Aside from aesthetics, any reason to clean a chain?
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  1. #1

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    Aside from aesthetics, any reason to scrub a chain?

    Jeez, I read a link below about what constitutes safe chain re-connection and do you guys get into it. It's like bringing up Palestian sovereignty at a Bar Mitzvah.

    Anyway, it got me thinking. I used to lube my road chain every 100 to 150 miles and clean it every three or four lubes. But, now I've gotten lazy and now just lube it with Pro Link, wait 2 hours, and wipe; this way, the chain is fairly clean, just not scrubbed down. My chain's still good (per Park chain wear tool) after what I estimate to be 5,000 miles. It could also be because it almost never rains here in So. Cal.

    Here's two qeustions:

    1. Aside from getting it as shiny as possible, is there any reason to break your chain to clean it? I mean, my 10-year-old Bibox chain cleaner still does a decent job. It just doesn't seem to be worth the hassle or the potential weakening of the chain.

    2. If you liberally lube, wait, and then wipe down your chain, and never really "clean" it, are you any worse off? My lube and wipe method gets my chain looking passable, just not sparkly. I agree that IN THEORY the chain will not last as long, but has anyone experienced a measurable difference from not having a scrubbed chain? I mean, if I knock even 20% off the life of my chain, it would be worth not having to scrub it. Yeah, I know, if I wear out a chain out too much, I'll screw up the cogset as well.

    Just curious.
    Last edited by NoMSG; 01-06-2005 at 07:58 PM. Reason: correction.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoMSG
    Jeez, I read a link below about what constitutes safe chain re-connection and do you guys get into it. It's like bringing up Palestian sovereignty at a Bar Mitzvah.

    Anyway, it got me thinking. I used to lube my road chain every 100 to 150 miles and clean it every three or four lubes. But, now I've gotten lazy and now just lube it with Pro Link, wait 2 hours, and wipe; this way, the chain is fairly clean, just not scrubbed down. My chain's still good (per Park chain wear tool) after what I estimate to be 5,000 miles. It could also be because it almost never rains here in So. Cal.

    Here's two qeustions:

    1. Aside from getting it as shiny as possible, is there any reason to break your chain to clean it? I mean, my 10-year-old Bibox chain cleaner still does a decent job. It just doesn't seem to be worth the hassle or the potential weakening of the chain.

    2. If you liberally lube, wait, and then wipe down your chain, and never really "clean" it, are you any worse off? My lube and wipe method gets my chain looking passable, just not sparkly. I agree that IN THEORY the chain will not last as long, but has anyone experienced a measurable difference from not having a scrubbed chain? I mean, if I knock even 20% off the life of my chain, it would be worth not having to scrub it. Yeah, I know, if I wear out a chain out too much, I'll screw up the cogset as well.

    Just curious.

    I could throw some theories out.
    Dirt can build up as a cake on part of the chain you can't reach by wiping. The new lube now sticks to the cake and not to the metal. A clean chain lets the lube reach more metal, so your chain stays lubed longer. You don't have to lube as often. I think it's possible to make a bottle of lube last twice as long. If course you might wind up spending more money on mineral spirits of other chain cleaner.
    Another theory. The cakes dirt, especially inside rollers, holds water. Normally, a clean chain with oil will repel water.

  3. #3
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    if you're getting 5000mi

    from your chains "regularly" you're doing something right so don't worry about it. as long as you're not wearing out your cassettes, you're good. sounds like they're staying reasonably clean, anyway. if you really want to get them clean, use a connex link, and take them off whenever you want.

  4. #4
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    No

    Within reason, you're following the proven procedure, which simultaneously cleans and lubes the chain. I wouldn't let the chain sit, just wipe it off as soon as you've worked the lube into the chain. Assuming we're talking road riding, use the following technique for successful ProLink or homebrew lube (1 part motor oil to 3-4 parts odorless mineral spirits) application and use:

    1 - wipe the chain, cogs, pulleys, and chainrings clean with a rag.

    2 - drip on lube while pedaling (forward is better) so that the chain just starts to drip lube. Aim the lube between the side plates and between the bushings and the side plates.

    3 - run through all the gears several times, front and back.

    4 - wipe the chain, cogs, pulleys, and chainrings clean with a rag.

    5 - repeat 2-4 if the chain was really dirty

    If you do this every 300 miles or so, you will not get any significant gunky buildup, and you won't have to clean the chain.

    No lube is "perfect." A brite shiny chain that is clean to the touch but is well lubed and gives long mileage is still not possible. IMO, ProLink is the best compromise. I weigh 180 lb. and ride on mostly flat roads, and I consistently get 8-10K miles from a Campy Record 9 chain using this procedure. Leaving gunk on the chain means you have a grinding paste in there, so you need some means to remove that gunk. You're doing it.

  5. #5
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    I think you're right.

    [QUOTE=1. Aside from getting it as shiny as possible, is there any reason to break your chain to clean it?

    My chains go on once and are removed once. Depending on the ration of cassette price to chain price I run one chain per cassette for many miles or replace chains to save cassettes.

    If you liberally lube, wait, and then wipe down your chain, and never really "clean" it, are you any worse off?

    Some variance of this method works for most riders. I brush it before wiping it off which takes an extra minute or two, but doubt that it's critical, just gets rid of a little more gunk.

    Another reason for keeping chains clean is keeping me a little cleaner in case I have to touch it or I brush it with my calf.
    We have nothing to lube but our chains.

  6. #6
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    I agree

    Quote Originally Posted by cxwrench
    from your chains "regularly" you're doing something right so don't worry about it. as long as you're not wearing out your cassettes, you're good. sounds like they're staying reasonably clean, anyway. if you really want to get them clean, use a connex link, and take them off whenever you want.
    I just don't understand the reluctance so many people have to the Connex link idea. Take the chain off (by hand!), let it sit in mineral spirits or degreaser, shake, replace w/ soapy water, shake, replace w/ clean water, shake, wipe chain dry, put on bike, lube! There is nothing inside to cause wear, it takes less time to deal with than on-the-bike chain cleaners (which don't get everything out from inside the chain and leave degreaser in the chain to break down your newly added lube), and eliminate concerns about repeatedly "breaking" links.
    "Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy." -- Howard W. Newton

  7. #7
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    wow

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    and I consistently get 8-10K miles from a Campy Record 9 chain using this procedure.
    that is a lot of miles...i weigh @ 160, probably climb more than you, and i get around 2000mi at most before i feel the need to replace the chain. but...i can't remember the last time i wore out a cassette, so we're both working towards the same result.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by cxwrench
    that is a lot of miles...i weigh @ 160, probably climb more than you, and i get around 2000mi at most before i feel the need to replace the chain. but...i can't remember the last time i wore out a cassette, so we're both working towards the same result.
    I usually replace mine at 5000 regardless of wear indicated. Campy casettes are just too expensive to replace for no reason. I only use Prolink and wipe the chain after a ride. I might take a toothbrush and some simple green to it with a toothbrush when doing a full cleaning, but I never remove the chain until replacement.
    "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." -S. Hawking

  9. #9
    Ya, what ATP said...!
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    Chains get a lot of bandwidth here, as you've noticed. If you're frequently lubing, then you're probably floating most of the road debris out before it has a chance to cake. If you're getting 5,000+ miles out of a chain, I wouldn't change a thing.

    When I was a "yute" and riding 300 miles a week, I'd flip a new chain after a week, reverse it the next week, flip it again the next week, reverse it the next week, etc. to get the most miles out of it. I worked in a shop and had the bike in a stand constantly so it wasn't a big deal. Now, I take the chain off every 6 weeks or so and shake it in a jug of spirts as well as lube every week. As St. Irons mentioned, Prolink is probably the best compromise but most lubes work quite well.

  10. #10
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    dude ! thats what i thought !! i mean, people here are like, "i replace my chain every 1k miles", and i'm like... hoooly.... shhh....

    dunno whats its liek for you, but i buy my chains (gold colored brass connex 10sp) for 80 bucks, and the rear casettes i can get for ($120, $140 campy centaur, chorus respectively)....

    doesn't make sense to continually change chains to help save wear on a marginally more expensive casette... even my record cranks cost "only" $200...

    seems to me many may eclipse the value in the parts they are hoping to reduce wear on..

  11. #11
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    No Don"t Do It!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bocephus Jones II
    I usually replace mine at 5000 regardless of wear indicated. Campy casettes are just too expensive to replace for no reason. I only use Prolink and wipe the chain after a ride. I might take a toothbrush and some simple green to it with a toothbrush when doing a full cleaning, but I never remove the chain until replacement.
    Did you say Simple Green?

    Just having that stuff in the same room as a chain will cause it corrode and eat right thru the Bottom bracket. It's vapors will eat thru 5" of lead in seconds, it will flatten a diamond in a matter of minutes and is often used by the Mob as a torture device.

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - STOP

    I will have to rinse my entire bike now after just speaking of it.
    Joined the other team in the name of the economy

  12. #12
    No pain, no pain.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wankski
    dude ! thats what i thought !! i mean, people here are like, "i replace my chain every 1k miles", and i'm like... hoooly.... shhh....

    seems to me many may eclipse the value in the parts they are hoping to reduce wear on..
    Kind of like people who downshift their cars in order to prevent brake pad wear. Sure, it works, but a new clutch is a heck of a lot more expensive than brake pads.

    I also don't understand the hullaballoo about chain wear. I've NEVER worn a chain out. In fact, I kept the chain from the first road bike I ever sold and it's now serving its second term on my single speed mountain bike. No hint of wear whatsoever. My other chains have gone thousands of miles both on and off road with not a hint of stretching. If anyone is concerned about cassette wear, think in terms of overall cost, not just the current cost of replacing the chain. Then again, if you run cheap chains (I won't spend more than $20 on a chain), you can change them a little more often. But even at that price, unless you have a really expensive cassette, it doesn't make sense. My Ultegra cassette cost me $32 new. So if I want to save money, I'll only replace the chain once before switching cassettes. Now, why anyone would spend over $100 for a cassette is beyond me, but to each his own...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lifelover
    Did you say Simple Green?

    Just having that stuff in the same room as a chain will cause it corrode and eat right thru the Bottom bracket. It's vapors will eat thru 5" of lead in seconds, it will flatten a diamond in a matter of minutes and is often used by the Mob as a torture device.

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - STOP

    I will have to rinse my entire bike now after just speaking of it.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matno
    Kind of like people who downshift their cars in order to prevent brake pad wear. Sure, it works, but a new clutch is a heck of a lot more expensive than brake pads.

    I also don't understand the hullaballoo about chain wear. I've NEVER worn a chain out. In fact, I kept the chain from the first road bike I ever sold and it's now serving its second term on my single speed mountain bike. No hint of wear whatsoever. My other chains have gone thousands of miles both on and off road with not a hint of stretching. If anyone is concerned about cassette wear, think in terms of overall cost, not just the current cost of replacing the chain. Then again, if you run cheap chains (I won't spend more than $20 on a chain), you can change them a little more often. But even at that price, unless you have a really expensive cassette, it doesn't make sense. My Ultegra cassette cost me $32 new. So if I want to save money, I'll only replace the chain once before switching cassettes. Now, why anyone would spend over $100 for a cassette is beyond me, but to each his own...
    Ditto. The only reason I clean my chain is if I've just ridden in the rain (they do rust), or generally to keep the rest of the drivetrain clean. The chain is just the easiest to clean.

  15. #15

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    You clean a chain because it's composed of hundreds, maybe a thousand pieces -- pins, plates, rollers. All these pieces function better when they're clean and lubricated.

    But I don't think they stretch much, or wear out -- not on a bicycle. Motorcycle chains stretch and wear out, but the speeds are greater and the power being applied to the "drive line" is greater.

    Bike chains -- keep it clean, lubricated. Stop obsessing about stuff that isn't happening.

  16. #16

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    I see the hornet's nest is stirred up real good. I asked someone
    once why everybody has so many issues with their rides, he explained
    that some people, especially the team racers go through their
    bikes every season like tennis shoes. Wow
    Other people are just harder on their components. I am in the sport similiar to
    a guy in surfing, I am always looking for that ultimate ride. I keep
    my chain clean (religiously) to minimize the drive train noise and make sure
    everything on the cycle works, functions and feels the same way it did the
    first day it was delivered into the world. Take apart a worn, neglected chain
    and put it under a microscope, it can look pretty ugly.

  17. #17
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    Ludicrous

    Quote Originally Posted by RodeRash
    But I don't think they stretch much, or wear out -- not on a bicycle. Stop obsessing about stuff that isn't happening.
    Quote Originally Posted by RodeRash
    I also don't understand the hullaballoo about chain wear. I've NEVER worn a chain out. .
    This is just plain nonsense. Anyone can measure a bike chain and see that it wears out. They don't stretch in a literal sense (metal stressed beyond it's tensile limit), but they elongate due to pins wearing. To say that chains neither elongate nor wear out would suggest . . . well I don't know what it suggests, because it makes no sense and doesn't jive with actual experience.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Road cyclist
    I see the hornet's nest is stirred up real good. I asked someone
    once why everybody has so many issues with their rides, he explained
    that some people, especially the team racers go through their
    bikes every season like tennis shoes. Wow
    Other people are just harder on their components.
    yup, thats what gets me..... i totally dont mesh with that philosophy... i mean... my tennis shoes are 3-4yrs old, if you catch my drift...

    just like my bikes, i have different types of shoes, and i'ld be mad to use my sneakers in lieu of my indoor soccer boots. That would surely destroy them in short order, but today, even when using them in that role (one or twice), they still look as good as new.

    i think u must be onto something about that last statement.. i wonder how people ride their bikes when they get less than 1k miles out of their chains... i'm sure even a heavy person can be kind to their drivetrain, as long as they always use the gears to their advantage...

  19. #19

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    Chain Gang

    1. No, not if you are using ProLink. And you don't require a chain cleaner if you are using ProLink.

    2. Just wipe down the chain before you apply the ProLink, so the lube doesn't feed any grit into the links. Aside from not mentioning the first step your method sounds fine. The outside of the chain does not have to be spotless. Its the inside of the chain that wears. And if you clean the chain too thoroughly, you can flush the lubricants out of the links and cause more harm than good.

    There was some discussion over at google groups re chain cleaning and life. One fellow neglected a chain, yet received about the same milage as one that had been kept clean.

    Myself, I use Veloce 9sp Cassettes, which are really quite cheap, and replace the chain and cassette at same time.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons
    This is just plain nonsense. Anyone can measure a bike chain and see that it wears out. They don't stretch in a literal sense (metal stressed beyond it's tensile limit), but they elongate due to pins wearing. To say that chains neither elongate nor wear out would suggest . . . well I don't know what it suggests, because it makes no sense and doesn't jive with actual experience.
    I agree. Your chain will last quite a while if you take good care of it but they all inevitably "stretch" or elongate due to pin wear.

    I try to thoroughly clean the system (chain, pulleys, rings and cassette) every 7 to 10 days or every 250 - 400 miles with brushes, Park CG-2 chain cleaner tool, Diesel (tiny amount) and a citrus/water rinse. I towel dry the chain and lube (Finish-Line Teflon Plus) just the bushings from the contact side followed by running a the chain through a towel to pick up the excess. Plus I'll add new lube and wipe every 2 or 3 days. What can I say? I like a clean machine.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocco
    I agree. Your chain will last quite a while if you take good care of it but they all inevitably "stretch" or elongate due to pin wear.

    I try to thoroughly clean the system (chain, pulleys, rings and cassette) every 7 to 10 days or every 250 - 400 miles with brushes, Park CG-2 chain cleaner tool, Diesel (tiny amount) and a citrus/water rinse. I towel dry the chain and lube (Finish-Line Teflon Plus) just the bushings from the contact side followed by running a the chain through a towel to pick up the excess. Plus I'll add new lube and wipe every 2 or 3 days. What can I say? I like a clean machine.
    I do the same thing every Sunday afternoon with the commuter. It gets the most miles and the red dirt here in Hawaii is very abrasive, must have something to do with volcanos. I go a step further and take the chain off and put it in an old gatorade powder tub with some degreaser let it sit while I clean the rest of the drivetrain with brushes and rags. I rinse out the chain, dry and put it back on the bike. I use the Finish Line Teflon and in an anal-retentive manner, I lube each link. I relube on Wednesday when I put the headlight battery on the charger. A clean bike just works better. MB1 said it well: "Don't repair your bike, maintain it". FWIW, I normally use SRAM chains on my 9S Chorus commuter but could not get new one when I needed a replacement. I am currently using a KMC Z chain that already has a corrosion layer on it. I just refuse to use the link that came with it and am reusing a SRAM link. I am just waiting for it to wear out. What a POS.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbill
    I do the same thing every Sunday afternoon with the commuter. It gets the most miles and the red dirt here in Hawaii is very abrasive, must have something to do with volcanos. I go a step further and take the chain off and put it in an old gatorade powder tub with some degreaser let it sit while I clean the rest of the drivetrain with brushes and rags. I rinse out the chain, dry and put it back on the bike. I use the Finish Line Teflon and in an anal-retentive manner, I lube each link. I relube on Wednesday when I put the headlight battery on the charger. A clean bike just works better. MB1 said it well: "Don't repair your bike, maintain it". FWIW, I normally use SRAM chains on my 9S Chorus commuter but could not get new one when I needed a replacement. I am currently using a KMC Z chain that already has a corrosion layer on it. I just refuse to use the link that came with it and am reusing a SRAM link. I am just waiting for it to wear out. What a POS.
    Ooh! That Hawaiian red dirt/clay/cement is nasty for bikes. My neighbor moved over here to the mainland/SoCal last year. He told me about his mountain bike and about the problems he was having with it. I said I'd take a look at it and I'd see what I could do. What a mess!

  23. #23
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    I can't think of any bicycle part that works better when it is dirty.
    There's a good reason why they come out of the box all shiny and lubricated.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lifelover
    Did you say Simple Green?

    Just having that stuff in the same room as a chain will cause it corrode and eat right thru the Bottom bracket. It's vapors will eat thru 5" of lead in seconds, it will flatten a diamond in a matter of minutes and is often used by the Mob as a torture device.

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - STOP

    I will have to rinse my entire bike now after just speaking of it.
    Simple Green makes aluminum brittle over time, so unless you have a full carbon/titanium bike, don't use Simple Green. Aircraft mechanics are not authorized to use Simple Green to clean aircraft for that same reason.
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  25. #25

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    avoid gunk build up in the first place. use a minimal amount of dirt-phobic lube. wipe your chain after a dusty ride while the chain is still 'warm'. before relubing, wipe the chain and rings with a gentle citrus degreaser. occasionally clean your cassette. replace chain every 1800 miles.

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