After your tires the bike chain is the most used piece of equipment. A chain is as critical as the bearings in your wheels and bottom bracket, but it gets none of the protection. Keeping a chain clean and lubricated is a constant process. The main method of lubricating a bike chain is with grease and oil, and require almost constant work.
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Now that I am riding 4 or more times a week the maintenance of my bike has also increased. As you ride the dirt builds up in your chain. Wiping the chain with a rag simply pushes more dirt further into the links and rollers leading to more friction. Eventually you need to remove the chain and soak it in spirits to clean it.
When I was a kid I recall seeing chain wax in bike parts catalogs. Back then the idea of removing your chain that often was a scary proposition. Then a few years ago I saw this video:
Then this one came out just a few months ago with an improved process:
The idea of waxing a bike chain seems so bizarre at first glance that I dismissed it without additional thought. Fortunately those videos above explained it well enough that I had to give it a try. Now that we are back on the land I have all of my materials:
- Slow Cooker
- 1 lb Wax
- 1.5 oz PTFE/Teflon powder 1.6 microns or smaller
- Denatured Alcohol
- New Bike chain
When you get a new bike chain it is covered with a sticky film that almost everyone recommends you remove immediately. In this case we do 3 soaks in 3 spirits to strip it down to bare metal. The first step is to soak it in gasoline for 12 hours. Then soak it in de-greaser for 30 minutes. After rising the chain with water it gets soaked for 30 more minutes in the denatured alcohol.
As the final two soaks are started you can fire up the slow cooker and melt the wax. Apparently the ideal temperature is between 194 and 204 Fahrenheit. Once the wax is all melted you add the PTFE powder and stir it up.
Once you pull the chain from the alcohol it dries pretty quickly. Slide it onto a piece of wire coat hanger and dip it into the wax. The first application gets soaked for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then pull the chain out and let it cool. It will be very stiff with the hardened wax and you will need to run it through your hands to free each link up. At that point it is ready to be returned to your bike and ridden.
Every 150 to 180 miles you need rinse the chain by pouring boiling water on it. This will rinse any dirt off of the outside of the chain but leave most of the wax and PTFB between the pins and rollers. Then reheat the wax mixture and dip the chain for 5 to 10 minutes.
You should be able to keep rewaxing with this batch for over 9000 miles. At that point the chain may be ready for replacement. This is far more life than most chains ever see. In addition the rest of the drivetrain will last for another 18000+ miles by which time you may be considering a new bike. For comparison I hope to ride 5000 miles this year but will probably come up short of that.
There are some drawbacks to this process:
- Lots of equipment involved
- Preparation and organization is required
I am looking forward to seeing how this process works. From everything I have watched and read it sounds like the benefits are huge. I will report back as we progress with testing.
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This is the 6th week of my 12 week training program. While the majority of the week was full of rest and recovery workouts, today was different. Today we did a fitness or FTP test. This involves 20 minutes of maximum effort. You should be ready to puke near the end of this workout.
The idea behind the fitness test is that you go really hard for 20 minutes. From that you can make an educated guess at what your average heart rate would be for a 60 minute all out effort. From that you have your functional threshold heart rate and from that you get your heart rate zones for training. (The reason you only do 20 minutes is because doing 60 minutes would probably result in injury or death.)
Today I matched my effort from 6 weeks ago. While I wish I had improved I feel good about this. I know I could have push myself harder during the 20 minute effort. Also it was another beautiful day of riding.
I hope your Saturday was great too.