My photo
Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lubing Chains

One long term review on BikeRumor I had been following with interest is the 9 vs 10 speed system... and I wanted to ask if all the test riders started out on the same footing...thinking that those who had not degreased their new chain prior to putting it on would be seeing more wear. Now I'm beginning to have doubts. No, not about the 9 or 10 speed chains but my whole possibly wrong ideas for the last few years.

When knowledge accumulates and we think we know better, it gets really hard to put off what we have "learned" as something that has been wrong. But on reading THIS, I concur with on many of the things said, after being able to shake off a lot of my preconceived "learned" ideas. Gonna go back and do what I used to do with the next new chain. Leave it with the factory grease intact and see how long it will last.

What happened
Something about bicycle chains has been bugging me for the last 2.5 years.. They seemed to be stretched way before their lifespan is due on my 9 spd drivetrains. I was averaging 6-9 months on one chain that while not religiously cleaned but are subjected to at least a total degreasing with solvent 2 months on average. Mileage are mostly weekend ridings... something is very wrong somewhere

I attribute that to

  • Change of brand (previously only use XT and XTR and KMC chains) to SRAM 971 chains which I find shifts better than Shimano or KMC thinking that it was due to the slightly thinner SRAM width and hence it stretch faster
  • Pulling a heavy bike AM bike, hence chains stretch faster, previously most of my bikes were relatively light XC rigs

  • Repeated chain growth from rear suspension (in earlier days, all my XC bikes were hardtails)

In the past a new chain was never degreased before putting on. Then I somehow found out about the great debate on whether to leave or remove the factory grease from a new chain. Decided to follow the "removal" camp which coincided with the switch to SRAM chains. That's where my woes began....

This was coupled to the fact that with a factory grease-removed chain... the initial usage leave it much cleaner, leading to the perception of being "better". Other than the reduced lifespan, another problem that crop up was rust... especially after repeated washing after every ride during the rainy season. That was hardly ever a problem in the past even if I don't relube the chain after hosing down. The only downside of chains back then is that it sure leaves a lot more gunk really fast around the jockey wheels and cogs. Ok that is probably one of the reason why I religiously degrease new chains....

Like in the article link, I realized that chains felt a lot looser after degreasing and repeated degreasing and there were a couple of chains taken off when bikes were dismantled which i wanted to re-use. Within a year 2 of them which had the factory grease removed were so seriously seized and kinked up in a rigor mortis state that they just had to be thrown out.. There are some old chains that were left in my storage which did not have the factory grease removed and much dirtier when taken off but still perfectly alright.

With the mindset deeply entrenched that a degrease new chain is better, it just never occurred to think  back to the past experiences  like the XTR chain on my old Cannondale F3000 that lasted 3000km and it was not even worn to the point that a new chain was needed. Just that I sold the bike and never got to find out how long more it lasted the new owner....

It became a vicious circle of cleaning and not questioning when chains lasted a mere fraction of what they used to. Rather I keep finding "reasons" like those attributed to above.... and blame it on everything else.

If I had chanced upon the late Sheldon Brown's article poking fun at religious chain cleaning fanatics, that might have given me a clue not to embark on my "new" found way of maintenance then. On a more serious note there is a separate article from him as well as one of the biggest chain manufacturer in the world, KMC, that explicitly said not to remove the factory grease on new chains in this article here

One of the chief argument that got me to remove the grease from a new chain is that the thick grease will trap all sorts of sand and grit which is what will wear out the chain fast! No doubt with the thicker grease in there.. this buildup is fast but now thinking back to each time I degrease a chain, new or used, it doesn't take very long before it is also trapping all the nitty gritty trail stuff, but just that now there is a lot less grease on the pins and rollers which means its actually wearing down a lot faster!!!

This is like enlightenment all of a sudden! I just snap out of it and while its probably too late to save the existing chain... let's see how the next will hold up. If it lasts at least a year or cover 2-3 times over my present mileage on chains used in the last couple of years...I'll be cussing at all the $$$ wasted during these time for no good reason on chains that need not be changed and solvents that need not been bought.

No comments:

Post a Comment