Sunday, 8 April 2012

Chain Guards, not pretty but effective

Given a relaxing Easter Sunday I was reading a few comments on various hot cycling blogs on the subject of chain wear and replacement (Yes I know...I really should try to get out more!). I have been riding my Pash for over 2 years in all weathers and through the long cold winter with the same chain, yet despite my concern that it must be wearing out and my best efforts to bugger the thing up, it refuses to die. This is the case despite a mileage during that time of at least 14,000 miles. Given all of that, the little steel darling has hardly elongated it a jot and my handy Birzmann Chain Checker still indicates I have not yet even reached the 75% wear limit upon which I normally change the chain. 

When I look at other websites this seems somewhat extraordinary! Despite all and sundry rabbiting on about Chain Stretch bicycle chains don't actually stretch like a piece of rubber. What happens is that the chain's pins actually go through a process of elongation over time, and taken across the whole length of the chain this leads to the chain getting slightly longer in length.

Now the hirsute Sheldon Brown, cycling God and guru in chief to the two wheeled cognoscenti, seems to be a bit of a fan of the chain guard, but even his best efforts at preserving his drivetrain seems to have fallen short of my story. Why should this be? Why does this chain of mine appear to go on and on...especially since I have forsaken the hairy north Americans advice and gone for synthetic motor oil as my lubricant of choice. This last admission is seen as an absolute NO-NO by his beardfulness....the very heresy of it makes me quake to think what the old Colonial's reaction should be if he ever gets wind of my foolishness. However I have a theory about lubricants, when in doubt try it out....given the millions spent by the motor industry to improve performance of engines and the loving care and attention lavished on the top marques surely they would not put anything in the heart of their automotive beasts that might cause it damage? 

My considered view is that synthetic motor oils are probably a damned sight better made than any rubbish pitched at us as specifically made for the bicycle...and a damn site cheaper! Synthetic oils are made to operate in extremes of temperature & engineered to deliver far superior mechanical and chemical effectiveness than conventional mineral oils.  In addition, they seek to lubricate far more complex drivetrains in an environment far tougher than any bicycle will encounter.

I actually think that not over molly coddling ones bicycle is the heart of the matter. Every three or four months I remove the chain case and use an old sock to run over the links as I wind the pedals round by hand. I then use a little, and I mean a little, synthetic motor oil on the chain and the Bobs is your uncle or Charlie is your aunt. This is the only maintenance my chain gets. To get any crud off the rear cog and the chain wheel I do almost the the same thing with another sock, disposing of said socks afterwards. This hardly seems much of an effort, and a damn site easier than the sort of stuff advocated by many North American websites that seem to have an overly complex view of bicycle maintenance urging us to take chain the off, bathe it in a balm of special chain cleaner (retailing at $87,000 dollars a bottle!), and then using Uncle Bobs Special Velo specific, lavender-scented, uber-organic, environmentally-friendly, whale-blubber-enriched, non-toxic chain-lube.... replace.

Perhaps the secret to the longevity of my chain is the fact that the old Pash is a beast that does its damnedest to keep the elements off the chain through the application of a simple but effective method...namely the chain guard. So if I get over 14,000 miles abusing the old drivetrain in my cavalier fashion....perhaps one of the worried cycling elite who always appear to be somewhat horrified that I treat my mount with such irreverence might reach the giddy heights of 24,000 before needing a replacement. Just one more reason to go for hub gears, get a real bicycle and dump the modern for a traditional and common sense alternative.

1 comment:

  1. Dear sir,

    Your blog is magnificent. I just discovered it last night and have read all your posts already. I hope you will continue to write about your biking adventures. They are witty and oh so funny.

    A reader from canada