This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cleaning bike chains

           I  know  that  cleaning and lubing bike chains is as personal and potentially volatile a subject as helmets.  I've seen poor innocents ask advice on a forum only to be overwhelmed with contradictory advice after days and days of posts.  I keep my chains clean also,but without obsessing over it.
          I think it worthwhile to share a spring cleaning method.  Winter riding in Michigan puts bikes through a chemical bath that makes aluminum frames make sense.  But chains aren't made of aluminum and they get really rusty and gross really fast, even with weekly cleaning and lubing.    I screwed up and didn't take a "before" photo of the chain in question, but imagine the chain that came from this:

after less than a week we can see this kind of buildup.  I don't do anything remarkable but soak the chain in a citric degreaser ( I like Simple Green as well as anything, it seems to work as well and is a lot cheaper than the special bike brands), scrub it with an old toothbrush, rinse it again and soak it in wax.
    A lot of people think that special airplane lube or tool branded lubes or hub branded lubes are best, the bottom line is that each of them are paraffin  based.  Good, pure paraffin can be found at the local grocery, next to the Mason jars in the canning section.
Just melt it down in a large coffee or vegetable can on an electric burner set to low.  Leave the chain in there until you no longer see any bubbles coming out.

When the bubbles stop, it means all the water and all the air have been replaced with wax in all the little nooks and crannies and the chain is perfectly lubed.  After it's well done, fish it out with a fork from your wife's favorite silver and hang from a convenient cup hook to cool and dry.

This is all best done after sending your wife (significant other, girlfriend) to the movies with her gal pal, and you have the place to yourself and a chance to watch racing on Versus without any bitching.
  The final result is the most complex component on the bike becomes perfectly lubed in a lube that (and this is important) will not evaporate.  
That chain was as rusty and corroded as the cog you saw.  The spray on lubes that cost a small fortune are okay for routine cleaning but they're just not as effective. In the end, hot waxing is not a bad thing to do with all chains on a periodic basis, but it's the only way I have found to clean and lube a chain after all the winter crude they get dragged through around here.

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