On Lubrication

Dirty Bicycle Chain Image by hlaricca

Dirty Bicycle Chain Image by hlaricca

For those of you that don’t know, when I’m not praying or meditating on the meaning and worth of pain, I work in a bike shop. Selling, maintaining, riding.

One of the questions I get asked a lot in the shop is ‘what is the right lube to use on a bike?’

There are as many types of lube as there are applications for it, and with good reason. Most of the time people are using the wrong lube for the wrong application and directly or indirectly bugger everything up.

Who hasn’t seen a chain laden with sludge, with slop dripping off the jockey wheels and cassette?

That’s not lube – it’s dirt. Dirt that’s stuck to the lube.

Who hasn’t seen a completely rusted chain, or a headset so gone that there’s rust dribbling down the fork? That’s caused by water ingress past the grease.

All of these parts have been lubed, but what has gone wrong is either the quantity, the quality or the regularity of the greasing has gone wrong.

I guess I’m going to go over parts of the bike, starting from the inside out and try and explain what each part does, what the function of the grease is in that scenario, and therefore how much lube, and what thickness of lube to use.

Before we start, we need to talk about assembly grease. Most parts on a bike that require a screw thread are made of aluminium alloy. One of the important things to note about aluminium is that similar to iron, when exposed to oxygen it forms an oxide, which unsurprisingly is called aluminium oxide. When alloy and alloy screw or press into each other, in time the separate pieces oxidise, much like rust, and ‘dry weld’ themselves together. Cue new chainset when someone hasn’t put a dash of grease on the pedal screws before fitting them. Cue new frameset when someone hasn’t greased the bottom bracket threads before tightening the cups.

Grease provides a barrier between the alloys, stopping them seizing. It also serves to keep air (and therefore oxygen) and water away from the greased part.

Assembly grease is cheap, and you don’t need much, but whenever you are fitting two pieces of alloy together, you *must* use it. Lecture over.

There is also carbon paste, for putting carbon things together. This contains tiny particles of carbon, which act like a grit and bite into the parts to stop them slipping. If you’re putting a carbon seat post into an alloy or carbon frame, be sure to use carbon paste. Else your seatpost will slip and you’ll find your groin slammed into the top tube. And that’s not pleasant. I can testify.

So, bearings and internal greasing:

First up, my go-to lube for internals and bearings is Finish line Teflon Grease. It comes in a tube to which you can attach a Finish Line grease gun, which makes greasing hubs and bearing internals an absolute doddle. It also works great as an assembly grease. When I say grease, I mean this stuff unless I specify otherwise. The grease is about a fiver, the gun about 20 quid, but should last forever. This stuff shouldn’t be used on rubber seals though. The lithium in it eats rubber. If you’ve got a part with a rubber seal, I’d recommend White Lightning Crystal Grease.

Bottom brackets, like the hubs, are an axle spinning in a ring of bearings. The BB bearings come in three main types – cartridge, threaded cups and press fit sealed bearings.

In a cartridge system (such as Square taper, Octalink, PowerSpline), the axle and bearings are contained in a single unit. The axle sticks out either side to provide space for the cranks to be fastened to. To get to the bearing we must (once the BB is removed) peel back the weather seals and apply the lube directly onto the bearings which are just inside the shell of the BB.

As they’re so close to the surface, and the BB gets a regular dosing of road spray, the lube we use needs to concentrate on keeping water and other solvents out, keeping the bearing running smooth and must be thick enough to stick around for the long term. Even the most die hard of us won’t strip the seals off a BB more than once a year – else we’ll knacker them through our over zealous intrusions.

To perfectly fulfil this purpose must be *thick*. Wayne Rooney thick. Almost solid.

So on your cartridge BB and hub internals, you want to have the thickest, most water resistant grease you can get your paws on. I tend to use lithium grease because it’s thickish, water resistant and messy, and a BB service isn’t a BB service without your clothing being covered in greasy smears.

Threaded cups are a lot more simple. They’re sealed, you can’t get in. When you bugger them because you were careless with where you were spraying degreaser when cleaning your drive train, you chuck them out and replace them. Good thing is they aren’t expensive. Bad thing is, you really need to be taking your bike to a shop to get it changed. However, assuming you have a Hollowtech II tool, a torque wrench and a work stand, you just put a bit of assembly grease on the threads and whack it in.

Press fit bearings (BB30, BB90, PF30 etc) are when the sealed bearing themselves are just pressed into the frame with no cups, either by hand or with a pressing tool. The benefit is that the BB shell (the tube in the frame through which the cranks pass) can be much wider, and therefore stiffer. The bearings are sealed, so once again the internals are ‘fire and forget’. For some ungodly reason, some manufacturers are now fitting these into alloy frames (as if they need improved stiffness) which means that the metal shell and the metal bearing rub against one another causing the whole frame to creak with every stroke. The trick here, to stop the creaking, is not to buy an alloy frame with a BB30. Or a carbon frame with an alloy BB shell and a BB30. Seriously. A thick pasting of grease, applied regularly to the inside of the shell, might help the situation if you’ve already bought said Boardman/Cannondale.

Headsets also come in different types, notably integral (often 1 1/8″, sometimes tapered to 1 1/2″ sealed bearings pushed directly into the frame) or external (usually 1″ cups screwed onto a threaded fork). For integral bearings, just apply a thin coat of grease to the inside of the shell and gently press in with a headset press. For external cups, these should be cleaned and repacked with grease annually, similar to hubs. Lithium grease, again, works wonders.

The only other internal part that springs to mind is the freehub body. There may or may not be another guide on servicing these, but in here we need to ensure that hub, pawls and springs can all operate smoothly. We *have* to have a clean, dirt free environment. I tend to use Shimano Mineral oil in here, because it’s so thin, but then again I service my freehub every couple of months. If you’re not that keen, a wet chain lube or a thin coat of White Lightening Crystal grease can work. Under no circumstances should any thick grease be applied in here. Stuff like ‘tenacious’ chain lube and lithium grease can gum up the whole sensitive apparatus and stick pawls in ratchets/stop star ratchets disengaging from the hub body. It has to be thin. And it HAS to be clean. Remove all the bearings, degrease thoroughly [with a degreaser naturally]. Clean with a clean cloth, remove any remaining degreaser, dry either with cool air or time (don’t use a hairdryer, you risk warping parts), and put a droplet of mineral oil on each pawl. Massage it in to ensure good coverage. Put a couple of drops on the ratchet inside the freehub body, then slip it together. Give it a spin until you can hear each pawl engagement as a distinct ‘click’. If you can’t, take it apart, clean it better, and use decent lube like I just told you to, you numpty!

Cables need lube when putting on. An oil based thin lube, like wet chain lube or mineral oil can smooth cable actuation and keep the outers from rusting. Just put a small amount on when fitting, don’t worry about redoing it. For those of you with high end groupsets, consider a polymer cable system. Shimano’s coated Dura Ace cableset is pretty damn good.

Now, lets talk about Chain lubing:

Use Lube image by Angela Richardson

Use Lube image by Angela Richardson

Whatever you’re doing, chances are you’re doing it wrong. I had one gentleman storm out of my shop giving us all abuse because we suggested that WD40 was not a suitable lube for his chain. He’s been doing it wrong for 35 years, apparently, and got quite attached to doing it wrong, and was enraged when a qualified mechanic thought he should know that there was a better way.

So, if you’re reading this, don’t take offence. Just know that there are a lot of lubes for a lot of riding styles and conditions – and while there are compromises, GT85 and WD40 are not suitable lubes under any conditions.

So as we’re here, lets start with WD40. ‘Water Displacer 40’ was the 40th iteration of it’s inventors (you guessed it) Water displacement formula. In order to push water out of tight spots and prevent it’s reentry, WD40 is very thin and has a deep penetrating effect. It’s highly flammable and a volatile solvent. This thin, solvent property provides its most useful cycle related application – cleaning.

While to remove thick, encrusted dirt (like on old hub bearings) a stronger degreaser is needed, for chains and other minor degreasing jobs WD40/GT85 works a treat. Spray it on a cloth, then grab hold of your chain and watch the gunk wipe away. GT85 is basically the same stuff, but it leaves a teflon coating which does serve to provide a long term lube for things that don’t move a huge amount. Like door hinges. And drawers. That is the limit of it’s usefulness. Is you bike chain a water filled crevice, a door hinge, or a drawer? No? Then don’t use a solvent intended for that, then.

WD40 also serves to help us unseize stuck parts. You know, when you didn’t use assembly grease, like I told you to.

So what lube should you be using?

Wet: Oil based, Wet lube is ideal for wet and muddy conditions where a water based lube would get washed away.

Dry: This is kind of like a talcum powder suspended in solvent. It penetrates deep into the chain, then the solvent evaporates, leaving a layer of slippery solid behind. Ideal for long dry rides or sandy/dusty conditions where wet lube would be turned into a sand paste.

Ceramic: These can be wet or dry, ceramic lube has nanoparticles that leave a protective coating on the chain, enhancing it’s life and making shifting smoother and quieter. It is sometimes branded as ‘Stealth’ lube.

Chain lube usually comes in two containers: a spray can and a bottle.
Spraying lube around tends to cock up brake surfaces, pads, internal greases etc, so stay clear. Buy bottled lube or not at all.

When applying lube to the chain, we don’t just throw it on. To do so would likely overlube, meaning that road debris is more likely to stick to it, and any dirt already on the chain is going to get carried into the rollers and booger them pretty quick. First grab that WD40 that you’ll never need and spray it liberally onto a bit of cloth. Grab hold of the bottom of the chain with the cloth and turn the crank backwards, pulling the chain through the cloth. This should really be done after every wet ride, but compromises exist for a reason. I don’t even bother with my Ultegra 11-speed chain. Do it before every lubing though. While you’re there, just touch the cloth to the jockey wheels of the rear dérailleur as the chain is moving to clean the gunk off there.

When the chain is clean(ish), apply the bottle of lube to the bottom of the chain, just in front of the lower jockey wheel and turn the crank backwards. You want a thin line of lube to form down the centre of the chain – not too much. Turn the crank backwards for a minute or so after you’ve lubed it – this helps the lube sink into the rollers – then wipe of the excess with your rag – again grabbing the bottom of the chain and running the crank back.
Do this every couple of weeks or every 200 miles, whichever is sooner.
Every 600 miles or so, take the chain off and clean it thoroughly. Follow a guide from Sheldon Brown or something on Youtube on how to do this. Dry and lube thoroughly afterwards.

What not to lube:
Tyres. Yes, people can be that silly.

Brake discs. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprise how many people try to resolve a squealing disc brake with a touch of lube. The squealing is caused by glazed pads leading to a lack of friction, not by too much friction. If you have lubed the disc, you’ll need new rotors and new pads.

So there you have it. The right grease, in the right place, in the right amount. Simples.

UCI Track Cycling World Cup – Day 3 Report

Men’s Sprint

 

GOLD – Germany (BOETTICHER)

SILVER – Germany (FOERSTEMANN)

BRONZE – Rusvelo (DMITRIEV)

 

An all-Germany final saw Friday night’s Team Sprint gold medallists Robert Foerstemann and Stefan Boetticher go head to head for gold in the Men’s Sprint final. It was Boetticher who got the better of his countryman, winning the first match and taking the second with a stunning sprint in the final 200m that saw him take gold in emphatic style and bring the UCI Track Cycling World Cup to a fitting end.

The bronze medal match was contested by Spain’s Juan Gascon Peralta and Denis Dmitriev of the Rusvelo team who needed only two matches to beat his rival and claim the bronze.

Great Britain’s representation came in the form of Olympic Team Sprint gold medallist Philip Hindes who finished 12th in the competition overall.

Olympic champion Jason Kenny did not  feature in the Sprint event after a heavy fall in the Keirin final on Saturday night where his World Cup was cut short with a broken collarbone.

 

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Women’s Keirin

 

GOLD – Germany (VOGEL)

SILVER – Petroholding Leningrad (GNIDENKO)

BRONZE – Hong Kong (LEE)

 

Germany’s in form Kristina Vogel picked up her second gold medal of the week, adding Keirin gold to the Sprint she won on Saturday night. Silver went to Ekaterina Gnidenko, racing for the Petroholding Leningrad team, and bronze went to Hong Kong’s Wai Sze Lee.

Great Britain’s Becky James qualified for the final and was unlucky not to finish on the podium after leading out after the exit of the derny.

Great Britain’s Jess Varnish missed out on the final after finishing 6th in her second round heat. After racing in the Team Sprint, Sprint and 500m TT fatigue was evident in Varnish and she finished 9th overall.

 

Women’s Omnium

 

GOLD – Great Britain (TROTT)

SILVER – Australia (ANKUDINOFF)

BRONZE – Russia (BALABOLINA)

 

Olympic and World Omnium champion Laura Trott won the Women’s Omnium title in dramatic style, beating rival Ashlee Ankudinoff from Australia into silver in the final heat of the sixth event, the 500m Time Trial. Going into the final event Ankudinoff was two points ahead of Trott with Trott needing to beat her rival by two places to secure gold. An aggressive ride in which Trott gave everything she had saw her deliver once again, finishing with the second fastest time behind Russian Tamara Balabolina which was enough to secure gold and bring the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome crowd to their feet. Victory in the 500m Time Trial meant Balabolina did enough to take home bronze for Russia.

 

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Women’s Omnium

 

Omnium I – Flying Lap

Rank 1 Australian (ANKUDINOFF) – 14.340

Rank 2 Fullgass.org (OLABERRIA DORRONSORO) – 14.364

Rank 3 Poland (PAWLOWSKA) – 14.524

 

Omnium II – Points Race 20km

Rank 1 Bulguria (SHARAKOVA)

Rank 2 Lithuania (TREBAITE)

Rank 3 Mexico (ARREOLA NAVARRO)

 

Omnium III – Elimination Race

Rank 1 Great Britain (TROTT)

Rank 2 Poland (PAWLOWSKA)

Rank 3 Russia (BALABOLINA)

 

Omnium IV – Individual Pursuit 3Km

 

Rank 1 Great Britain (TROTT)

Rank 2 Australia (ANKUDINOFF)

Rank 3 Poland (PAWLOWSKA)

 

Omnium V – Scratch Race 10Km

 

Rank 1 Russia (BALABOLINA)

Rank 2 Lithuania (TREBAITE)

Rank 3 Mexico (ARREOLA NAVARRO)

 

Omnium VI – 500m Time Trial

 

Rank 1 Russia (BALABOLINA)

Rank 2 Great Britain (TROTT)

Rank 3 Poland (PAWLOWSKA)

UCI Track Cycling World Cup – Day 1 Report

©Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

Men’s Team Pursuit

 

GOLD – Denmark (FOLSACH, HANSEN, NIELSEN, QUAADE) – 4:01.289

SILVER – Germany (BEYER, BOMMEL, REINHARDT, THIELE) – OVL

BRONZE – Belgium (DE KETELE, DE BUYST, DE PAUW, VAN HOECKE) – 4:06.951

 

Denmark took GOLD in the Men’s Team Pursuit Final, beating Germany convincingly to win the first gold medal of  the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Glasgow. Germany lost two riders which gave Denmark the chance to catch their opponents finishing with a time of 4:01.289.

 

Spain and Belgium faced each other in the bronze medal shoot out on the track, both evenly matched.  Spain was the first team to make a mistake as Spain went down to three riders, giving Belgium an immediate advantage. Spain never recovered from their error, resulting in Belgium taking the bronze medal with a time of 4.06.951.

 

The big shock of the day came in the qualifying when the relatively inexperienced Great Britain team crashed out earlier in the day, with Owain Doull the only rider to stay on his bike as Sam Harrison, Joe Kelly and World Champion Andrew Tennant crashed onto the boards.

 

World Cup standings after 2 round:

 

  1. Belgium (15 points)
  2. Switzerland (14 points)
  3. Denmark (12 points)

 

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Women’s Team Sprint

 

GOLD – Great Britain (VARNISH, JAMES) – 33.428

SILVER – Spain (CALVO BARBERO, CASAS ROIGE) – 34.102

BRONZE – France (CLAIR, MONTAUBAN) – 34.197

 

Jess VARNISH and Becky JAMES won Great Britain’s first gold medal of the competition, riding a great race to take gold against Spain in a time of 33.428. James replaced the retired Victoria PENDLETON and she and Varnish brought the packed Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome crowd to their feet with a fine ride. This was the second World Cup win for the pair who took gold in the first round in Cali last month and are already proving themselves on the road to Rio 2016.

 

The bronze medal race saw France and Russia go head-to-head. The race was tipped to be close but France edged out Russia for the medal with a fine performance on track.

 

World Cup standings after 2 round:

 

  1. Great Britain (24 points)
  2. Japan (13 points)
  3. Spain (10 points)

 

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Women’s Team Pursuit

 

GOLD – Great Britain (TROTT, BARKER, KING) – 3:21.043

SILVER – Australia (ANKUDINOFF, CURE, HOSKINS) – 3:22.026

BRONZE – Belarus (SHARAKOVA, DYLKO, PAPKO) – 3:25.737

 

The two big rivals went head to head in the Women’s team pursuit. The race was a closely fought in the early stages but Great Britain started to pull away at the later stages, gaining a narrow lead over their rivals. The Great Britain trio featured two of the Olympic gold medal winning squad in Laura Trott and Dani King alongside British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme rider 18 year old Elinor Barker.

 

In the bronze medal race Lithuania always had a lot of work to do if they hoped to beat Belarus. The pattern was set early with Belarus starting well and leaving too big a gap to the Lithuanians to close. Belarus took the bronze medal and lead the standings after two rounds of the series.

 

World Cup standings after 2 round:

 

  1. Belarus (15 points)
  2. Great Britain (12 points)
  3. Italy (12 points)

 

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Men’s Team Sprint

 

GOLD – Germany (ENDERS, FOERSTEMANN, BOETTICHER) – 43.887

SILVER – Great Britain (HINDES, KENNY, CLANCY) – 44.175

BRONZE – France (PALMA, SIREAU, LAFARGUE) – 44.803

 

Germany won Gold in the Men’s Team Sprint, beating Great Britain in the final. Germany’s performance was just too good for the Olympic Champions who took silver in Ed Clancy’s first race since making the transition from endurance to sprint to fill the place of Sir Chris Hoy’s in the new-look team.

 

Bronze medal went to France who beat Poland.

 

World Cup standings after 2 round:

 

  1. Germany (24 points)
  2. Japan (12 points)
  3. Russia (12 points)

 

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Women’s 500m TT

 

GOLD – Belarus (PANARINA) – 34.121

SILVER – Germany (VOGEL) – 34.318

BRONZE – Spain (CALVO BARBERO) – 34.451

 

The Women’s 500m Time Trial race saw Olga PANARINA take gold with Germany’s Kristina VOGEL taking silver and Spain’s Tania CALVO BARBERO taking bronze. Fresh from winning gold in the Team Sprint Great Britain’s Jess Varnish took to the track again, this time finishing 6th.

 

World Cup standings after 2 round:

 

  1. Belarus (12 points)
  2. Germany (10 points)
  3. Spain (8 points)

 

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Men’s Scratch Race

 

GOLD – Switzerland (MARGUET, Tristan)

SILVER – Ireland (IRVINE, Martyn)

BRONZE –  Netherlands (EEFTING, Roy)

 

The race saw a lot of movement in the initial stages with a number of break-out groups through the race. With 23 laps to go, the group came back together with nobody able to get a decent amount of daylight between themselves and the main pack. No one seemed able to make that move that would separate themselves from the pack. Great Britain’s Simon YATES was involved in a number of attempted break away packs. With 15 laps to go another breakout group tried to break away from the peloton but in the end it came down to a sprint which was won by Tristan MARGUET from Switzerland. Martyn IRVINE from Ireland was hugely committed through the entire race and was rewarded with silver. In the bronze medal place was Roy Eefting of the Netherlands.

 

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Men’s Omnium

 

Omnium I – Flying Lap

Rank 1 Germany (LISS) – 13.252

Rank 2 Switzerland (BEER) – 13.349

Rank 3 Australia (O’SHEA) – 13.354

 

Omnium II – Points Race 30km

Rank 1 Australia (O’SHEA)

Rank 2 France (BRISSE)

Rank 3 Netherlands (VELDT)

 

Omnium III – Elimination Race

Rank 1 Spain (ELORRIAGA ZUBIAUR)

Rank 2 Australia (O’SHEA)

Rank 3 Czech Republic (RYBIN)

 

Overall standings after 3 events

Rank 1 Spain (ELORRIAGA ZUBIAUR)

Rank 2 Germany (LISS)

Rank 3 Switzerland (BEER)

 

The crowd were treated to some great action during the first three of six Omnium events on Day 1 of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Glasgow.

 

Germany’s Lucas Liss drew first blood, posting the fastest time (13.252) in the Flying Lap. Next up was the 30km Points Race which was won by current World Champion Glenn O’Shea of Australia. O’Shea narrowly missed out on a second win as he was outsprinted by Spain’s Unai ELORRIAGA ZUBIAUR on the final lap of the Elimination Race.

 

ELORRIAGA ZUBIAUR, who now leads the Omnium at the midway stage. The German, LISS, is in second overall with BEER in third.  Great Britain’s Jon Dibben lies in 11thoverall.

 

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