Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dirty Chain Hell


During the winter, I broke a shifter cable on my blue commuter -- the one with the yellow fenders. I took it in to my spacious and luxurious workshop for repairs. I also found the rear wheel was grinding and difficult to turn with my hands.

I wanted to ride to work the next day, so I resurrected the bike that has the political yard signs for fenders. That was several weeks ago.

Today, I got around to starting the necessary repairs on the blue bike. The chain and cassette are orange with rust. I removed the chain, cassette, rear derailleur, and crank for a thorough cleaning. Here's the point of this post: I soaked the parts in Simple Green. I read a few years ago, that some riders believe Simple Green causes chains to break. I thought those guys were nuts. How could something like that cause a chain to break? I've used Simple Green since the early '90s and had no problems. I worked at a shop that used it for everything. I even brushed my teeth with it.

I followed all the links I could find by searching in the rec.bicycles. and alt.bicycles. usenet groups. This led me to the simple conclusion that if metal is allowed to soak in a bath of Simple Green it may weaken. I've never left parts to soak in the stuff.

Here's a link to a usenet discussion that sums up the Simple Green topic nicely.

Here's a link to a few Velonews tech letters that are helpful.

My conclusion is that it's fine to use Simple Green, but don't soak your parts in it and rinse them thoroughly after cleaning.

I did that today and my laundry tub is a big mess, but my bike parts are very clean. I've just about reassembled the bike. I plan to install some nice riding, supple, fatso tires and ride that baby again soon.

Question 1: What do you use to clean your chain and parts?

I'm taking suggestions for fat, supple, nice riding 559 tires. I'd like 32 to 40 millimeters, please.

And I made the part up about brushing my teeth with Simple Green.

10 comments:

KM said...

The only thing I never do is soak the chain cause SG is water based. I like mineral spirits -- it is relatively odorless and it cleans grease really well.

this verdant country said...

I kinda like the orange bio-degreaser. If I was rich I'd get one of those steam and hot water parts washers.

How about just a 1.5" or 1.75" Pasela? Or better yet, Conti Top Touring 1.75"? (says the guy who has a secret stash of Conti Top Touring tires).

Pete said...

Simple Green also makes a damn fine bernaise sauce.

Snakebite said...

I like it with french fries.

Eclectchick said...

Ack! The teeth-brushing thing was so distracting! I read the whole blog with this he-doesn't-really-brush-his-teeth-with-it-does-he tape going thru my head.

Now that I can concentrate, I have to go read it again.

Jeff said...

Don't cringe, but I have a jug of kerosene that I have left over from my dirt bike riding days (I cleaned air filters with it). I pour some into a bucket, drop the chain in, put the lid on the bucket and shake. Almost all the grease and dirt comes off! I either rinse it again with water or just let it air dry. When I'm done, I pour the kerosene back in the jug, and the sediment sinks to the bottom. I have used simple green though...

Another application for simple green is BMX rims...the black painted rims. The paint is very slippery and makes it hard to lock up the back wheel. If you clean the rim with simple green, it leaves a sticky film behind, and enhances the braking power. Never done it on MTB's though...

rigtenzin said...

I'd like to try the citrus stuff, not for soaking, but just general bike cleaning. It might compliment the Simple Green smell. I try not to soak things anyway. I tend to forget they're soaking and accidentally spill the bucket.

I read it's OK to soak steel and plastic in Simple Green, but not aluminum or alloys.

V. Country: You have 1.75 Paselas? Wow! I hadn't seen that size.

Jeff: I have a story about kerosene. I'll try to post it. Do you ride motorcycles? I used to and have a strong urge to ride again.

Jeff said...

I don't ride motorcycles anymore. I did it for about 10 years, and had a blast. I got to see some remote back country that I would've otherwise never seen with other modes of transportation. Riding sand dunes is another experience I'll always cherish. However...I saw that it was not a sustainable sport. In the 10 years that I rode, I saw so much destruction from motorized OHVs! I just couldn't be part of the problem anymore. And then there's the whole petrol lifestyle I was trying to get out of. Cycles/Quads=trucks, trailers, oil, gas, etc. I hated maintaining and working on the cycles too.

To summarize, I have fond memories of dirt biking, but I don't think I could go back to it...

this verdant country said...

Ok, I mis-wrote. I have 1.5 Paselas. I have the Panaracer Urban Max in 1.5 and 1.75, but those might not be supple enough. I also have 2.0" Schwalbe Big Apples. Why don't they make 1.75 Paselas? They would be great.

Anonymous said...

Simple Green and Citrus degreasers will cut grease nicely, but need to be thoroughly rinsed, as both are water based. Any residue left in a chain will become active again when exposed to water, thus washing out any lube in the chain. Kerosene works, though most people dislike the smell. One advantage is that it is more compatible with most lubes. WD-40 also makes a good cleaner, and will not destroy petroleum based lubes. As a lubricant, WD-40 leaves almost everything to be desired, but it is a decent, relatively nontoxic, readily available solvent. Personally, I try to keep my drive train lubed in such a way that I don't need to clean it - It's one of my least favorite jobs. Val

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