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From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: Chain lube
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 1994 23:07:22 GMT

Mike DeMicco writes:

> Anybody know?  How long should the chain be submerged in solvent for
> best cleaning (overnight? several days?)?

The dirt IN the chain is, at best, suspended in a little oil or
residual grease.  Leaving the chain in there any longer than it takes
to wash out this oil is wasted time.  The grit that you are trying to
remove will never dissolve, it just becomes free to be washed out by
agitation.  Without agitation it won't come out no matter how long you
leave the chain in the bath.  Of course there are fluids that will
dissolve the grit, the chain, and the container, but these are not
good for future use of the chain.

Jobst Brandt      <> 

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: Chain lube
Date: Mon, 8 Aug 1994 18:18:40 GMT

Mike DeMicco writes:

> I have two combined methods I am going to try.  I have a parts cleaner
> (which has a pump).  I took a coffee can, punched some holes in the
> bottom, put a bunch of chains in, and ran the flow into the can to
> provide a flushing action.  The can does fill up to a high level, so
> the chains remain totally submerged, but fresh solvent is pumped in and
> a lot of dirt presumably goes out the holes in the bottom.  I also will
> soak the chains overnight in another can having no holes in it, filled
> with solvent.

Hold it!  You've got to agitate the chains and move them so that
internal grit can find an exit.  There being no current of fluid
flowing through the spaces of mating and closely fit parts of the
chain, the fine grit in there cannot come out.  Most of it can be
removed if you agitate the chain lying horizontally on the floor of a
cleaning tank.  A perforated floor is important so that solids can
fall through and sink into dead space.  Otherwise, you just circulate
the grit, redistributing it on the same chain.

> I installed a Craig Metalcraft SuperLink III master link, so removing
> chains (like the Shimano chain) for cleaning is literally a snap.  I
> hope this link doesn't break.

> In order to make this method as least labor intensive as possible, I'm
> going to use a number of chains and keep rotating them.  I'll hang the
> wet chains on the wall of my garage to dry.  I may even try one of the
> new Sedis ATB chains that's supposed to be so good (even though I've
> been less than impressed with their previous versions I've tried due to
> lack of shifting quickness and noise when compared to the HG-90 and 91
> chains I am using.)

This whole thing sound like a mis-designed experiment that may not run
to completion for its complexity.  How about investigating what is to
be discovered before starting and to make some assumptions on which
features you plan to control and why.

> By the way, I spoke with a riding buddy today who does an incredible
> amount of mountain bike riding.  He says he gets 6000 miles on Sedis
> ATB chains before they stretch 1/8" (measured over 12").  All he does
> is wipe down the chain and lube after every ride with Finish Line
> Professional Lube (drip application).  Once a month, he uses the Vetta
> chain cleaner.  This, to me, is incredible mileage for a mountain bike
> chain.  Especially since lubing a dirty chain is supposed to be so bad.

I think 'incredible', literally speaking, is the correct word for this

> What's the best solvent to use in a parts cleaner?  I'm using some
> stuff called "solvent" I bought in a petroleum supply place.  Maybe
> kerosene would work better.  Anybody know?  How long should the chain
> be submerged in solvent for best cleaning (overnight? several days?)?

Anything that will safely dissolve grease and oil.  Don't worry about
external mud or rust, these have never had any effect on chain life.

Jobst Brandt      <> 

From: (Jobst Brandt)
Subject: Re: Help WD40
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 1995 23:51:20 GMT

Arne C. Kolstad writes:

>> Your cosmetic chain cleaning isn't doing it any good.  The grit inside
>> on the pins and rollers is not getting cleaned out.  Moreover, grit on
>> the outside of the chain is getting washed inside.  A chain can only
>> be reasonably cleaned, off the bicycle, in a bath where the grit can
>> be washed out in suspension.  Then you can dry the chain and oil it,
>> using real oil, before putting it back on the bicycle without brake
>> contamination.

> Your argument here and in the FAQ looks right, but it leads to some 
> radical lubrication scheme (3, through 1 and 2):

> 1) Don't oil a chain on the bike. You only make the grinding effect of 
> the sand particles more efficient, and you add more sand were it hurts.

> 2) Don't clean the chain on the bike, for the same reason, in spite of 
> advise of from some other writers.

> 3) Take off the chain when you need to clean and lube, even if you live 
> in an area with 5 m of rain per year and the chain needs lubing at least 
> once a week. 

Well, you omitted an important part of the suggested chain care.
First, a wet chain doesn't squeak and is better off running under
water.  It is practically impossible to oil a dripping wet chain and
it doesn't need it.  If you haven't already encrusted your chain in
some kind of 90W gear oil or other sticky lube, the chain will be
nearly oil free and clean after riding in the rain for any substantial
time.  Once the chain dries off, the grit can be brushed off the
outside and the chain can be oiled, on the bicycle... especially
because this often occurs on the road on a long trip.

> If I use Shimano chains, this adds up to about $150 a year in nice black 
> pins, or about the same in new chains.

Only if you try to do things the hard way.  You'll need to apply some
pragmatic judgment.  I think that is implied in the FAQ version.

> I tried to duplicate your claimed empirical basis for your standpoint 
> in this serious matter, by cleaning (with a Finish Line cleaner) the 
> chain on the bike (one+four changes of citrus fluid), then removing it 
> and rinsing it in a jar. You are right in the FAQ, there was some fine 
> sand left. However, this is only a proxy when the argument is about chain 
> wear. It is possible that rinsing the chain on the bike reduces wear, 
> even if it isn't perfect, and it is possible that there isn't much sand 
> washed down into the joints when you oil a dirty chain. I wonder if there 
> ever has been an experiment done that measures chain wear directly, 
> varying maintenance schemes?

In a manner of speaking, my observations come from such an experiment, or
better said, from data collected from riders whose bicycles I was able to
monitor.  The riders with the glistening oil glob chains claimed to use
eight or more chains per year, throwing them out when they reached 1/8 inch
of elongation per foot.  These were riders who regularly joined me on
weekend 100 mile+ rides in the Santa Cruz Mountains on all sorts of dirt
roads.  I use one chain per year at about 10,000 miles using the procedure
I outlined.  I think this is adequate proof that the oilers were killing
their chains.  There are all sorts of degrees of this, but the repeated
oiling of a chain on the bike is strongly damaging.

Jobst Brandt      <> 

Subject: Re: Do you clean a new chain?
Message-ID: <59gUc.8030$>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 04:51:13 GMT

It was reported here not long ago that a chain split in two halves for
maintenance wore faster in the half cleaned with solvent before
reconnecting it to the part where road grit was rubbed around for
cosmetic purposes and after which the whole chain was oiled for
further use.

I recently soaked my chain in paint thinner to loosen the caked road
dust, shaking the chain in the solvent for an extended time (about a
minute).  After that I scrubbed the chain clean with liquid dish soap
and hot water in a utility sink so that the chain looked like new.

After that I sloshed more liquid dish soap on the coiled chain laying
flat in the utility sink and shook it laterally in the sudsy water.
When I rinsed the chain with a strong stream of water, a large black
cloud of chain wear came out.  Repeating the action brought out more
black products of wear while a third time produced essentially clear
water.  After that I dried the chain on a moderate hot plate and oiled
it with 30W motor oil.

From this, I take it that the previous experiment of rinsing the chain
mainly showed that with depleted lubricant and re-oiling over residual
solvent caused faster wear than adding oil to an otherwise dirty
chain.  Besides, no mechanism for greater wear was proposed by the
experimenter at that time.  I'm sure Carl Fogel can find that article
but I am satisfied that cleaned chains oiled after solvent is removed
last longer than ones where the road grit is rubbed around and oil
added, as the FAQ item describes.

Jobst Brandt

Subject: Re: Chain Lubricant Options
Message-ID: <ejwdd.158$>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 16:24:42 GMT

Tim McNamara writes:

>> Recently an experiment was made to determine whether cleaning a
>> chain before re-oiling improves durability and the results posted
>> here in this newsgroup.  The chain was marked and split in two for
>> cleaning only one half, before reassembling and lubricating.  Each
>> time the elongation (pitch wear) was measured.  The cleaned portion
>> showed more wear than the one that was only re-oiled.  I have no
>> way of verifying the measurements but there is no reason to doubt
>> the results.  However, I reviewed the process.

> I remember that post, and I remember being surprised by the results
> since they were counter to the canonical recommendations.

>> What I found was that sloshing the chain in solvent externally
>> cleans the chain but on putting the "cleaned" chain in clean
>> solvent and sloshing it around while lying on its side, substantial
>> fine grit came out of the apparently clean chain.

>> I also tried this by agitating the chain under water with liquid
>> detergent and achieved the same result.  My conclusion is that
>> unless the chain is thoroughly cleaned internally, cosmetically
>> cleaning with solvent does no good and probably is worse than not
>> cleaning.

> Interesting.  Many of us use the two chain method of alternating
> chains, swapping a cleaned on for the dirty one to be cleaned, and
> so forth.  Soaking and agitating the chain in solvent isn't enough,
> obviously, and a second cleaning in fresh solvent shows this to be
> the case.  Is it even possible to clean out a chain adequately by
> agitating it in solvent?  How does one clean the chain thoroughly
> internally without spending an inordinate amount of time?

That depends on the chain and its cost.  The SRAM 8-speed chains I use
now and buy in large quantities are probably not worth the effort both
because they are inexpensive and because they don't last long.  In
contrast the Regina CX-S chains had about 5-6 time the life and were
worth cleaning.  I still have one or two of these and am considering
just saving them for putting them on some antique bicycle, just as we
should have done with the last Diamond brand block chains.

>> Therefore, testimonials that praise one or another lubricant may
>> not have anything to do with chain wear since that has more to do
>> with cleaning or leaving caked grit where it is.  Thin, solvent
>> like lubricants may be the worst offenders by that test.

> We've been cautioning against "washing in" crud into the links with
> lubes for years (and cleaning chains in solvent to prevent this).
> Since that post was published, I've taken to just wiping down the
> chain as throughly as I can before relubing, and thus far have not
> seen my chains wearing out any faster than with the solvent method.
> I don't track the mileage closely, though.  I've been using ProLink
> with good results, regardless of the accuracy of their claims,
> although not obviously better results than motor oil which is at
> least 20X cheaper.

I usually don't do anything to my chains over the summer, here where
it rarely rains in that time, however, when touring in the Alps, rain
is common and that is where I became aware of the cleansing of water.
If the chain squeaks when dried after a longer run in rain, it is not
only devoid of lubricant but also of most grit.  When that occurs, I
use motor oil from a discarded oil container found in the trash at a
gas station, pouring it carefully on the bottom run of the chain as I
turn the pedals backwards.

Jobst Brandt

Subject: Re: Chain Lubricant Options
Message-ID: <zvwdd.161$>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 16:37:51 GMT

Matt O'Toole writes:

> How clean are you able to get your chain, and by what method?

Clean enough that I cannot elicit any more "grey matter" from the
chain.  I believe the chain is about as clean as it can get in the
realm of visible and effective grit.  If you take a "modern" chain
apart, all elements fall apart so that you can rub a clean cloth over
their surfaces.  You could try that with a white paper towel and see
if you can get any dirt.  I doubt that there will be any after a
cleaning with hot water and liquid detergent.

I should add that I first scrub the chain, coiled flat on its side,
with a stiff brush to remove external dirt.

Jobst Brandt

Subject: Re: Do you clean a new chain?
Message-ID: <cZzUc.8296$>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 03:23:52 GMT

Tom Sherman writes:

>> So where do you stand on the issue of wearing a helmet when you're
>> slinging a bicycle chain over your head to remove the last droplets
>> of solvent?  Have you ever whacked yourself with one?  Ever whacked
>> anyone else?...

> Too bad Mr. Brandt abhors recumbent bicycles; otherwise he would
> have a 220+ link chain to sling around.

Even that would not affect the cleaning of chains because I don't
sling them around but finish cleaning in a detergent water bath after
which I dry the chain on a hot-plate.  A hot dangling chain is easier
to oil with 30W oil because the oil thins and runs down the chain to
drip on a newspaper.

Of course this doesn't work when I'm on a tour and have a squeaky dry
chain after riding in rain.  There I oil the chain on the bicycle as I
already described, wiping off the excess with a rag.

Jobst Brandt

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