Monday, May 16, 2005

A clean chain is a happy chain

I've recently discovered the benefits of using a wax-based chain lube. In the past I've always used a conventional oil lube like Phil Tenacious Oil or a synthetic lube like Pedro's SynLube. They worked well and when I would consistently wipe the chain with an oily rag and re-lube, the chain stayed relatively clean. When I didn't spend the time to keep it clean, it became a black, oily mess. Anything that touched the chain would likewise become a black, oily mess.

We mostly use White Lightning at the shop. In the past when I've used it, I would see large chunks of a black, waxy substance on the chain, derailleur pulleys, cassette, and chainrings. This didn't seem like much of an improvement over the oil, so I stopped using it.

What I didn't realize, is that when one changes from an oil-based lube to the wax-based lube, there is an initial cleaning process that occurs. All the grit and dirt that is embedded in the chain works it's way to the surface and adheres to the wax, even with a “clean” chain. This dirt/wax mix must be cleaned off and the White Lightning re-applied. After a few applications, the chain becomes purged of most of this embedded grit and only periodic applications of White Lightning are needed.

I decided to make the switch a while back and after this initial cleaning period, my chain has remained surprisingly clean. I apply the White Lightning regularly, more frequently than the oil-based lubes of the past. It probably costs more, but the cost is minor compared to the benefits of having a clean drivechain. And a clean chain is a happy chain. It works more efficiently, and there is less buildup of gunk on the derailleur pulleys, cassette, and chainrings, a common cause of shifting problems.

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