Chain lube 101

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skarkburmer
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Chain lube 101

#1 Post by skarkburmer » Mon Jul 26, 2004 11:45 am

Chain lube 101.

As with so many things in life there is no such thing as too much lube. YEAH BABY!
But that is just one mans opinion.
While it is true that more lube is better the question of chain maintenance is oftentimes misunderstood.

First the basics.
All the big 4 makers (Honda, Yamadog, Suspooky, Kawaflappy) recommend a 500-mile lube interval. Sorry Lucy, I didn’t bother to look up Ducati because don’t all Ducati’s come with their own studly Italian maintenance boy?
If you stop to think about it 500 miles is almost a weekends worth of riding and who here honestly lubes their chain that often?
You ride in the rain? Cut that number in half.
Those of us that rode to and from Montery not too long ago should have lubed their chains after the weekend according to their manuals.
I don’t even do it that much and my friends call me the “Maintenance Nazi”. I always thought it was the moustache and the funny hat…

So every 500 miles you need to lube your chain, there is no need to argue this point… you know I am right. That might be a little often but like we discussed before you can’t ever over lube your chain.
So what do you lube it with? Wet or Dry lubes?
Here is the question that will likely start bar fights the world over till the end of time. Like everything else, Wet and Dry lubes have their good and bad points. I have my preference but I will try and stay neutral because not everyone’s chain lube needs are the same as mine. Most people don’t take their sport bikes on MTN bike trails or bogging through big ass mud puddles… but I digress

Dry lube is basically a paraffin (wax) lube in an alcohol carrier. (no, it does not taste good if you use it in mixed drinks). The Alcohol keeps the paraffin in a liquid form and allows for easier transport out of the container. Once the mixture is on your chain the alcohol evaporates and leaves the waxy residue behind. Most dry lubes have some amount of petroleum-based oil lube in them, this allows the wax to remain tacky and stick on your chain a little longer. Otherwise, just like a candle, the hardened wax would simply fall off before you even made it out of first gear.
Different brands use different amounts of wet lube in them so some will seem more dry then others.

The good side of Dry lubes is they tend to attract less dirt then wet lubes do. This makes the chain appear cleaner, you also get less chain crap all over your wheel, swing arm, chain guard, knickers, and girlfriend’s new pants… you get the picture. Dry lubes are typically a “cleaner” lube.
And with the good there is also bad.
The main drawback to dry lubes is they do not lubricate the chain as well as a Wet lube does. The reason for this is simple, although difficult to explain in this medium.
Oversimplified your chain is nothing more then lots of metal plates in constant contact with each other. There are pins, rollers O-rings and plates, but to keep it simple we will just imagine your chain is made up of two plates rubbing against each other. Easy huh?
When you spray a Dry lube on these two plates the lube is a liquid and will penetrate between the two plates, providing lubrication. However, as the alcohol carrier dries up the lube becomes much more solid, almost like a grease, still that’s not a bad thing. The bad part is when you start moving the two plates back and forth the hardened lube will eventually be worked out from between the two pieces of metal. But not all the lube will be squeezed out, through the power of osmosis some lube will remain between the two plates. As you ride and the two plates move back and forth repeatedly the lube will begin to breakdown. Eventually the molecular structure of the lube will be broken down from the shearing action of the two plates. While there will still be some “goo” between the two plates the lubricating and shock absorption capabilities of this “goo” will be non existent, this is when you will get increased chain wear. Because the dry lube is so thick (almost a grease) it will not allow the lube to circulate in and out between the two plates. Fresh lube will not flow into the void that the “goo” is taking up.
Depending on a lot of factors this process may start alarmingly early after you freshly lubed your chain.

The other type of lube is a Wet lube, think motor oil.
More specifically think gear oil, 90 weight, the stuff that smells really good. If you use a wet lube don’t bother buying the stuff sold in stores as a Wet chain lube. Save yourself about 600% the purchase price and go to any auto parts store and purchase a quart of 80-90 weight gear oil. Don’t bother buying the synthetic stuff but make sure you get a name brand. Castrol, Valvoline, Penzoil, Mobil... Do not buy store brand oil; there really is a difference but I wont bother you with the details.

Wet lube lubricates better then Dry lube does, and keeps doing it for a longer period of time, here is why.
Back to our oversimplified chain of two plates…
When you apply the lube to the two plates the oil will be drawn between the two plates. Capillary action is hard at work so you don’t have to.
If we were to be able to watch the shearing action between the two plates with a Hubble telescope turned backwards we would see the molecular structure of the gear lube. The molecules of gear oil look like baseballs on a string. Its more about the size of 11 Figs on 8mm accessory cord evenly spaced, but who really cares? As the plates move back and forth the shearing action will eventually begin to break the little strings, or may even break the little baseballs. Huh huh, I said “breaking my balls”
This is where the good part starts, no not the breaking of balls. As the molecular “ropes” between the two plates begin to be shortened from wear and impact the longer ropes will snatch the short ropes by their nappy ass weave and toss them out of the way. Then the longer ropes will move in and set up camp, providing 100% lubricating and impact resistance. This process will continue until all the ropes have been broken down and there are no more baseballs left. The lube will continue to circulate around in and out of the plates until there is no more lube left, or all the molecules have been sheared to bits. That would take a while.

And again, with the good there is also bad…
Wet lubes are dirtier than a Dry lube is. Because it is wet to the touch dirt and dust will stick to your chain and will start to look black and gooey. If you have enough lube or goo on your chain it will fling itself off and adhere to anything it touches. This is where the goo will take on a life of its own and begin to multiply faster then the rabbits in a MasterCard commercial. And dirty gear oil isn’t easy to clean off. The best thing to use to clean off gear oil from your bike is soap and water. You can use alcohol to get it off the steel and plastic, or anything powder coated, but make sure to not get alcohol on any raw or polished aluminum. The results will not be good.

That is the pluses and minuses of both wet and dry lubes in a nut shell. Whichever lube you choose DO NOT USE A DEGREASER TO CLEAN YOUR CHAIN!
Why you ask? BECAUSE I FUCKING SAID SO!
Just kidding.
The reason you don’t want to use a degreaser on your chain is because you will never get all the degreaser out of the links of your chain. No matter how hard you try or the lengths you go to, you will never get all the degreasre off your chain. With all the pins and rollers the degreaser will hide in your chain and will thwart your most Herculean efforts. And we all have O-ring chains right? Well the job of a O ring is to keep crap out, well it also keeps crap in. crap like degreaser. Also, most degreasers will attack your O-rings unless the O-ring is made of Viton, a synthetic material and most O-rings on our chains are butyl rubber.
So who cares if you have leftover degreaser in your chain? Your chain lube does.
Degreaser works on the principal of dissolving the ropes of the lube molecules that are present in almost all automotive based lubes (Wet and Dry). So lets say you clean your chain off really well using some degreaser and then clean off all the degreaser as best you can. You will not get it all, ever. As soon as you apply lube to your chain the degreaser will break down the lube and negate any lubricating qualities. In this case you might as well lube your chain with water… it’s a lot cheaper.

So if you must clean your chain use a brush and a rag. Use water if you must but id be less worried about the cleanliness and more worried about the lubedliness. (is that a word?) If you are running a show bike or don’t mind replacing chains on a regular basis then feel free to use as much degreaser as you would like, but you have been warned.


Regardless of which type of lube you prefer it is best to lube the chain from the inside out. To make it as easy as possible put your bike on the center stand or a pit stand if you have one. As you roll the wheel backwards apply the lube to the inside of the chain before it rolls up the rear sprocket. It doesn’t really matter which way you roll the tire, just make sure to be lubing the inside of the chain, so as you ride the lube will be worked through the chain.
If you don’t have a center stand or a pit stand you can easily lube the lower portion of the chain and then roll the bike back a little and lube the next section. Keep rolling and lubing till you get the entire chain.
If you choose to use gear oil to lube your chain get a small container and a toothbrush. Something sealable and not made of glass. Put some oil in the container and dip the toothbrush in the oil and then brush it on your chain. One dip will be enough oil for that section of chain. Roll your tire back and dip the brush again.
If you use an aerosol type of lube just spray it on as you are rolling the tire and you are good to go.
Just make sure you don’t soak your tire with lube… that wouldn’t be good.
This is also an ideal time to check your chains tension. Check your manual for how tight it should be because an overly loose or tight chain will greatly increase the wear and could damage other expensive parts.

With chain lube a little work will pay off big time in the long run, take it from me.
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#2 Post by sv1Kgrl » Mon Jul 26, 2004 12:05 pm

so, are you gonna teach our class?
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#3 Post by Nut'nBitch » Mon Jul 26, 2004 12:16 pm

Good write-up. I've always wondered about the pros and cons of dry chain lube vs wet lube. I might just go buy some 90W oil now...


8)
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#4 Post by skarkburmer » Mon Jul 26, 2004 12:22 pm

I dont know if thats a good idea since i have no class to spare.
On the other hand i can draw lots of pretty pictures... :)

You want me to teach a class? Id be more than happy to offer what i know on whatever subjects but im not sure i would be the most qualified teacher. I think i just seem smart over the computer cause you cant see the puzzled look on my face.

Derrrrr!

El gordo.
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#5 Post by sv1Kgrl » Mon Jul 26, 2004 12:52 pm

hahaha! ok, we'll let you stick to the boards!
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#6 Post by skarkburmer » Mon Jul 26, 2004 1:28 pm

B,
Yeah man, as far as i am concearned 90Wt is the only way to go.
If you wear contacts a large dripper bottle works perfectly for dispensing the stink liquid onto a toothbrush..
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tomla

lube it while you drive it

#7 Post by tomla » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:50 pm

there's the scottoiler, or the more economical loobman....you will double your chain life....almost every competitor in the iron butt rally uses one....once it's installed, all you have to do is fill the bottle every now and then....lessee, with chain/sprocket life doubled......

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#8 Post by CBRina » Wed Dec 29, 2004 9:41 pm

This is so awesome. I wondered about that. So that lil chain cleaning kit with the grunge brush is not good to use? hmm poor FZR...

Hey anyone want to talk about plastic welding? Better yet, come out and practice it on my FZR??? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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#9 Post by NinjaMama » Thu Jan 20, 2005 11:09 am

Well once again I'm late to the party. I just noticed this thread, but am impressed by the depth of the information. And I'm sure my bike will thank you too. I could use some more tips like this one. I'm still a "ignoramus" when it comes to maintaining my own bike! But I'd like to learn more.

Thanks for the tips,
Sabrina
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#10 Post by Kodama » Tue Feb 01, 2005 2:27 pm

Every 500mi? Hell, I lube my chain when I can hear a difference in the noise when I ride next to a divider on the freeway :oops: Actually I think my lube wears off after 400 miles, then I spray it with wd-40, wipe it down and reapply chain lube.

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skarkburmer
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#11 Post by skarkburmer » Tue Sep 23, 2008 9:52 am

Id use the WD40 sparingly. It is a very thin oil, similar to mineral spirits and it will reduce the viscosity of your chain lube greatly, reducing its ability to adhere to the chain.
Id suggest wiping your chain with a rag if you have a bunch of old clothes laying around. Then whatever chain lube you use wont be affected.
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#12 Post by Toothpick Ted » Tue Sep 23, 2008 2:43 pm

:shock: :shock: 3 years to read through and catch up on your responses huh?? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Nice, smooth way of 'bumping' your original 4 year old post. :lol: :lol:

Just harass'n ya!!! :wink:

-T

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skarkburmer
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Re: Chain lube 101

#13 Post by skarkburmer » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:24 am

Yeah and here is another one a year later! :P
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Re: Chain lube 101

#14 Post by CrashDummy » Sat Oct 10, 2009 12:48 am

My Honda shop manual recommends 90 wt. oil. It works great. It even cleans the chain. I put a lot on at first and then spin the wheel while holding paper towels around the chain. I put a second light coat on and the chain looks like new.
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Re: Chain lube 101

#15 Post by Fanny Fligurl » Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:51 am

Just cleaned/lubed mine before Reno-Fernley doubleheader. Gotta take care of our babies!

I can only assume that neglecting your chain will inadvertently wear down your sprocket teeth quicker as well, so taking care of your chain does a lot more than you think!
Humanity is a terrible thing to waste. Be patient, treat others with respect, and ride like you borrowed it indefinitely!

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