital car buffer to clean my removable chains. I place the chain in an empty plastic 4 lb peanut butter jar along with one’s solvent of choice. When I was still on the farm I used diesel fuel. Now that I”m in town I’ve been using simple green as it can be disposed of down the drain. I place the orbital car buffer upside down on my lap and then hold the jar against the buffer pad. I run the buffer on low speed. It shakes the dickens out of the chain. After cleaning, I wipe the chain down and then hang it to dry. It will dry fast in the sun. Then replace the chain and use one’s lube of choice.
Fred R says
I’m not about to spend $300 for a chain cleaning device, that’s for people who have $15,000 bikes and work on their own bikes. I work on my own bike too, but all I use is hot water, a sponge with Dawn For Dishes (non-citrus) on it, get the sponge soapy, and do the fist thing over the chain, get a good sudsy lather, and then rinse with clear water, wipe with a rag, let the chain air dry for an hour or so (nowadays I use my air compressor and blow the water out of the chain) and the chain sparkles afterwards, and I never have to take the chain off. I know, people want to spend money for stuff, but it’s not necessary, I’ve been doing it that way for 40 plus years and my chains last an average of 10,000 miles on a modern narrow chain (I use to get 12,000 miles on the old wide chains), and the cassette about 3 times longer than the chain. The chain won’t rust doing that either as long as you apply the lube within 6 hours, but a lot of chains today won’t rust anyways.
I had a bike shop that had a racing team that I raced for taught me to do it that way, and since then I ran into other shops that do it that way as well over the years.
The other strange thing, Sheldon Brown said it’s not good to strip all the oil off a chain, because lube being applied to the outside does not penetrate all the way through, the factory lubed those links as they were disassembled, so all the deep inside areas have lube, removing all that lube is not a good idea.
As for wax vs other lube bases… Current bottom bracket spindles (etc) no longer have the classis square taper. Therefore, whether or not to grease the taper is no longer a cause for the bloody religious wars. SO, chain lube technology is the new rallying cry!
larry english says
i would like someone to thoughtfully address one approach i have considered and approached.
namely, do nothing til something happens.
i mean, also, never changing cassettes or the chain til it skips or something bad.
all this cleaning, if it double the life of the chain, it;s only $15 or $20 – for how many hours of dirty labor?
and what if you also never changed the cassette til it skipped. how much does that pay per hour, to neglect it?
it depends on the cost of chains and cassettes, but it would have to be like $100 each before i think it;s worth it to change ‘early’.
talk me out of it!
Jeff vdD says
For modern 105/Rival or better 10+ speed drive trains, I’m not sure that the “do nothing” approach is the best/most cost-effective approach.
1. Chains are typically $40+ and cassettes are $60+ … and the pluses go up considerably as the groupset level and number of gears goes up.
2. You have to factor in the price of the chain rings as well.
3. You’ll be losing a lot of drive train efficiency
4. From an environmental perspective, better to maintain than replace
5. With supply chains being what they are, replacement isn’t necessarily all that easy
6. Cleaning a drive train can be pretty zen
john griswold says
For the better part of the thirty plus years I’ve been a cyclist, the chain lube discussion has amused and frustrated me greatly. With a science based education and a graduate degree in Engineering, I have looked for something more than opinion or anecdotes to support this discussion of chain maintenance and the only thing I can remember was one of the bike mags doing a comparison of a number of lubes, only to end up recommending something other than their top performing lube! I totally agree with Larry. I want ride my bike, not spend innumerable hours in bike maintenance…besides, I have a her bike, our tandem, mt bikes, cars, yard equipment, two houses, boats, etc. to maintain, too.
Larry, I wipe down my bike if wet or dirty. I wipe down my chain and lube with whatever the current equivalent of White Lightning is, and replace when my stretch gauge tells me. Cassettes, when visually worn or problematic. In other words, not often.
The only bit of advice I’ve seen in this article is Jim’s advice on the enclosed chain cleaner…all excellent reasons to simply use a damp (simple green or WD40) rag. Go simple and get back on the road!
Hi John – Laughed when I read what must have been the same article!
Ultimately, simple is right. My maintenance load is similar to yours. like you I rag my bike off if wet or dusty (chain included). I do take the time, once a week to wash the bike and use my Parks Chain Cleaner loaded with Prolink to scrub and lube the chain. I do the washing because I like to, I know, I know………….. 6,000 miles per chain and double that or more for a cassette.
William Wightman says
My personal favorite is still waxing the chain. Very clean (no build-up actually), no chain tattoos, no cassette or other chain wheel cleaning required unless you get in some mud. I only reclean/wax it when I hear the subtlest change or squeak during a ride which is about every nine months for me.
Even better on the low/no maintenance for a chain is the always clean belt drive. My off-road bike has a Pinion belt drive system. All gearing is sealed internal, the belt requires no lubrication, and the whole bike can be hosed off after a muddy ride. Wonderful for dirt bikes and all other bikes where perfect chain efficiency is not important. Also the ride is silent except for the hum of the knobby tires.
alan lott says
I just started wax with PTFE about 4 months ago and haven’t looked back.
Concerning the article, Chain Care by Jim Langley.
To begin, my chain is made by Campagnolo, and I’ve found that the manufacturer’s original lubricant has many beneficial properties. Campagnolo recommends replacing chains at about 1,500 – 2,000 miles for best drive train life (empirical evidence suggests this advice has merit), so my lubrication practices and materials reflects this target mileage. For reference – my typical setting: traditional road bicycle; streets, roads, and highways; mix of flats and hills; dry weather; variable effort; ~160 miles per week.
Over the years (decades), I’ve tried most chain maintenance methods and lubricants. However, I’ve been successfully using some variation of the following procedures for a decade. I consider it most suited for routine bicycle use and settings.
Before installing a new chain, the drivetrain is cleaned. After installing a new chain, the chain’s surface coat of factory lubricant is removed with a durable dry paper towel. I then lightly, but thoroughly, coat the chain surface with a product called Dupont Chain Saver*, a wax lubricant. The chain is rotated around just a few times to insure even lubricant distribution into the chain’s spaces. This procedure creates an outer barrier of wax lubricant that tends to seal in the Campagnolo factory lubricant and helps provide a barrier to external contamination. The lubricant’s carrier is allowed to completely evaporate, then chain and drive train are wiped the with a dry paper towel to remove excess lubricant. After the next ride, I typically again wipe the drive train with a dry paper towel to clean off excess lubricant.
That’s it. Quick and easy.
Depending on circumstances, the chain’s lubrication, when prepared this way, tends to last about 500 miles before needing further attention or lubrication. When additional lubrication is needed, the drivetrain is cleaned by wiping with a paper towel and another coat of the wax lubricant is applied – this time, applying more lubricant than the original application, but I do not attempt to remove or flush out the factory lubricant from the chain’s inner surfaces. These secondary lubricant applications tend to last about 300 miles and are repeated as needed. At about 1,500 miles, the chain is replaced. Empirically, and using accurate machinist-class measuring instruments, the combined evidence suggests that the amount of chain wear, between this method, as described above, and other methods using other materials, to be negligible.
The above, seems to provide a good balance between minimizing maintenance, drive train wear, and drive train losses. The drive train spins freely, shifts properly, and performs well under light and hard pedaling loads.
Within the mix of drive train components, I consider chains to be the primary consumable item, and have found that attempts at maximizing chain operational milage are typically not cost effective. As a result, I try to find chains on sale, and purchase them in quantity.
It is acknowledged that, in situations where reducing lubricant hydraulic friction in the chain is the primary factor, other methods of chain lubrication might be preferrable.
* Dupont Chain Saver is a wax-based chain lubricant that seems to offer a quality product in design and formulation – it is also relatively inexpensive (I have no relationship with this product or its manufacturer).
Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year.
Paul Ahart says
Oh…Chain cleaning and lubing…..the controversy continues.
Shortly after opening my bike shop in the late 1980s, I purchased an ultrasonic cleaner, and it has become standard for cleaning nearly all chains, except maybe Campy chains with a peened connector pin. For those, I just clean on the bike with a flood of chain lube and an absorbent rag.
Everything else, after checking to make sure I’m not cleaning a worn-out chain, goes in the ultrasonic cleaner, in which I use a good citrus-based cleaner. Removing it, I then wash in water with some strong degreaser/cleaner like Purple Power or OilEater. Then a water rinse, blow dry with compressed air, allow to air dry. Then I lay it out on the workbench on absorbent material, such as a slab of cardboard. The chain then gets one fat drop of Chain-L chain lube, Using a heat gun, I”ll gently warm the chain, allow it to sit for a while to absorb, then run it through my hands to distribute the lube, then a good wipe down with a clean cloth. Install on the bike, pedal it a bunch, rewipe, and it’s done. Seems like a lot of work, but I get great mileage from each lube job (600-800 miles), and the chain usually goes about 3000 miles before reaching the “replace” point. That, of course, is dry weather, clean road riding.
If my customer desires a different lube, so be it; I have a selection available.
Karlo Bozic says
I’ve been waxing chains for 10 years now and using multiple chains per bike. Done about 70-80k on a set of 3 chains and only now 2 are showing stretch. I don’t clean them wither like some do, just swap after hearing the first chirp. Having more chains will wear the cassette and chainrings much more in line with chains and I will try to see how far the whole system can be worn until deteriorated performance. It also leaves you with a spare chain in case of breakage and if waxed all at same time means 5 minutes of work every month or so. They last easily over 1000k and over 500 in wet. No cleaning ever and only need chains with a quick link.
Dalton Bourne says
It is very vital to clean a dirty chain because it struggles to function compared to a neat one. Thanks for sharing these tips.