The Ultimate Mid-Drive Chain Care Thread

Sierratim

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Nevada City, CA & Paradise Valley, AZ
Outside Magazine just published this article on CHAIN WAXING. It even has shout outs to Zero Friction Cycling and Silica Super Secret.
 

Lectric Bill

Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, CA
A spotless chain is key for me with regards to drivetrain maintenance and had great success using an ultrasonic cleaner. This latest review highlights some interesting results. My LBS remarked that many of their customers use Wend Wax which they also sell in the shop. With that said, I have taken preliminary steps with regards to hot waxing the chains on all of our bikes using conventional paraffin.
I used to use melted paraffin on a long recumbent bike chain and had good results but it flaked off pretty fast and needed to be redone a little too often for the hassle of it, IME.
The Silca SS stuff is supposed to yield comparable results without the heating. They also have a bag wax (containing their miracle lubricant) that you put into boiling water, for an alternative.

I recently saw this video where the presenter adds PTFE powder into the hot paraffin.
25:12 min.

Here's a source of PTFE that seems to be well-reviewed:
PTFE Powder
 

Prairie Dog

Well-Known Member
Region
Canada
City
Red Deer
Thanks for the guidance Bill. Yes, I acquired PTFE from a similar supplier and plan to add it to the mix. Paraffin can be obtained quite easily and is relatively cheap here and I found a used crockpot on Kijiji. I was sitting on the fence with regards to waxing but decided to give it a whirl after another forum member gave high marks with his experience. It appears that having a clean chain from the start is vital to achieving good and long-lasting results. We'll see. If it's any consolation, I didn't break the bank doing so. Look forward to your feedback with regards to Silca SS. :)
 

Lectric Bill

Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, CA
Thanks for the guidance Bill. Yes, I acquired PTFE from a similar supplier and plan to add it to the mix. Paraffin can be obtained quite easily and is relatively cheap here and I found a used crockpot on Kijiji. I was sitting on the fence with regards to waxing but decided to give it a whirl after another forum member gave high marks with his experience. It appears that having a clean chain from the start is vital to achieving good and long-lasting results. We'll see. If it's any consolation, I didn't break the bank doing so. Look forward to your feedback with regards to Silca SS. :)
Yes, SUPER clean chain facilitates the adherence to the metal surfaces, from what I've read.
Currently I'm using a degreaser followed by a detergent wash, blown dry by compressed air, and then enough agitated washes in 99% alcohol until the solvent is clean and so is a white rag on the chain.
 

Lectric Bill

Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, CA
Update on my experience with the Silca lubricant.

TL;DR: I used it and I like it.

I've put 114 miles on the chain since cleaning it thoroughly and applying Silca Super Secret Chain Lube out of a squeeze bottle and "massaging it in" as their video directed.
I probably could have gone longer, but I started to notice a tiny bit of chain/sprocket noise that wasn't there for the last hundred miles.
The chain still shifts wonderfully.

My routine was to to quickly wipe down the chain with a dry rag after most rides, just to get any loose wax or road grime off the chain.
This may be totally unnecessary, because, really, the chain remained quite clean throughout the period. But I like doing routine stuff!

One time only, during the hundred miles, did I add some Silca lube from their small squeeze bottle after a long ride and let it dry 24 hours, as directed, until my next day's ride.

Today, I put on another chain, this one has been soaked in their 350 ml of lube-in-a-jar and hung up to dry thoroughly. I'll see how this one fares by comparison to the drip-on method.

My next step, just to try it out, is to purchase Silca's wax/tungsten disulfide grains to use for hot wax dipping. In an email, they advised that hot-dipping gets better penetration. I'll post back here if I notice any differences.

Since I have 3 bike chains, I'm thinking my routine will probably settle in around cleaning all 3 at once, hot waxing all 3 at once, and rotating them onto the drivetrain every 100 miles or so, unless the hot-dipped ones last longer. I'll also experiment with how much periodically adding the liquid Silca lube extends the interval between cleaning and dipping.

Using (and reusing) a Wippermann Connex Chain Link really makes removing and replacing the chain easy. No tools necessary.

Bottom line: I like the performance of the drive chain and, especially, its cleanliness (no grinding paste!) enough to go through this process. Thoroughly cleaning the chain(s) is the most hassle of this approach. Doing three at a time seems to offer a good return on the labor investment.

Hot-dipping the chain doesn't seem it would be much more of a bother than soaking it in their tub of lube. And soaking it should give much better results than applying the liquid directly on the chain. There is much more wax on the chain I put on today and it's running totally silently. To be continued...
 

Jens5

Member
At the risk of starting yet another chain lube thread war, I'd like to report on my first week of using this stuff:

https://silca.cc/products/silca-super-secret-chain-lube

Disclaimer: I've got nothing to do with this company and paid for their product (dearly) out of my own pocket.

I started with a new Shimano chain and spent an amazing amount of time getting ALL the preservative grease out of the chain, since Silca says their lube needs a VERY clean chain.
So, two shake-in-jar washes with a water-based degreaser, followed by hot water and dish soap left the side plates still feeling greasy to my fingers. Then an agitated gasoline-in-jar treatment and blow dry with compressed air. A final rinse in 91% isopropyl alcohol left the solvent slightly dirty. Really?? Another alcohol wash came clean and NOTHING appeared on a clean white rag. I was taken aback by all my years of thinking I had actually cleaned my chains merely because they looked clean afterward. Not so much, I found out.

I also cleaned up the cassette, the derailleur/jockey wheels, and the front chain ring.

I soaked and agitated the super-clean chain in a jar of the Silca lubricant, let it drip back into the jar, and hung it up to dry for 24 hours per their instructions. I ended up with a chain that is clean and completely dry to the touch, runs silently, shifts superbly, and STAYS clean after 50 miles of street riding. I just wipe off the chain with an old bath towel after each ride. I'm done with oil. I plan on doing the cleaning and soaking when I can hear the chain. I don't know how far that is yet.

Basically you have a waxed chain without messing around with a stove. Their "super secret" added ingredient is nano-scale tungsten disulfide which, they claim, has less than 1/3 the dynamic coefficient of friction of PTFE and 1/4 that of Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2). They also say it can make a chain last several times longer than using other lubricants that attract dirt and end up with a grinding paste, no matter how often you clean and lubricate.

I'm thinking this may be the best approach for the problem of the shorter life span of drive chains on mid-drive e-bikes. It might even be cost effective, even with the steep cost of the lubricant. I went with the tub of the lube for soaking, plus the 4 oz. bottle for touchups.

Lastly, here's a review of the lube:

https://road.cc/content/review/silca-super-secret-chain-lube-277641
 

fooferdoggie

Well-Known Member
I got 3000 miles out of my chain using rock and roll lube about every 100 miles it was a Shimano 10 speed e bike chain.
 

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
As the OP, I'm glad this thread is getting attention and it's great to see all the alternatives people are successfully using.

For myself, I just crossed the 1,000 mile milestone on my Bafang Ultra powered bike (2,000 watts max). I measured my chain using the digital caliper method I described in the first post. Zero measurable wear! This is with the SRAM GX 12-speed chain, which I just replaced with the SRAM X01 chain since I put on a larger front chainring. If it matters, I'm using the NFS (NixFrixShun) lube. Have only cleaned the chain twice during those 1000 miles. Would have cleaned it again now if I wasn't replacing it.
I've done mostly on-road riding, but have done several (8-10) off-road rides in dust. No mud. Off road definitely requires more frequent chain cleaning.

For those of you thinking about buying a chain stretch measuring tool, Amazon is selling digital calipers for under $19 now. I highly recommend getting one of those instead of a dedicated chain stretch measuring tool, which is less accurate and almost all are simply go/no-go gauges that don't really tell you how much your chain has stretched, and are very conservative in their replacement reporting.
 

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Good point about using brake cleaner... I recommend using electrical contact cleaner that is safe on paint and plastic.

I don't understand, the spray cleaner I recommended in the first post here starts at $5, including shipping, from Amazon. It's purpose built to cleaning bike chains, works really well and is safe for paint and plastics. Why the need/desire to go with anything else?
 

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I do like the test methodologies at zerofrictioncycling!
I think it's an interesting data point, but it's not real world testing. Their test protocol doesn't contain abrupt starts that one would get on e-Bikes, especially those ridden off road, and speculation is that those abrupt starts might squeeze out some of the lubes from the contact areas more than other lubes. Of course, the problem with real world testing is that it's not repeatably uniform.

Also note that their PDF (linked above) claims that the lube that comes on the chain from the factory sucks.
• That is disputed by Shimano themselves: "The grease that comes on a Shimano chain is applied at the factory to the individual pieces before the chain is assembled. The grease does a better job of reducing friction than aftermarket chain lubes and it lasts longer. The main reason we use liquid chain lube, whether it is one that stays liquid or a dry lube that has a solid lubricant in a liquid carrier (like a PTFE lube) is because we need to get the lube on a part that is not accessible without disassembling the chain. So the best thing to do when installing a new chain is to leave the factory grease on, not apply any other lube, ride until it wears out and then start applying liquid chain lube."
Sheldon Brown also says to not remove it: "New chains come pre-lubricated with a grease-type lubricant which has been installed at the factory. This is an excellent lubricant, and has been made to permeate all of the internal interstices in the chain. The chain and this lubricant need to be warmed during application. This factory lube is superior to any lube that you can apply after the fact"
The one exception to note is if you ride in dirty conditions, where the sticky nature of the lube will attract dirt. But, as long as the dirt stays on the outside, it does no harm.

Finally, ZeroFrictionCycling's total cost analysis results will vary based on what drivetrain you're using. Some cassettes are more expensive than others - same for chainrings. Same for chains. One expense for SRAM chains with the wax method is that you have to remove the chain each time, which means buying a new Master Link each time. (At like $5 a pop).
 

Lectric Bill

Member
Region
USA
City
San Francisco, CA
.... One expense for SRAM chains with the wax method is that you have to remove the chain each time, which means buying a new Master Link each time. (At like $5 a pop).
So what do you think of the Wippermann Connex Chain Link? $26 and reusable, no tools required?
 

Sierratim

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Nevada City, CA & Paradise Valley, AZ
I think it's an interesting data point, but it's not real world testing. Their test protocol doesn't contain abrupt starts that one would get on e-Bikes, especially those ridden off road, and speculation is that those abrupt starts might squeeze out some of the lubes from the contact areas more than other lubes. Of course, the problem with real world testing is that it's not repeatably uniform.

Also note that their PDF (linked above) claims that the lube that comes on the chain from the factory sucks.
• That is disputed by Shimano themselves: "The grease that comes on a Shimano chain is applied at the factory to the individual pieces before the chain is assembled. The grease does a better job of reducing friction than aftermarket chain lubes and it lasts longer. The main reason we use liquid chain lube, whether it is one that stays liquid or a dry lube that has a solid lubricant in a liquid carrier (like a PTFE lube) is because we need to get the lube on a part that is not accessible without disassembling the chain. So the best thing to do when installing a new chain is to leave the factory grease on, not apply any other lube, ride until it wears out and then start applying liquid chain lube."
Sheldon Brown also says to not remove it: "New chains come pre-lubricated with a grease-type lubricant which has been installed at the factory. This is an excellent lubricant, and has been made to permeate all of the internal interstices in the chain. The chain and this lubricant need to be warmed during application. This factory lube is superior to any lube that you can apply after the fact"
The one exception to note is if you ride in dirty conditions, where the sticky nature of the lube will attract dirt. But, as long as the dirt stays on the outside, it does no harm.

Finally, ZeroFrictionCycling's total cost analysis results will vary based on what drivetrain you're using. Some cassettes are more expensive than others - same for chainrings. Same for chains. One expense for SRAM chains with the wax method is that you have to remove the chain each time, which means buying a new Master Link each time. (At like $5 a pop).
I certainly agree that there are no perfect test protocols for bike chains, but as far as I've read Zero Friction's methodologies are some of the most thorough and repeatable.

FWIW, my personal experience is also that the chain factory grease if fine. I run with it until it's time for a cleaning. So yes, I don't go along with everything that Zero Friction publishes, but I haven't found better testing.
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
I don't understand, the spray cleaner I recommended in the first post here starts at $5, including shipping, from Amazon.
It's purpose built to cleaning bike chains, works really well and is safe for paint and plastics. Why the need/desire to go with anything else?
Another member mentioned using Brake Cleaner and I cautioned against it as it can also remove paint! ;)

Anyone tried Brake Cleaner for a car, to clean their bicycle chain? You'd need to take the chain off the bike because brake cleaner destroys paint.
It is $5 a can, aerosol, and comes with a spray tube. It will leave the chain squeaky clean and ready for your favorite lube.
 

pmcdonald

Well-Known Member
White Lightning is crazy expensive here in Australia ($50 a can, mostly in delivery costs). It just doesn't seem to be stocked much locally. Any other alternative I should look for?
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
White Lightning is crazy expensive here in Australia ($50 a can, mostly in delivery costs). It just doesn't seem to be stocked much locally. Any other alternative I should look for?
I really like White Lightning Clean Streak as it evaporates and does not leave any residue. ;)

Amazon has it for $5 USD per can or you can get it with the integrated chain cleaner for $22.

AmazonSmile : White Lightning Clean Streak : Sports & Outdoors

AmazonSmile : White Lightning Trigger Bicycle Chain Cleaner with 12-Ounce Clean Streak : Bike Cleaners : Sports & Outdoors

1607807549713.png
 

pmcdonald

Well-Known Member

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I really like White Lightning Clean Streak as it evaporates and does not leave any residue. ;)

Amazon has it for $5 USD per can or you can get it with the integrated chain cleaner for $22.

AmazonSmile : White Lightning Clean Streak : Sports & Outdoors

AmazonSmile : White Lightning Trigger Bicycle Chain Cleaner with 12-Ounce Clean Streak : Bike Cleaners : Sports & Outdoors

View attachment 74060

Thanks. My first post in this thread was about using Clean Streak, but I didn't realize they made an attachment, which might make my original caveats about covering the area around the bike, etc. less important.
 

pmcdonald

Well-Known Member
There are 16 sellers on Amazon for this. Don't know if any of them are cheaper to Australia.
All with similar shipping costs. Weirdly there's no local stockists. All our regular bike degreasers seem to sit around the $30 - $40 mark. Which isn't a lot less than I paid for my chain.

There seems to be no end of contradictory advice on the bike forums regarding degreasers in terms of use (don't use them, they decay seals.. through to use them every few rides) and brand (everything from regular Wd40 through to specialised bike formulas).

Quite a few comments pointed to the use of citrus degreaser in bike workshops. I might give that a go.. It doesn't cost the earth to find here in AU and is readily available in supermarkets. (Added bonus: fragrant bouquet!) My chain gets pretty gunked up with our dusty and showery conditions of late.
 
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Sierratim

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Nevada City, CA & Paradise Valley, AZ
All with similar shipping costs. Weirdly there's no local stockists. All our regular bike degreasers seem to sit around the $30 - $40 mark. Which isn't a lot less than I paid for my chain.

There seems to be no end of contradictory advice on the bike forums regarding degreasers in terms of use (don't use them, they decay seals.. through to use them every few rides) and brand (everything from regular Wd40 through to specialised bike formulas).

Quite a few comments pointed to the use of citrus degreaser in bike workshops. I might give that a go.. It doesn't cost the earth to find here in AU and is readily available in supermarkets. (Added bonus: fragrant bouquet!) My chain gets pretty gunked up with our dusty and showery conditions of late.
We've been using a citrus degreaser in our home shop for close to 20 years now. Easy on the hands and very effective in dissolving bike 'grease'. To clean the chain on the bike we use a mechanical cleaner like the Park Tool CM 5.3 Chain Scrubber. Park Tool has a good video on this process HERE. After a very dusty or dirty ride I will wipe the chain down with a rag with some WD-40 poured on it. Otherwise I use the chain scrubber and orange degreaser every 250-300 miles and then apply a quality chain specific lube.