Saturday, January 16, 2010

Workin' On The Chain Gang

I managed to save the rust-encrusted chain mentioned in my previous post, so I figured other winter-stricken readers might like to know how I pulled it off.

The chain in question has been eating salt and snow for about a month, and had finally rusted to the point that it barely went through the derailleur any more. I left it on the bike, wrapped a green ScotchBrite pad around it, hung on for dear life, and spun the cranks like mad, stopping occasionally to find a clean spot on the pad. I kinda doubt this is in the SRAM factory service manual, but the thing was already toast, so I figured I couldn't do any more harm.

After the spin cycle, I hunted down the PowerLink (tiny endorsement -- if your chain doesn't have one of these things, get one), popped it open, pulled the chain off, and tossed it in my garage Crock Pot. I know, Martha Stewart look out, right? The pot has about a pound of straight paraffin wax in it, basic canning stuff you can get for a couple bucks a pound at the grocery store. I used the same wax through all of 2009, so it's pretty skanky right now -- but again, considering the state of the chain when I started, I didn't particularly care.

I cranked the pot over to "high" and let it run for a couple hours, stopping by from time to time to give my waxy chain stew a quick stir with an old spoke. Once I figured the wax had cooked long enough to get the grit out of the rollers, I fished the chain out with pliers (caution! hot wax can burn! proceed with caution!), dangled it over the pot to drain off the excess and let it cool to touchable temperature, and reinstalled. In dry months, that's where my chain routine stops -- the wax drives out gunk and provides just enough internal lubrication for my tastes while staying clean to the touch. However, knowing that the bike was going to have to contend with more snow and salt, I chased the wax with a generous droplet of Triflow on each roller while it was still warm to the touch.

The resulting lube is a little goopy and thick for my liking, but with temps above freezing and a massive amount of sloppy snowmelt on the streets, that's just what the Chain Doctor ordered. It's still looking good after a couple days of riding, though time will tell how long it holds up. But, for a chain that was either going to go to the recyclery or explode in a poof of brown, rusty dust, I'm pretty pleased.

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