The Squeak

chainOne of the first things a new cyclist learns is how to lube the chain. The advice often given is to lube it every month or so…or every 200 miles…or every third ride…heck, there are as many suggestions about lubing the chain as there are bikes, it seems.

I’ve adopted my own routine over the years. I lube it every two weeks. During that two-week period, I will have ridden anywhere from 100-250 miles.

That has served me well, but a few weeks ago, I was on a ride one Sunday morning when the chain started squeaking several miles into the ride.

This surprised me, because I had lubed it the previous week, so it wasn’t due for another treatment. I clenched my teeth as I saw the ride through to its finish (luckily, I was going only about 25 miles that morning), and went to work on the chain as soon as I got home.

I applied degreaser, cleaned that off, then lubed the top of the chain. Then I lubed the bottom of the chain, and let the whole works sit overnight so the lube could penetrate.

The next morning, I grabbed a rag and wiped off the excess lube. When I took the bike out on an after-work ride the next afternoon, the drivetrain was perfectly quiet.

Imagine my surprise the next weekend then, when it started squeaking again. I repeated the work of the previous weekend.

After that week in England, I couldn’t wait to get out for another ride. The Saturday spin was great, but on Sunday, the squeak returned.

I recently replaced a rather viscous wet lube I’d been using with a thin wet lube. I’m tempted to try a dry lube, but we’ve had some decent rains around here lately, and I was caught in a shower on today’s ride. So I think I’ll wait until we get into the middle of summer when our prolonged drought returns in earnest.

Beyond that, I’m baffled as to why my chain should suddenly start squeaking. Any ideas?

Sticky Shifting, Gummy Lube

Loyal Bike Noob readers might remember a post from last summer, when I complained about an inability to shift from the big chainring to the small one. The diagnosis: I sweat too much, and all that sweat dripping off my brow gummed up the pivot points on my front derailleur. My bike mechanic used some penetrating oil to free it up, and I was able to shift down again.

I noticed with the onset of cold weather that the problem is back. Nowhere near as serious as it was in the summer. Now, when I press the finger trigger on the left shifter to go from the big ring to the small one, the trigger moves, but doesn’t engage, and I don’t shift.

It’s chilly. I don’t sweat.

But, I decided to lube the pivot points again and see if it helped. Ever notice how things often work well in the garage, but once you’re out on the road, not so much? Yeah, that’s what happened here.

I’d be out on the road, and just before shifting to the small ring, I would test the trigger. If it met any resistance, I knew it would shift. Most of the time, it didn’t, and I’d have to press it again and again.

I concluded that the lube I used was just too viscous. When I got a bottle of some really light oil, my problem almost went away.

What kind of lube do you prefer? The stuff I had been using is Finish Line Wet. The stuff I switched to is Purple Extreme. I prefer the light stuff for lubing the chain, too, and not just my derailleur. I’ve got a new favorite lube.

It’s supposed to warm up to 78 (25C) here on Saturday, so this might just be a moot point, anyway.


Letting Maintenance Slide

I was looking forward to this morning’s ride. It would be my longest since the crash last weekend, and while I knew my hip would be able to handle it, I still craved some longer than usual road time.

I went through my usual procedures prior to a ride, topped off the air in my tires, and pulled out of the driveway. And about a mile down the road, it hit me — I hadn’t lubed my chain.

bike-chain-lube-162f48Now, I’m pretty good about doing that. I try to lube it once every two weeks. But there are times when it just doesn’t get done. This time around, I think it’s been about a month.

My problem is, I’ve never really set a routine for maintenance of the bike. Often, I’ll grab a few stray minutes before the Sunday morning club ride and run the chain through a rag, then apply the lube. What I really need to do is set a time, like Saturday afternoon, where I give the bike more attention than just the chain.

Besides the chain, the bike could use a thorough washing. Last week’s wet weather left lots of grime on the wheels and tubes, and while I flicked a towel over them to get the worst of the gunk off, I can’t honestly call my bike clean right now.

Luckily, my indifferent maintenance hasn’t caused any problems yet. The bike performed well on today’s ride. Okay, sometimes the shifts weren’t as smooth as they could be. But overall, I’m satisfied with the way things are. They just can’t keep going along this way.

It looks like we’ll be having nice weather for the rest of the week. I’m sure some day I’ll set aside an hour and give my bike the kind of attention it deserves.

Chain Lube – Wet or Dry?

While recovering from my knee problem, I have been cycling vicariously by reading others’ ride reports. But I had to do something biking-related, so I got out today and did a little bike maintenance.

The day was overcast and misty, so I kept the bike in the garage. It needed a good wipedown from the dirty conditions it had been subjected to recently, so I put it on its stand, pulled off the wheels, and went at it.

Then, I figured I’d lube the chains on both my and my wife’s bikes.

As I was wiping the grime off my chain, I recalled a question that had been sent by email a while ago. It asked, “What kind of chain lube should I use? Wet or dry? Is one better than the other?

That’s a question I’d never given any thought.

I use the lube I use because about a year ago, my wife was at the bike shop, and asked about it. The mechanic recommended a brand called Tri-Flow. It’s a light viscosity wet lube.

A wet lube goes on wet and stays wet. It’s recommended that it be applied link by link (mine comes with a little plastic straw that makes it easy to do). Then, let it soak in for a few minutes, and wipe off the excess.

If you’re going to ride in wet conditions — spring in most places — wet lube is good at keeping water from getting into the chain and causing rust. It’s disadvantage is that if the riding is dry, it can attract dirt. It’s always wise to wipe off the outside of the chain before a dry weather ride to minimize the buildup of grit and grime on the chain.

Dry lubes also go on wet. But as the name implies, they penetrate the chain, then dry out. That makes dry lube a good choice for riding in dry conditions — even if the road goes through some dusty areas. The dry lube will not attract dirt, and will not quickly gunk up. That could mean a longer-lasting chain, because the grit in the dirt won’t be grinding against the links. But dry lubes don’t last long in wet conditions.

And don’t forget wax lubes. These also go on wet, but dries to a hard waxy substance. Dirt won’t stick to the wax, and even if it does, the wax naturally flakes off, taking the dirt with it. You don’t have to clean your chain if you use a wax lube. But you do have to apply the lube frequently, maybe as frequently as every 50 miles. and they’re not good in wet conditions.

So I guess what lube you use depends on your local riding conditions. I’ve had good luck with the wet lube year-round. I apply it every two weeks or so, whether the weather is wet or dry. I’ve got a smooth-shifting chain. What more could I want?