Another Noob Question – how often should I clean/oil chain?
Just what the topic says…just wondering if anyone had recommendations. Thanks.
Don’t bother! Then after a couple months, lube it and see how it feels. You’ll know how frequently you want to lube your chain after that.
I only oil my chain once every few months, but based on sound/feel I should probably oil it about once a month.
Miles ridden is a more important consideration than length of time, so just figure out what feels right for you.
In wet weather you may find you need to lube it and wipe it down almost every ride. Dusty and gritty conditions may require full on cleaning while riding in town in the summer may only require a light lube every month or so.
Really the answer is whenever it needs it. You’ll learn to recognize a chain that needs it by sound or how gritty it looks.
Chains should be relatively clean, and a finger drawn across it shouldn’t cover you in sticky, greasy lube but will likely leave some black oily stuff. Chainrings and cogs should be pretty clean as well, no black grit stuck to it. An old toothbrush does a pretty good job getting rid of it.
my personal routine is to lube it once it starts to get noisey
I will go as little as 3-4 rides or as much as once a day. The bulk of my riding is 18.5 miles round trip to work. I hit a good bit of dusty/sandy crap so there needs to be some care taken. I have a bucket of rags and a Grunge brush. It takes all of a few minutes to brush, wipe, apply lube of choice, and go.
The order in which you do things may vary based on lube. The process above is for White Lightning. I am switching lubes for reasons other than WL’s performance soon and might have some info on it to post here. It is an unreleased product as of right now.
I’m a fan of White Lightning, and just lube the chain when it gets a bit noisy.
i usually take a rag and run the chain through it, gets some of the grime off, then lube it up, then run the chain through a rag again to get all the excess off.
some of my bikes i lube my chain often, sometimes I just like the squeaky feel of a dirty chain
Once per summer. Once per week in the winter. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a spring or fall.
There’s a good little bit in the current Urban Velo about how not to crush a finger while cleaning the chain on your fixie, something people don’t immediately think of. See it.
A clean chain is a happy chain…I’m with Mark and wipe the road grim off with a rag once a week. It keeps the chain clean and also keeps the gunk off my ankle.
If it jumps or skips teeth, and the chain length is otherwise correct, you’re overdue. That’s a symptom of stiffness.
While it’s still warm out, hose it down to knock the top layer of crap off it. You don’t so much need a lot of water, just a strong spray.
A tip I picked up from the message board last winter is to use a huge squirt gun to wash the chain once it gets too cold to have the hose hooked up.
A full clean for me is brake cleaner spray or a can of mineral spirits.
If you use a quick-link connector on your chain it becomes very quick and easy to just remove the chain in order to clean it. I use a quart mason jar full of gasoline and just drop the chain in to soak for 5 or 10 minutes. This will clean much better than any citrus product IMHO. And you can keep reusing the gas for quite a few times before you need to use fresh (I put the old gas in the lawnmower after straining out the grit). The only precaution is that duh, you’re using gas, and don’t lose the little roller bearings in the ends of the chain (a twist-tie will keep them in place).
I think kerosene is safer and mineral spirits safer yet. Don’t quote me, but that is the reasoning I used. Quick links are lifesavers. I agree 110% on the citrus based cleaners too. I have not tried it, but if you wanted to use a “green” cleaner, a steam cleaner would be my first attempt.
I just switched from White Lightning and I’ve been using Rock n’ Roll lube lately.
Spin the drivetrain backwards while applying lube, then spin the drivetrain backwards while wiping off with a rag = clean chain. It takes about one minute from start to finish. I do this about once or twice a week. If my derailleur pulleys are caked in crap I clean them too.
Every 3 or 4 weeks I take the back wheel off the bike and clean the cassette and clean off the chainrings.
Kerosene/WD40 are good cleaners. Just be advised that they are detrimental to some motocycle chains (with o-rings)… but not an issue for bicycle chains.
WhiteLightening can be had on the cheap, they sell the stuff at Mall*Wart.
a word about the wd-40, it is a great cleaner but is decidedly not a lubricant. it will strip that chain dry of any lubricating goodness that happened to be living merrily in the bushings and rollers.
I agree with what’s written above and offer these bits of advice, for what they’re worth:
1. If I ride in the rain, I try to dry the chain with an air compressor shortly after riding.
2. If you don’t have a compressor, WD40 is the next best thing (to disperse water only). Whichever you do, the goal is to get the water out of the chain to prevent rust (and accelerated wear).
3. Following step #1 or #2, wipe off the chain and use whatever chain lube you prefer. I use Maxima Chain Wax, for motocross bikes, and feel that it is the best product out there. It is wax-based, not petroleum based, and due to how it dries, it does not seem to “gum up” and hold dirt as badly as others (or leave a tattoo on your calf). Chain Wax is the only motorcycle product I’d use over a product marketed for bicycles, by the way.
4. I have seen motorcycle racers oil a chain after riding for 5 minutes to warm it up. The theory is that the metal gets warm and expands, allowing the lube to better reach the pins and rollers. Does it really help? Who knows, but I thought I’d mention it. Good luck.
I would definitely try Chain Wax on a bicycle chain, haven’t done it, but I would. I would probably only try it on a brand new chain that hasn’t had other lubricants or dirt on it yet, I don’t know if you could strip and clean a used chain adequately. I just haven’t had the opportunity to try it.
Thanks for the replies so far, very interested in hearing everyone’s views.
I actually cleaned my chain yesterday morning, before I braved the storm for a brief ride (mostly killing time in the false hope that the rain might actually quit at some point.)
I was impressed with how disgusting the chain (and the gears) looked…don’t know what I’ve been riding in to cause all that gunk buildup. I used a citrus degreaser and re-lubed it with Pedro’s Ice Wax. Definitely sounded quieter afterwards. Just wanted to know if I was doing it too soon or something — had the bike about 3 weeks and 170+ miles so far.
On the topic of degreasers, Tarminator from Stoners in Quarryville, PA works quite well. It’s marketed as a bug and tar remover for cars, but I have quite a few customers that ride MTBs and use it as a chain cleaner. Plus, at $4.99/10oz can, its cheaper than most other aerosol degreasers on the market.
I have one of those chain cleaning gizmos with about 50 little brushes that you fill with some degreaser and crank your chain through.
I use some citrus based degreaser than lube with White Lightening. I hate a grimey chain so basically I do it whenever the chain stops being shiny.
“(or leave a tattoo on your calf)”
I love my grease tattoo!!! (so long as it stays on my calf)
I don’t like to wait until it gets noisy, but usually I don’t figure it out until it gets noisy.
One thing I’ve wondered – a friend of mine uses cooking oil (I think basically soy bean derived oil) on his chainsaw chain, which gets regular use. Would there be a reason not to use it on a bike chain?
“Would there be a reason not to use it on a bike chain?”
Short answer, it has too much viscosity and will splatter all over the place and make your clothing smell like cooking oil.
The long answer has to do with chemical composition, flash point, how much a given oil gums up, and so on… Without jumping into a bunch of research, my gut tells me that cooking oil on a chainsaw as a quick emergency fix is probably ok but in the long run your friend is probably destroying his saw.
As for using cooking oil on a bike chain, it’s better than nothing, but still not very a good idea IMHO given the cost of using a correct product. It would perform extremely poorly in wet conditions.
As for using it as a substitute for a proper chainsaw bar and chain lube, I’ve operated and maintained saws for 20 years and heat my house in large part with wood, so I speak from experience here. Cooking oil is way too thin and lacks whatever makes the real stuff “tacky” – I think it is called an emulsifying (sp?) agent. Cooking oil would likely fling off the chain immediately and the chain would overheat, stretch, and wear more than it otherwise would. The groove in the bar would simultaneously wear out prematurely. So, I think headloss is correct.
Cooking oil is great for cooking.
If you wanted a low cost method some form of synthetic motor oil mixed with mineral oil should be pretty cheap. You need to be a little more meticulous in care, but it works very well.
I use extra virgin olive oil on my chain…the interweb told me that is what I’m supposed to use on a Bianchi road bike?
I prefer Colavita Olive Oil but if I’m in a pinch I’ll use Filippo
I use 10 year old Italian Balsamic Vinegar to clean the chain once a week.
Just a side note on a related issue…
Don’t use synthetic grease for bicycle bearings unless they have a sealed bearing. Synthetic grease has a tendency to liquify and will leak out. I actually sent an email to Mobile-1 concerning this and they recommended that I use their non synthetic blend. Just putting that out there FYI so no one else wastes money on synthetic grease thinking that they are getting a better product.
Wow, I feel like a neat freak now compared to most of you. I rub my chain with a rag after every ride I take (usually 20 miles or more) and oil it every one hundred miles…
I know the guy that writes the Yehuda stuff. He definitely reads along various places for ideas, no clue if this is one of them. Doubt it honestly, the write I know is from Cleveland.
I used to be seriously neurotic about cleaning my bike. Now, not so much.
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