Religious Wars

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Anonymous's picture

"For years been using White Lightning (ingredients: paraffin, naptha, calcium stearate?) ...

... and have been reasonably happy with it. Easy to apply. Not messy. Gets me through a rainy day. Gunk buildup on the derailleur idlers easy to wipe clean.

The routine is to remove chain (SRAM/ConnectX with Powerlink) about once a month, or after a particularly dirty ride. Soak it overnight in a coffee can with citrus cleaner. Rinse. Dry. Re-install chain. Re-lube. Thereafter a touchup lube before each club ride, or once a week on my commuter bike.

Purist comments that wax isn't a ""real"" lube notwithstanding, my chains seem to be performing well -- move smoothly through the drive chain, shift well and give a couple of years' life.


A few months ago, local shop was out of WL but they suggested Pedro's Ice Wax. [Hmm ... wax in a solution vs. wax in a solution ... ok.]

Nice applicator (nozzle half-wraps around the chain). Easy to apply. Thick and viscous (no drips on the floor).

Unfortunately, the IW gave much more worse gunk buildup on the idlers and, after a brief rain shower early in a ride, and it was ""squeak city"" for 50 miles. Next ... !


A trip to another bike shop in search of WL, where a salesperson persuaded me to try a *real* lube (vs. Manischewitz candles and Ivory Snow suspended in Zippo) ... ProGold ProLink. Since I knew it was a top-rated product, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Chain gets another citrus batch to get off the IW remnants and the PL goes on. First reaction was impressed ... applied easy ... chain shiny ... spun easier than I remembered with either wax lube. OK ... !

Bike performed *fine* in an 80 mile ride ... and I figured I'd put this one to bed ... except when I checked the chain after the ride. Found it totally embedded with bits of dirt and sand -- which never happened with either wax product. And this was an ordinary ride over paved roads and no rain.

Now if one could maintain a chain in a sterile environment, I'd be all about the oil-based product, but since the dirt/sand-mixed-with-oil is a de facto *abrasive*, the only reason I can see for a bicycle shop to recommend the stuff is to ... sell more chains.


Back to the local shop where I special-ordered a 32 ounce White Lightning ...

... and will suck the contents into an old 4 oz. bottle as needed for ease of application.


One could throw a clean chain in liquid paraffin, or try to mix up their own WL ...

But that's like making cranberry sauce from scratch. And, in theory, we're supposed to spend more time riding than cleaning.

Finally, at only $25 or so for a SRAM chain every couple of years, I'm not going to get to worked up about the expense, so long as I get decent performance without a lot of hassle.

All things being a compromise."

Anonymous's picture
RB (not verified)
citrus cleaner

What are you using for a citrus cleaner? The ones I've tried are too thick, and stay on the chain unless you wash them off (a step I'd like to avoid). I'd like to find one that's thin like water, and will just evaporate.
Thanks, Rob

BTW, I used white lightning for a few years, but then someone turned me on to Purple Extreme, and I have to say I've been liking it - it's clean, and lasts much longer than the white lightning did.

Anonymous's picture
Neile (not verified)
"""What are you using for a citrus cleaner?"""

ZeP. Home Depot on 23rd Street sells it for $10/gallon.

Coil chain into two circles. Fits right inside coffee can. Fill can to height of chain and add a tablespoon of water. Leave overnight. Jiggle occasionally if it helps you feel useful. Rinses out easy under faucet. Don't let the Powerlinks fall down the drain.

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
...Better than a coffee can is....

"Inasmuch as Neile's recommendation is citrus-based, it won't eat through plastic; therefore I recommend putting the chain in one of those round food containers some Chinese, deli, and, I suppose other restaurants use for food delivery.

Benefits: they are shallow--but easily deep enough for looping the chain and looping it on top of itself if, in your haste and sloth, you do so you can get to the chain more easily (the one I have in mind is 2"" deep with a 7 3/4"" diameter) and they come with a sealable top so you can shake well."

Anonymous's picture
Neile (not verified)

"""Better than a coffee can is ...""

Thank you Cousin Wheel, but from the threadbare response, it seems such exhortations are lost upon the brethren. The flock has scattered and no shepherd nor dog nor Babe nor freemartin shall pen them.

Old Testament adherents, so set in their ways, will countenance no ointment that does not verifiably emanate from the Holy Land (or a Rivendell Catalogue).

The New Testament folk will permit no administration unless performed by a priest.

The god-less Technorati futilely purchase one Rube Goldberg washing device after another ... ANYTHING ... to avoid removing the chain from the bike.

New Age types, mindful of their responsibility as stewards of the environment, but oblivious to the olfactive consequences, reject all non-degradable solutions and simply bury the links in a compost heap.

Finally, there are those so Self-Imbued and Prideful who are adamant, given the ungodly cost of their conveyances, that the chain anoint itself!

It is probably best that we accept we've done what we can and move on.

We can only hope that, come the Rapture, those Left Behind will have left a gap in the paceline for when we are spirited (chamois-less) to our reward -- eternal car-free tours of the Pyrenees guided by Elefantino."

Anonymous's picture
josh (not verified)
the right mix

I only use organic vegetable oil and lime juice and after 200 miles put the chain in a daiquiri.

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
regarding totally embedded with bits of dirt and sand

Per the directions, try wiping down the chain completely, removing as much oil residue as possible. Lube only matters where it can't be reached - between the chain's plates, pins and rollers.

My drive train is quite clean using an oil based lube and I get about 3xs the amount of mileage between lubes then when using White Ligtning, without the waxy build-up mess. The oil based lube you mention cleans the chain itself as well while lubing the chain. Much time is saved and that's priceless.

Anonymous's picture
Neile (not verified)

""" Lube only matters where it can't be reached - between the chain's plates, pins and rollers.""

My lubrication procedure is pretty universal, I turn the bike on it's back and drip the lube on the chain while turning the crank. I don't have much more precision than that. I wiped the chain clean after application but it was still dirty-gritty after the ride.

And while there's no way of knowing whether the grit had migrated from the outside plates of the chain to the ""private"" parts, there's also no way of knowing if it hadn't. It certainly felt rougher.

Thread title notwithstanding, I don't track these things religiously, but I figure I do 2.5-3K miles/year on my IF road bike and I've had the current chain on it for about three years.

Further, I think the ease/frequency/thoroughness of cleaning to be at least as critical as whether one opts for a petroleum or wax-based lube."

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)

Dripping-on the lube is wasteful and messy. Instead, just add a drop to each link.

I'm assuming you are riding your IF road bike in places other than the beach. That's still an indication that you have too much residual lube left on your chain. If need be, do another quick chain wipe down after the first post-lube ride.

I get 3K+ miles out of a chain easily using a lube consisting of mixing plain ol' motor oil with odorless mineral spirits (which is thought to be ProLink's secret formula).

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

"My experience is close to yours. I would suggest using Clean Streak to clean the chain. It's made by White Lightning. No need to remove the chain– just spray, wipe, relube.

I have a Park chain wear gauge. I've got several years on my chain and it still comes up as ""new"" on the gauge."

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