I am three thousand miles into an experiment with my transmission. Because this is the second chain on my current cogs and rings, I knew I would be replacing the entire package eventually so here's what I have done:
1. Thoroughly cleaned the chain. Thoroughly. I mean totally.
2. Thoroughly cleaned the rest of the transmssion elements.
3. Allowed everything to dry in the Idaho sun.
4. Reassembled and rode 200 miles, wiping the chain every 50 or so to remove whatever seeped and weeped out of the rollers.
5. Kept everything clean and dry by spritzing some WD40 into a rag and backpedaling the chain especailly after riding in rain or dusty conditions.
What I am not doing:
1. Ignoring the bike's other mechanical systems (in fact, just replaced a the rear deraileur trigger and both shifter cables)
2. Letting anything get rusty or gritty
3. Ignoring anything. I take very good care of my bike, she's got 43,000 miles on her.
That's it. I have applied no lubricant at all to the chain in 3000 miles. WD40 has minimum lubrication properties but I'm not applying it to the bearings, just wiping things down to make sure I have no rust or dust on the chain.
My results are inarguable but they're also inconclusive. The transmission is sparkly clean all the time, no black gunk, not ever, and it shifts crisply and instantly and dependably in all conditions. It's not failing.
But I say the results are inconclusive, not measurable, because I really don't care how the chain is wearing; I expect it to wear and I expect to replace the entire transmission. Someday. I did not measure the chain's condition, or, as we like to say, inncorrectly, the stretch, when I started so measuring it now is not a valid indicator of anything. And everything in the transmission is wearing together, remaining seated. Eventually, the teethe will hook so badly or the chain will wear to the point that it starts to skip and then I'll know it's time to spend the money.
Several years ago, an engineering school was contracted by a bike chain lubricant mfr to test their products. The video and the research materials are online and it's a fun journey to locate them if yyou want to. Most demand a link but if you are at all interested, you'll do the work yourself. The bottom line of their extensive tests is that lubricants do almost nothing to prevent wear of the metal-to-metal contact points in a bicycle transmission. That is, under normal biking conditions, including exposure to water and grit, the difference between the precisely measured loss of metal from a lubricated transmission and one that is completely dry is insignificant. A lubricant attracts and holds more grit than is healthy and, as it turns out, its only appeal to the consumer is to dampen the noise made by metal-to-metal contact.
This statement can get you into a fight; we all so dearly love our lubricants of choice. Yet there are many of us, particualy among recumbent enthusiasts, who are satisfied by our own tens of thousands of miles of anecdotal evidence (which is NOT data) that bicycle chain lubricants are unnecessarily complicated and create more problems by attracting dirt and making black marks on our legs.
You want to stop taking care of your chain because it's a hassle? That's easy. Stop taking care of your chain. It doesn't need it.