Chain lubrication, the balance of pros versus cons

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
This isn't a claim for all / general, but for my transport fixed gear used in all conditions.
Now empirically proved: lubrication makes my chains wear faster.

What is (was) my lubrication: when chain clean (so mostly blinking steel - no black), I put a drop oil on every roller, and after oil seeped in, I regularly wipe the external of the chain off. Shortly after, I have to re tension the chain, indicating that the chain became longer.
This also occurs after a heavy rain.
It is like ANY fluid causes the chain the become longer.
This suggests that fluid makes mobile and so pushes out dirt / worn off particles from the joints, and that these particles, when dry, STAY, and thereby PREVENT the chain to become longer - apparently the pedaling force isn't enough to push them out / overcome the friction that hampers their movement.

My second-last chain replacement was in later 2018. Unlike previously, I did well oil on it directly after mounting. Despite dry weather / clean roads, but maybe sand in the wind, I had to retension the chain quite alot after just a couple days.
So at my last chain replacement, with a new tryout being a motorcycle type 420, begin 2020, I decided to NOT oil it.
But the first rainy day, two weeks later, delivered a rusty chain, because the motorcycle chain wasn't factory oiled, it was some white more viscous grease. So I was forced to oil it, and soon after, retension it, and so on. Every lubrication ment shortly after a retensioning.

Now 3 months ago, I finally found a solution to stop rain from getting on the chain. Due to lack of frame clearance and no mounting for it, a common bike chain guard/enclosed case isn't possible. I found the solution (as usual) in a garbage bin from prefab building construction: a rubber seal with a cross section that looks like a ring with 3 subsequently smaller horizontal lines. These seals are normally rubberglued in sleeves in the concrete of prefab elements, and are ment as water seals between different elements placed next to eachother.
As rurnt out, it proved as doing the job well to direct rain away from the chain.
That is because rain dripping on the circle of the cross section, flows aside and down, where a part of it already leaves, with each time a part of the remaining water that does flow further towards the chain, directed away by the subsequent horizontal lines.
This rubber kinda "tube" protrudes 20 cm before the front of the chainring, so rain is already catched there.

At the same time, I ceased to lubricate the chain. So I'm now riding 3 months with an unlubricated chain, dry bare blinking metal. The chain is in the running since about 18 months, with the bottom bracket eccenter tensioner 3 months ago at about 85% of its range, and now with little difference to that.

I'm sure that if I would now throw a bucket water on it, and then ride some streets, that the tensioner would sit at 100%.
Is this surprising?
Until now it was, for me.
But this empirical proof, and the fact that some (quite more expensive) motorcycle chains have shaped seal rings between the chain link components, keeping out dirt, but also lock up worn off particles, say the opposite about lubrication.

I will probably have a chain replacement now triggered by a broken off cog tooth - those became quite short.
I'll put another such motorcycle one (a Regina 420, an improved version), and rely on that white grease alone. With the rain cover, this is now an option. No oil anymore.
And see what effect it gives on the chains life length.

I will, as usual, keep you informed and entertained.
This was Robbie Williams, born entertainer, live from Belgium. :biggrin:
 

raleighnut

Legendary Member
This isn't a claim for all / general, but for my transport fixed gear used in all conditions.
Now empirically proved: lubrication makes my chains wear faster.

What is (was) my lubrication: when chain clean (so mostly blinking steel - no black), I put a drop oil on every roller, and after oil seeped in, I regularly wipe the external of the chain off. Shortly after, I have to re tension the chain, indicating that the chain became longer.
This also occurs after a heavy rain.
It is like ANY fluid causes the chain the become longer.
This suggests that fluid makes mobile and so pushes out dirt / worn off particles from the joints, and that these particles, when dry, STAY, and thereby PREVENT the chain to become longer - apparently the pedaling force isn't enough to push them out / overcome the friction that hampers their movement.

My second-last chain replacement was in later 2018. Unlike previously, I did well oil on it directly after mounting. Despite dry weather / clean roads, but maybe sand in the wind, I had to retension the chain quite alot after just a couple days.
So at my last chain replacement, with a new tryout being a motorcycle type 420, begin 2020, I decided to NOT oil it.
But the first rainy day, two weeks later, delivered a rusty chain, because the motorcycle chain wasn't factory oiled, it was some white more viscous grease. So I was forced to oil it, and soon after, retension it, and so on. Every lubrication ment shortly after a retensioning.

Now 3 months ago, I finally found a solution to stop rain from getting on the chain. Due to lack of frame clearance and no mounting for it, a common bike chain guard/enclosed case isn't possible. I found the solution (as usual) in a garbage bin from prefab building construction: a rubber seal with a cross section that looks like a ring with 3 subsequently smaller horizontal lines. These seals are normally rubberglued in sleeves in the concrete of prefab elements, and are ment as water seals between different elements placed next to eachother.
As rurnt out, it proved as doing the job well to direct rain away from the chain.
That is because rain dripping on the circle of the cross section, flows aside and down, where a part of it already leaves, with each time a part of the remaining water that does flow further towards the chain, directed away by the subsequent horizontal lines.
This rubber kinda "tube" protrudes 20 cm before the front of the chainring, so rain is already catched there.

At the same time, I ceased to lubricate the chain. So I'm now riding 3 months with an unlubricated chain, dry bare blinking metal. The chain is in the running since about 18 months, with the bottom bracket eccenter tensioner 3 months ago at about 85% of its range, and now with little difference to that.

I'm sure that if I would now throw a bucket water on it, and then ride some streets, that the tensioner would sit at 100%.
Is this surprising?
Until now it was, for me.
But this empirical proof, and the fact that some (quite more expensive) motorcycle chains have shaped seal rings between the chain link components, keeping out dirt, but also lock up worn off particles, say the opposite about lubrication.

I will probably have a chain replacement now triggered by a broken off cog tooth - those became quite short.
I'll put another such motorcycle one (a Regina 420, an improved version), and rely on that white grease alone. With the rain cover, this is now an option. No oil anymore.
And see what effect it gives on the chains life length.

I will, as usual, keep you informed and entertained.
This was Robbie Williams, born entertainer, live from Belgium. :biggrin:
If you're running an SS bike then consider using a 'fully bushed' chain these are not suitable for derailleur systems and you need a perfect chainline but they'll last years

1626540391651.png
 
OP
silva

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
If you're running an SS bike then consider using a 'fully bushed' chain these are not suitable for derailleur systems and you need a perfect chainline but they'll last years

View attachment 599567
https://www.bikebandit.com/aftermar...e/chains/regina-420-oroy-series-chain/p/44588
Regina 420 OROY Series Chain is designed to withstand the severe conditions and stresses of off-road riding but can be used on some smaller street machines like moped and scooters up to 85cc. Extended bushings and solid rollers provide improved durability while larger diameter alloy carbon steel pins and thicker plates offer increased tensile strength. Includes clip type master link. Gold Color.
-Rated up to 85cc.
I purchased a lifetime stock of these in 2 batches, the last (of 20 pieces) was an opportunity price, about 30% cheaper.
Before (and I have some stock of those too) I used the Gusset Tank model, being a bicycle chain with extra thick side plates (of the 3/16" standard). As it now looks like, this motorcycle chain will outlast that Gusset Tank model so mission accomplished.

There is 1 little drawback, the larger diameter pin got jammed in my chain tool, I had to knock it back out. But I had luck: the pin is 3.97 mm, so I drilled out the tool towards 4 mm.

I could buy industry targeted chains, those are certainly better, but since their price tag is 3 to 4 x and I very doubt they will last at least 18 months multiplied by 3-4..
Also, like you said, such fully bushed chains need perfect chainline - they have nearly no sideways play like that. Since my chain tensioning system is a bottom bracket eccenter that has nothing to center it (it's on sight), that's all more time consuming / critical.

The bike is a fixed gear by the way.
 

DRM

Guru
Location
West Yorks
Only one thing causes chain elongation, the holes in the plates wear oval and the pins wear with a groove in them, therefore making the chain longer when under tension, unlubricated metals rubbing against each other wear themselves away quicker than those lubricated
 

raleighnut

Legendary Member
https://www.bikebandit.com/aftermar...e/chains/regina-420-oroy-series-chain/p/44588

I purchased a lifetime stock of these in 2 batches, the last (of 20 pieces) was an opportunity price, about 30% cheaper.
Before (and I have some stock of those too) I used the Gusset Tank model, being a bicycle chain with extra thick side plates (of the 3/16" standard). As it now looks like, this motorcycle chain will outlast that Gusset Tank model so mission accomplished.

There is 1 little drawback, the larger diameter pin got jammed in my chain tool, I had to knock it back out. But I had luck: the pin is 3.97 mm, so I drilled out the tool towards 4 mm.

I could buy industry targeted chains, those are certainly better, but since their price tag is 3 to 4 x and I very doubt they will last at least 18 months multiplied by 3-4..
Also, like you said, such fully bushed chains need perfect chainline - they have nearly no sideways play like that. Since my chain tensioning system is a bottom bracket eccenter that has nothing to center it (it's on sight), that's all more time consuming / critical.

The bike is a fixed gear by the way.
Original 1/2 X 3/16 inch chain. This is because metric equivalents, although having the same pitch has different size rollers which will not correctly seat into the sprockets and will very quickly knock the tops off the sprocket teeth.
 

SkipdiverJohn

Deplorable Brexiteer
Location
London
As I've implied before, if you're not efficiency obsessed, belt drive has a number of advantages over a chain for a single / hub bike. :okay:
It has one massive disadvantage though; you can't install it on any regular closed triangle frame designed for chain drive. Until someone designs a splittable drive belt that can be broken and reconnected just like a chain, the idea is just not going to fly.
 
OP
silva

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
Only one thing causes chain elongation, the holes in the plates wear oval and the pins wear with a groove in them, therefore making the chain longer when under tension, unlubricated metals rubbing against each other wear themselves away quicker than those lubricated
Yes.
Not sure why you now mention this, though.
Apparently even some dealers have it wrong, as the dealer of my previous set bikes claimed that the link plates get "stretched out", and that you can measure it.
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
Poshshire
You might want to look up what "empirically" means.

While I don't doubt your own experience, there are far too many variables that you have failed to eliminate to make it a remotely scientific proposition.

And then having done so, you need to do it again and again to demonstrate that the results are repeatable and not simply the result of some unaccounted for factor.
 
OP
silva

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
Original 1/2 X 3/16 inch chain. This is because metric equivalents, although having the same pitch has different size rollers which will not correctly seat into the sprockets and will very quickly knock the tops off the sprocket teeth.
I'm not sure what you are trying to say, you quote the webshop with this brand/model chain that I linked, but can't see why.

A type 420 motorcycle chain has:
- internal width 6.35 mm (that's 1/4" not 3/16")
- roller diameter 7.75 mm.
To be sure about the roller diameter, I used a vernier caliper on a spare bicycle chain, and passed the measurements to the motorcycle shop, that measured aboves Regina model, and confirmed it was the same.

The only thing that took me by surprise was the thicker pin. I didn't expect that, because if the roller diameter is the same, why would the pin not be, since for ex a thicker pin would imply a bigger internal roller diameter (aka "thinner" rollers).
But as I found out (when I made it on length the pin got jammed in my chain tool - had to hammer it back from the other side), and later on confirmed by tech specs, pins were thicker.

So far I didn't have knocked off sprocket teeth, they just wear towards sharkfin shape, and I flip the sprockets when I hear that the chain links struggle to disengage. So the teeth just become shorter, and this will probably continue until breaking or skipping, because in the end, the tops will start to wear off.
If I would not flip the sprockets, yes, it will likely be tops breaking off, since the chain rollers get more and more trapped "behind" the hooks, and there would be a moment that the fret out to above - underside will be so close to the teeths top that the metal breaks there.
 
OP
silva

silva

Senior Member
Location
Belgium
You might want to look up what "empirically" means.

While I don't doubt your own experience, there are far too many variables that you have failed to eliminate to make it a remotely scientific proposition.

And then having done so, you need to do it again and again to demonstrate that the results are repeatable and not simply the result of some unaccounted for factor.
"Empirically", that is, based on observations not computations etc, I thought?
Well, that is what I did.
This topic wasn't based on a first experience.
It was after a "so many times".

There was a time that I cleaned and oiled a chain when things looked ugly and ran rough.
Expecting to not have to retension for a longer while.
Wrong.
Everytime afterwards, and soon afterwards, I had.
The opposite of what I expected.

So I started to doubt.
And after so many times, I started to make a conclusion.
This topic, was that.

Not that I'm not open for other explanations than particles escaping the pin/bushings area due to fluid presence.
 

Ajax Bay

Guru
Location
East Devon
Only one thing causes chain elongation, the holes in the plates wear oval and the pins wear with a groove in them, therefore making the chain longer when under tension
So is that two things? Care to offer a link which explains that better (the first 'thing' not the second one - which I'm able to understand)?
 

DRM

Guru
Location
West Yorks
So is that two things? Care to offer a link which explains that better (the first 'thing' not the second one - which I'm able to understand)?
What’s not to understand, the side plate holes wear oval, (elongate) while the pin gets a groove worn in it (gets thinner ) this wear on the chains components makes the chain over it’s full length when tensioned, longer, until it reaches a point it needs changing, a lack of lubricant makes this occur quicker
 
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