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#3974703 - 01/10/16 12:59 PM Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube.
BalorNG Offline

Registered: 01/05/16
Posts: 13
Loc: Russia
Had anyone tried to use vast accumulated knowledge about lubes, EP/AW additives and tried to formulated the ultimate bike lube?

Here is my take:

First, if you are using your bike somewhere else than sparkling clean tarmac - forget about wet lubes.

I've an amateur, but rather dedicated cyclist, my yearly average is about 10 000 kilometers.
Year before I've been using a host of recommended lubes, including Finish Line ceramic wet and Chain-L, highly recommended chain oil on MTBR. I usually only lube after cleaning the chain off-bike in a bottle of solvent.
Lifetime of chains until 1% 'elongation' - about 2k kilometres, give or take. I cycle about 50/50 tarmac (not exactly clean) and dusty cross-country trails.

in 2015 I've made a switch to paraffin after getting an RWD recumbent and reading about good experience with it on Bentrider and Velonews article, that called paraffin 'the fastest lube'.

While I cannot verify the 'efficiency' claims, this year I've cycled about 6.5k on two KMC x10.93 chains (same as those I've been using last year, both them 'in bulk'), rotating them at equal internals.
No solvent washing, no careful lubing - only dunk into liquid paraffin, agitate, remove, cool, on the bike it goes.

Nether chain is even remotely close to 0.75 mark on my chain wear indicator (pretty good one despite being cheap - 'bike hand').

It is not surprising for road chains used in very clean condition to see thousands of miles of use before critical wear, same with MTB chains that are cleaned VERY meticulously before each lube (but it requires way too much hassle), btw.

So, paraffin DOES work and I'm am a convert. However, I am aware that typical 'household' paraffin is a marginal lubricant indeed - once it cools it is brittle, does not stick to metal very well, hence only stays inside the pin/roller interface for a reasonable time (and only as a very fine film). Pretty soon after application it begins to rattle a bit - it is not a high-pitched noise of metal-on-metal friction, but links hitting chain teeth with no oil damping the impact. It does little else than make cycling easier on the ears, though.

If you cycle in the rain on a paraffin-lubed chain even for a relatively short time, it would start to rust and squick pretty quickly.

By the way, applying a solution of wax as most 'dry' lubes is NOT a good idea, because lubing it on the bike would drive the surface dirt into the rollers and trap it there, negating all the benefits of paraffin. This is why, I guess, 'dry lubes' are not as good as pure paraffin 'hot bath'.

So, I'm trying to formulate a bike lube that would combine the cleanness of dry paraffin lube and lubrication/rust inhibition of wet lubes.

Such thing actually exists, it is called Kluber SK11-299, 'a lubricating wax based on wax-like hydrocarbons and a synthetic hydrocarbon oil. It protects reliably against wear, shows excellent adhesion and is extremely resistant to water, thus providing excellent corrosion protection also when in contact with water. Once applied to the component surface, the lubricant leaves a “quasi-dry” non-tacky lubricant film.'

They are claiming as far as !'lifetime'! duration of their lube on the chain (in case of 'non-extreme conditions').

Unfortunately, this seems to be sold only in industrial quantities and corporate clients, and I don't feel like opening a business of buying it and relabelling it as an 'ultimate bike chain lube', heh.

So, I've decided to replicate, or even improve it.

What I've found so far:

After reading about 'a mix of hydrocarbon waxes', I've begun reading what kinds of paraffins are there. Well, it seems there is a very interesting type of paraffin wax called 'micro-crystalline' wax that, while having higher meltpoint, is tackier and more pliable than 'regular' paraffin, and adding some to the mix would very favourably alter the physical properties of regular, cheap&plentiful variety. It is relatively expensive and not that easy to obtain, but doable.

Next, 'synthetic oil'. Well, likely some sort of cheaper, higher-refined mineral oil that is usual called 'synthetic' nowadays. I highly doubt that it has any 'esters' in it.

But after learning about strange and wonderful world of natural and synthetic esters, I've began to research them further, and stumbled first upon the article about esters in lubrication, than this forum, where I've learned more than I hoped for, including how 'hydrodynamic' and 'boundary' lubrication works, trilogy articles about 'EP/AW' additives, their synergistic effects and limitations, etc.

That got me thinking again, mainly:

1. Due to high-load (relatively to their size)/low speed of bike chains, they are, very likely, NOT hydro-dynamically lubricated. The fact that bike lube immediately turns black with metal particles also 'hints' it.
2. Would EP/AW oil additives work in conditions that chain runs in? It is not a hot motor or gearbox, and most EP/AW additives are activated by temperature.

MoS additves do sound nice, but are very sensitive to presence of water as I've read. Ceramic nanoparticles seems promising, but would they 'work' in bike chain environment? There are bike lubes with that stuff, but due to total lack of any laboratory wear tests I know about - their presence might be only good for marketing purposes.

And, most importantly, all that must work when suspended in hardened mixture of paraffin waxes, with no renewable supply of additives from an oil bath - because otherwise liquid oil will trap sand and dust, it would get sucked into the rollers and no amount of AP/EW additives would outweigh the resulting silicon dioxide grinding paste.

So, if anyone can recommend readily obtainable additives that might work in such conditions - I'd be very glad to hear about it.

Edited by BalorNG (01/10/16 01:04 PM)

#3974752 - 01/10/16 01:35 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
Trotter Offline

Registered: 07/23/15
Posts: 50
You need to get yourself a girlfriend... OT

#3974777 - 01/10/16 01:47 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
AZjeff Online   content

Registered: 01/14/11
Posts: 2656
Loc: PV Az
86 Samurai 1.3 leftovers
14 RAV4 2.5 5W-20 PP *gasp*
16 Silverado 1500 4.3 Ecotec3, DI, AFM 5W-30 PP

Why know when you can guess?!

#3974788 - 01/10/16 01:53 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: Trotter]
CT8 Offline

Registered: 10/09/14
Posts: 11018
Loc: Idaho
Originally Posted By: Trotter
You need to get yourself a girlfriend... OT
When you are hard core into cycling you have no need for a girl friend. ! Years ago I would remove the chain then put the chain into a double boiler pan with melted wax for about a hour an hour. The chain would get hot and the wax would get into the chain. The chain would loosen up with in a mile of riding and would last a long time. Now I just spray the chain with dry lube and call it done. link
"Don't let your preconceived notions get in the way of facts."
Geoff Metcalf

#3974799 - 01/10/16 02:05 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: Trotter]
BalorNG Offline

Registered: 01/05/16
Posts: 13
Loc: Russia
Erm, while my private life is offtopic here, I already have a girlfriend, she also is a cyclist and is very interested in results of my research smile.

Anyway, if anyone can, with reasonable certainty, name a lube that would extend a life a typical multispeed (9-10 speed in my case) chain beyond 6 thousand miles when used offroad (that would be from zero to 1% elongation, tested with a proper chain tool or a reference chain), I'd be glad to hear about those.

#3974805 - 01/10/16 02:12 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: AZjeff]
BalorNG Offline

Registered: 01/05/16
Posts: 13
Loc: Russia
I am familiar with existing formulations, there is also Muc-off, Pedros, etc. Based on reviews, they are reasonably clean, but do not seem to extend chain life as much as simple paraffin hot bath.
If anyone can provide me with statistics - I'll be glad to hear.

I'm reasonably powerful and heavy rider - FTP of about 330s, weight of 220 pounds, btw, that might explain why my 'conventionally lubed' chains do not live that long.

But paraffin bath extends the life of a chain 3x at the very least.

#3974821 - 01/10/16 02:19 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
Shrubitup Offline

Registered: 05/07/15
Posts: 643
Loc: Seattle WA
Done really well with WD-40 here.

#3974832 - 01/10/16 02:30 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: Shrubitup]
BalorNG Offline

Registered: 01/05/16
Posts: 13
Loc: Russia
Yea, I've read about experiments with WD-lubricated chains. They are similar to paraffin in that regard, except for method of application and the fact that it is mostly for rust-proofing.

Otherwise the chain runs noisy yet clean and longevity is much better than that of traditional wet lubes. The fact that paraffin and WD works so well is a proof that it is better to run your chain completely unlubricated than wet-lubed - because even no lubrication is preferable to grinding paste.

Yet I want 'the best of both worlds'. I think that chain that is both clean, well-lubricated and made of decent materials should last a VERY long time, perhaps tens of thousands of miles - at least that is how chains that are well-designed for the loads and chain-bath lubricated work.
I doubt that I can achieve that, not with a multispeed chain with no chainguard, but something similar might be possible.

#3974862 - 01/10/16 02:56 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
totegoat Offline

Registered: 12/21/11
Posts: 1262
Loc: Ca
I spray WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone on a clean rag and spray/wipe the chain a few times.

Easy, clean, and seems to last for many miles.

#3974870 - 01/10/16 03:00 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: totegoat]
BalorNG Offline

Registered: 01/05/16
Posts: 13
Loc: Russia
Ok, but how long does you chain last to 1% elongation?
Without concrete numbers this is not really useful - finish line ceramic and chain-L did last a very long time, did not pick up a lot of mud when carefully applied and wiped off, but still my all my chains were dead in less than 2 thousand miles, while paraffin, while noisy, makes chains last 3x times more at the very least.

Edited by BalorNG (01/10/16 03:10 PM)

#3974899 - 01/10/16 03:24 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
Trotter Offline

Registered: 07/23/15
Posts: 50
3 in one oil... It's not rocket science...

#3974913 - 01/10/16 03:37 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
Atesz792 Offline

Registered: 10/27/14
Posts: 291
Loc: European Union
You could substitute paraffin with some heavy monograde engine oil, like motorcycle owner's manuals suggest. Something like SAE40 or SAE50. Readily available, cheap, recommended by OEM's...
2004 Suzuki GS500F
2006 Renault Mégane 1.5 dci

#3974948 - 01/10/16 04:04 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
The_Eric Offline

Registered: 03/31/10
Posts: 5354
Loc: Iowa
This is just spit balling here... What about taking conventional, readily available paraffin, melting it and then mixing in a low percentage of a liquid lubricant or even a thin EP laden grease?

EDIT: Either in addition too or instead of, maybe some teflon?

Edited by The_Eric (01/10/16 04:12 PM)
2005 Lincoln Aviator 4.6 DOHC
2000 Honda Accord 2.3
2001 Hyundai Elantra 2.0
1979 Ford F-150 351M

#3975024 - 01/10/16 05:19 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
Dyusik Offline

Registered: 09/26/14
Posts: 1984
Loc: US-WA
With all the respect to OCD sufferers, as I am one, this is very unnecessary. I just use a plain ol Lucas chain lube in a aerosol. It comes out runny as water (probably a solvent in it), creeps into the cracks and thickens beyond any grease I have ever seen. The only problem with this Lucas stuff I can't get it off easily, takes forever. I'll try carb cleaner and some gasoline next time, maybe it'll work.
The reason why I don't worry about the chain is because I've seen guys that put dozens of thousands of miles using plain WD40, nothing else. Chains seem fine, so if no lube is ok, than plain jane lube should be fine. The $12 can of lube is still half full, and it's been over 5k miles. One less headache for me.
95 Cherokee 190K DELO 10W30,XG8
07 IS250 97K FB ?w??,FULL
04 YZF-R1 19K DELO 15w40,XG7317
99 HD XL1200S 18K VR1 20w50,1515
14 RX450h 30k PP 0w20,NAPAG

#3975152 - 01/10/16 07:38 PM Re: Formulating the ultimate bike chain lube. [Re: BalorNG]
NYEngineer Offline

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 1574
Loc: NY, NY
I used to use all of the fancy prepackaged chain lubes. I've settled on Phil Wood Tenacious Oil. It's messy and time consuming to oil the chain correctly but I gotta say, it works really well. I use it on my 29er and my fat bike but not my Dahon. I still use a dry lube for that since I bring it on the rail road and don't want to get anyone dirty if I can help it.

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