Bike Maintenance — Five Drops of Oil or One?

Health

bike-maintenance

In September, I put on a new chain. After just two weeks, it started showing rust. Yes, I do lockup outside. But the rust would come even after dry, sun-baked weather. What the hell?

The rust does come off easily. But I found myself having to lube five times a month. Uh, no. I don’t love my bike that much.

So what caused the premature corrosion? Had my LBS (local bicycle shop) sold me an old chain that had been sitting on a back shelf for years? No. With the rust off, the steel plates gleam way too brightly for that scenario. I did switch brands of lubricant earlier in the year. Was that the problem? Couldn’t be — otherwise, my previous chain would’ve demo’d this problem, too.

I’ll cut to the chase. The problem was me.

Yep. I got lazy. Rather than my standard style of chain maintenance, in which I use a lot of oil, I started a new lubing regimen of only a single drop on each link. Just a single drop freed me from the interminable chore of wiping off excess oil. I hate having black, grimy fingers and a backache. With only a single drop per link, I could just wave a towel at my bike from ten feet away and call it done.

The question of “one single drop per link” versus five is a raging debate on the Web.

See: I didn't make it up. All these bike maintenance articles recommend "a single drop" of chain lube.

Countless expert bike maintenance articles recommend “a single drop” of chain lube.

My whole life I’d been in the five-drops camp. Why change now? I’ll tell you why: I’m pushing 50. Hunching over for ten minutes straight to wipe off excess oil is a young man’s game.

Or so I thought.

Using just a single drop may have saved me the initial headache of wiping the chain. But talk about penny wise, pound foolish. Lubing every five days easily tripled my chain-lubing work each month. Now I had this chore six times per month instead of once or twice. I got so tired of crouching down, I splurged on a $130 bike stand, so I could at least I could stand upright. But that meant hoisting my anchor-heavy, 1980’s, steel mountain bike onto the stand and fiddling it into the tricky clamp. And when the weather got too cold to do the work outside, I’d have to carry this beast of a bike (43 lbs. with full fenders and a rack) up two flights of stairs. Did I mention I’m forty-nine years old?

for chain lube blog post smaller

 

Plus, turns out the main reasons I switched to the single-drop method aren’t as persuasive after three months of all this hassle. Back in August, the single-drop advocates had me convinced with their seeming logic:

  • over-lubing creates part-destroying grime;
  • wiping a dirty chain drives grit from the surface to the interior and causes the chain to gnash on itself;
  • ignore this advice, risk a broken chain.

Well, people? I’ve tried it your way. It’s just not worth it. You might be right, my drive train might wear out faster. Or a broken link might strand me on a trail miles from nowhere.

But I don’t give a crap, anymore. I did care for a few months. Never, again.

(I’ve never in my life had a chain break on me. Have you?)

chain-broken-link

 

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