Author Topic: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement  (Read 1083 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline awbikes

Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« on: June 22, 2013, 07:08:44 am »
Unless you really enjoy working on your bike, chain maintenance can be a hassle. Although I enjoy tinkering and routine maintenance, I dread cleaning chains. I know that everyone seems to have a formula that works for them, but they are all time consuming and messy. "I would rather be riding my bike".  No matter what I do I seem to get about 3000 miles out of a chain which involves two cleanings. With my next chain I'm thinking about just running it until it reaches the stretch limit and replacing it. At $25 for a decent SRAM chain that seems to make sense to me. I know there are those of you who are more meticulous that may get two to three times the life out of a chain than I do, But... Is my rational that far off. I'm really curious to see if there are others out there with the same thought.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2013, 07:54:24 am »
Unless you really enjoy working on your bike, chain maintenance can be a hassle. Although I enjoy tinkering and routine maintenance, I dread cleaning chains. I know that everyone seems to have a formula that works for them, but they are all time consuming and messy. "I would rather be riding my bike".  No matter what I do I seem to get about 3000 miles out of a chain which involves two cleanings. With my next chain I'm thinking about just running it until it reaches the stretch limit and replacing it. At $25 for a decent SRAM chain that seems to make sense to me. I know there are those of you who are more meticulous that may get two to three times the life out of a chain than I do, But... Is my rational that far off. I'm really curious to see if there are others out there with the same thought.

I am not convinced that cleaning beyond wiping off excess lube is necessary or even extends chain life.  Use of solvents and detergents penetrates the chain carrying grit into the chain and also kill the lube there.  As a result I avoid them as much as possible.  I do rinse off a muddy chain usually with plain water and no pressure.  If my chain gets really gritty with sand A quick spray down with WD 40 is as aggressive a cleaning as I ever do.

I mostly just apply Boesheild T9 liberally, spin the pedals a few minutes, and wipe it off.  I do that as needed.  I replace chains when 12 links measure 12-1/16".  My chains have generally lasted at least 5,000 miles and sometimes even 10,000 miles or so.  In our group of three on the Trans America all of our chains lasted for the tour and a lot of local riding as well as subsequent tours.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2013, 11:19:15 am »
Quote
I mostly just apply Boesheild T9 liberally, spin the pedals a few minutes, and wipe it off.

This. Except I apply one drop per joint. A small tube of Boeshield lasts a long, long time.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 10:16:49 am »
Get yourself a chain gauge.  Mine is from Rohloff, but others make them.  If you don't want to do maintenance, that is your call, but you need to replace the chain as soon as it starts to stretch.  I find they go pretty quickly.  If you wait until the chain is trashed, you will probably need a new rear cluster, new rings on the crank, and a new chain.  That will cost a lot more than a new chain.
Danno

Offline rcrampton

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2013, 06:19:25 am »
Chain maintenance - totally overrated.

Shimano applies grease before the chain is assembled. Their guidance is not to apply aftermarket lubes or solvents until that grease wears out. They say to at most wipe the chain down with a cloth and a sparing amount of lubricant if you ride in dusty conditions (e.g. gravel roads). They also say that pretty much all the aftermarket lubes are good.

ref: http://www.bikerumor.com/2011/06/28/chainwear-challenge-quick-interview-with-shimano/

I'm with you - quit screwing around with the chain and ride. At $30 for 3000 miles I'm not going to spend hours of my life messing around with dirty chains to save $30 per year or two!

Measured it every now and then with a ruler. The links are exactly on 1" spacing. When 12 links measures 1/16"  over 12" you're at 5.2%, time to change.


Online John Nelson

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2013, 10:10:20 am »
When 12 links measures 1/16"  over 12" you're at 5.2%, time to change.

That's 0.52%. When I measure 0.75%, I start planning for a new chain, making sure I change it before 1%.

Offline rcrampton

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2013, 10:22:57 am »
When 12 links measures 1/16"  over 12" you're at 5.2%, time to change.

That's 0.52%. When I measure 0.75%, I start planning for a new chain, making sure I change it before 1%.

What's an order of magnitude among friends? Thanks for the catch :)

Offline bogiesan

Re: Chain Maintenance is unnecessary
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2013, 06:32:44 am »
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.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Chain Maintenance is unnecessary
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2013, 07:04:48 am »
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.

Interesting experiment here.  Just for reference, what's your normal chain life?  (Since many 'bents use 2.5 chains, and the average chain life, if there is such a thing, for uprights is about 2,000 miles, I'd guess 5,000 miles per "chain" for the mythical average 'bent.)

Also, can you give us an idea of what your weather's been over the last 3k miles?  Especially rainfall during that period? 

Finally, how do you stand the racket?  I don't like the squeaking of a dry chain, but the people I ride with are even less tolerant.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 07:15:56 am »
Quote
I have applied no lubricant at all to the chain in 3000 miles

Is this perhaps an issue of semantics? A chain that is not cared for will fail rather quickly when links "freeze" and fail to negotiate the complex curves in the rear derailleur. (Sometimes I insist on learning things the hard way.) Is WD-40 a lubricant? Are the various chain lubricants actually rust inhibitors? Is it more or less work to care for a chain with WD-40 vs a traditional lubricant?

Quote
This statement can get you into a fight

Some statements are worded to encourage fights.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2013, 07:53:15 pm »
While WD-40 has some rust preventing qualities it is really a solvent, not a lube.

I'm of the "all lubes are good if used properly" school.  Chain L is really good but time consuming to apply. I have used Pro Link for several years. I pour it into a chain cleaner with brushes that you clamp on the chain. Brushes off grit and soaks each link in the liquid lube at the same time. Much easier way to get it into each pin than drop by drop.

Offline awbikes

Re: Chain Maintenance vs Replacement
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2013, 08:07:43 pm »
This is turning into a fascinating discussion and there are many variables that contribute to chain wear/life. Many are known but there are probably more unknown. When you start thinking about your particular bike, riding conditions, hills, weather, etc. etc. you begin to see why our individual chain life experiences varies so much. I know inspite of my best efforts I don't seem to get the life out of my chains that others are reporting. In addition I have recently just cleaned my last four chains. (wife and I have two bikes each) I will ride them until they reach their wear limit and then toss them out. As far as lube is concerned I will use just enough to keep them from rusting and squeaking. I HAVE CLEANED MY LAST CHAIN. 

PS: thanks Bogiesan, I think you may be on the mark insofar as your chain lube/cleaning/wear theory.