Religion of the Chain
Can I clean this chain?
How much rust is too much?
My dad once said that everyone has an opinion. He then proceeded to tell me exactly what most of those opinions are worth. This topic is sorta like that. Few things get more traction or generate more divergent opinions than when someone asks the simple question, “How do you take care of your chain?” Simple enough on it’s surface but oh what a divisive subject. Couples have divorced over far less than the differences found on chain maintenance.
For some it is a simple, lubricate it and ride. For others it is a religion complete with all the trappings that come from the most intricate of ceremonies.
“On the morning of the autumnal equinox, accompanied by a virgin, arise before the sun. Address the morning by facing the East and bowing to the primal forces of nature. As the sun climbs into the ……..” and so it goes.
I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I lube regularly as I am certain it makes shifting cleaner and more efficient. My selection of lubricants has changed over the years and I expect I still have many new lubes to try (“There’s always time for lube”). Currently I use a teflon based dry lube and it seems to work well. I apply it usually every couple hundred miles just prior to a ride and then wipe the chain down both before and after the ride. My trusty 3in1 oil can comes in handy for the brake pivots and idler wheels but I never use a spray on anything. Not because they are ineffective but because if I am just a bit sloppy the overspray makes for some exciting moments trying to stop.
As far as cleaning goes, I remove my chain in the spring and again in the fall and drop it into a big plastic bottle of mineral spirits, shake, soak overnight, shake again and dump. If it is extremely grungy I may change the spirits and shake once more. Dry and reinstall. I definitely subscribe to the KISS principle of chain maintenance. I recently added a set of heavy magnets under the plastic jug. These seem to grab a bit of metal filings so it makes me happy.
Current method for my chain line lube. Pedal and drip.
A clean cassette is a happy cassette!
Like I said, over the years my choice of lube has changed. I have used 30w motor oil, wax based lubes, teflon/dry lubes, and once even chain saw oil. At times these changes were related to my income level as much as personal preference. My reality is, some were easier to use, some left me with more gunk build-up, but all lubed with equal efficiency when used as directed.
I have used those really cute little machines to brush each link as it is passed through and even listened to fellows who hand brushed each link with the precision of an oral hygienist and soaked their chain in some sort of toxic, flammable liquid that made it shine like new. My mineral spirits and plastic bottle works well and is easy to use so I will probably stay with it and be happy. In a really dusty summers I might add an extra cleaning in there but usually 2x a year keeps me and my chainrings happy.
Even with the collected road grime the chain is still looking good.