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Friday
Oct252013

A different way to lube a chain

I was getting ready for the weekend when my wife and I are planning on getting some riding in. I was giving our bikes a thorough clean and checkup.

Both bikes have chains fitted with removable links. (Power Links. Pictured left.) I find the best way to remove these links is to place two thin screwdrivers, one on either side of the Power Link.

Hold the screwdrivers with one hand and then squeeze them together using a pair of pliers. (See Picture below. Right.) This will force the two halves of the link towards each other and they fall apart.

I clean the chain by placing it in a screw top jar about one third full of Lacquer Thinner, a pretty good solvent for removing grease.

Place the top on the jar and give it a good shake. Pull the chain out and wipe it dry with a rag, or a shop towel. Lacquer thinner evaporates quickly leaving the chain clean and dry.

I then found I was out of chain lube with time running short, no time to run to the store.

I have used regular motor oil before but it just leaves the chain a sticky mess that attracts dirt. Then I remembered, just this week I was mixing oil with gasoline to put in my leaf blower with a two-stroke engine.

Those not familiar with the workings of a two-stroke engine, the gas and oil mixture enters the engine via the lower part of the crank case. Oil has to be mixed with the gas to a ratio of 1 part oil to 16 parts gas, and is there to lubricate the piston and the crank bearings.

It occurred to me if an oil/gas mixture will lubricate a high speed engine, it would certainly lubricate a bicycle chain. I mixed about 1 part motor oil to 8 parts gas. Placed the mixture in the same screw top jar, dropped the chain in and let it soak for about 5 minutes, long enough for the mixture to penetrate inside to reach the pins and rollers.

I fished the chain out and wiped it down again with a shop towel. The mixture felt oily on my hands, so I figured the chain was well lubed. The gasoline would soon evaporate and leave the chain relatively dry, but with a film of oil between the plates, pins and rollers where it was needed.

Replacing the chain on the bike, I run the chain over the cassette, and around the rear derailleur pulleys. I place the front derailleur in the inner ring position. I don’t put the chain on the chainwheel but rather thread it over the bottom bracket shell, and through the front derailleur yoke.

I do this to allow extra slack in the chain, if I place the chain on the chainwheel I then have to fight the tension of the rear derailleur spring. I put a little lube on the two halves of the Power Link. Put each half of the link in either end of the chain, and link the two together, making sure the pins go in the big hole.

Next I hold the two pieces of the power link together between my left thumb and forefinger. I hold them as tight as I can to ensure the pins don’t slip out of the holes. I place the cranks horizontal with the chainwheel side crank forward. Still holding the link tight in my left hand, I reach behind the chainwheel with my right hand and lift the chain onto the inner chainring.

Don’t let go of the link yet, but push down hard on the right pedal. Hear the plates of the Power Link snap into place. (No tools needed this time.) Now I can let go and inspect the link to make sure the pins didn’t slip out, and the side plates of the link are snug in place like all the links in the rest of the chain.

I'm hoping the chain won’t attract a lot of dirt, and it shouldn’t because the oil is thinned down with the gasoline, and the outside of the chain looks clean. I may just use this method again because drippin oil from a bottle on every link is tedious and messy.

“Isn’t it dangerous to use gasoline like this?” Well yes, I wouldn’t recommend doing it in the living room, but outside, or in the garage with the door open. It is no more dangerous than mixing gas and oil and putting it in my leaf blower or lawn mower. I wouldn’t do that in the living room either.

 

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Reader Comments (18)

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your thorough post. Up till now, I was flip flopping whether to use the removable links for my Campy 10spd Veloce Ultra narrow 5.9mm chain. I run on a 2011 Campy Veloce 10spd groupset on my 1987 Marinoni. Is smooth shifting compromised using the removable links?

I want to do my own chain replacement and up to now have it serviced at the LBS (I want to save $) and I don't intend to buy the expensive Campy UTCN200 chain tool HD 10 spd.

happy riding and enjoying your blog,

Richard

October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Interesting approach as it is tedious to drop oil on every link. Let us know how it works over time.

October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Minding the fact that I've gotten away with it before knowing better, I'm not aware of any 10/11s master links that are considered reusable.

October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChamps

Park tools makes a handy tool to remove master links.
It's a MLP-1 and is available on Amazon.
Like most park tools, it's pretty well made but not cheap to buy.
Also I have founds that the wipperman connex masterlink is a lot easier to get on and off than most masterlinks. In fact no tools are normally needed. It's also available from Amazon, although is a little pricey in my opinion.

October 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJon Carr

Here is how I lubed chains when I was riding a lot. First, I had 2 chains per bike. I would clean the chain in a shallow pan of gasoline, moving it around with a brush. (Gasoline, because it was usually handy, but sometimes Varsol.) Then remove it and swing it around my head outside to throw off the solvent and dry it. I would then dip it in a container of chain saw oil, then hang it up to drain. By the time the chain on the bike was ready for cleaning and lube, I'd replace it with the chain that was hanging and repeat the procedure.

October 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

It's nice to know that someone else uses the same technique as I do to clean a chain. :)

To answer Richard's question: No. You will not notice the 'Power link' in your chain. I've used them for years on all my bikes, with no adverse effects. The shifting on my Campy 10spd drivetrain doesn't seem to be affected at all.

I've also used them on fixed-gear bikes without incident. They're not recommended for 'fixies' usually, because they can open if you use the drivetrain to stop the bike. I use brakes, so I don't have any issues using power linked chains.

Anyway, I like them. They make maintenance real easy.

October 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohann

Thx mucho for this! I've always had a little trouble removing power links, and this looks a lot easier than the method I've seen before with getting one slack link up onto the chainring and tapping it off.

Also as for chain lubes, more art than science I think. There are tons of homebrews out there, and anything that is (re)applied as needed will work. As for me I use Chain-L. It's not the cleanest, but it is I think the longest-lasting (between required applications, and best for chain life).

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

I also use the jar method to clean and lubricate. All my bicycles are 10 speed, so I always have one clean chain in a lubrication jar ready to be pulled out, wiped, and attached for business.

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

I have always preferred ATF (automatic transmission fluid) for chains.
It does not dry sticky like most oils do, and it is thin to start with.
I mix a little acetone with it to cut it further and then soak the chain.
I keep my spare chain in the can until I need it.
I second the vote for Wipperman Connex, easy to work with.

Amazing how all of us that have been riding a while have developed out own short cuts. Necessity ......

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdStainless

I know this is a bike blog, but 16:1 for two stroke? Holy cow, it must form a major smoke screen when that poor little engine splutters into life. In the old days it was 25:1 (a figure which Chinese manufacturers keep publishing) but two stroke oils are so much better now, especially the fully synthetic ones. I personally mix mine at 50:1 and have never had a problem over many years.

Neat idea for lubing your chain though, I'd be interested to hear how it worked out.

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

Lacquer thinner is some pretty toxic stuff, somewhat overkill for a greasy chain. Turpentine or paint thinner are better alternatives.

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

FYI, a friend was able to dig up the link to that other method I was mentioning to open a removable link:

http://www.ctc.org.uk/file/member/201107050_0.pdf

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

I use 1 part synthetic motor oil (Mobile 1) mixed with three parts paint thinner. Both cleans and lubes the chain. Works great and is cheap.

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRusty

Hi Dave,

interesting stuff and a great tip on using screwdrivers for the link., I mostly use 3in 1 as it is fairly thin to begin with and doesn't attract as much dirt as quick as some of the specific chain lubes, just have to be careful in the winter as it washes out quite easily when wet which I would imagine would be the case for many of the home brew lubes. I oil every link and wipe off the excess. Going to try Rusty's Mobile 1 brew.

If you will permit me to answer Richards question regarding the narrow Campag Veloce chain question: ( please delete if innapropriate)

Ensure you use the correct 10 speed master link for the chain, which won't compromise the shifting, 10 speed specific chain tools are available not at the stratospheric price of Campag, I use them on my marinoni's with 10 speed veloce, centaur, record, chorus combo's, all work great

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith. British Columbia

I usually clean my chains with either diesel fuel or mineral spirits (both are much less flammable and toxic than gasoline and lacquer thinner) I know its old school, but I also like to use 90 weight gear oil for the chain. (I love those chain-ring tattoos!)

October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTony

I'm with EdStainless and Tony.

Used to buy a very expensive chainlube for my motorcycles then figured out it was just ATF!

Diesel is a good chain cleaner, cheap and leaves a slight oil residue.

October 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGerry, British Columbia

I still use Linklyfe I have left over from my motorcycling days but it's a bit messy. I just had a look online and it seems you can't buy it now.

November 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

BBB makes an inexpensive ($10) set of chain pliers for removable links. Make sure you get the type with curves on both sides for both assembly and disassembly.

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/bbb-open-link-closing-link-tool-btl77/rp-prod47439

I use removable links on all my chains. I use KMC or SRAM links on Shimano, SRAM and KMC 10-spd chains all the time and KMC's specific Campy link as well on Campy 11-spd chains. I've never had a problem. I carry a spare as well.

I tend not to lube my chains until they appear dry and then I use a dry motorcycle chain spray lube. My experience has been that the worst thing for chains is grit, which wet lubes attract and turn into a grinding paste. If they do get dirty, then clean them off and start over.

I've never figured out why SRAM's "PowerLock" is officially single-use, while PowerLink is reusable.

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP

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