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New Chain Fitted

Brian's picture

By Brian - Posted on 19 April 2008

I have just fitted a new chain. Is it best to leave the oil on the chain they come with or clean it and apply additional lube?

Chitts's picture

I believe that the sticky stuff that comes on the chain is to prevent corrosion while being shipped and stored. All the muck, sand etc just sticks to it and it's the worst way to christen your new chain. Clean it off and re-lube using a prper cycling lube. Some of the lube's like White Lightening Epic can be used to clean the chain as well as lube it.

Matt's picture

The definitive Sheldon Brown (RIP) has a bit to say on the subject, see the section headed "Factory Lube" on the linked page,

Or to blatantly plagiarise:

"New chains come pre-lubricated with a grease-type lubricant which has been installed at the factory. This is an excellent lubricant, and has been made to permeate all of the internal interstices in the chain.

This factory lube is superior to any lube that you can apply after the fact.

Some people make the bad mistake of deliberately removing this superior lubricant. Don't do this!

The factory lubricant all by itself is usually good for several hundred miles of service if the bike is not ridden in wet or dusty conditions. It is best not to apply any sort of lube to a new chain until it is clearly needed, because any wet lube you can apply will dilute the factory lube."

While our conditions are very sandy I would cope with that by wiping off any excess lube from the chain after fitting and making sure you give it a reasonable clean after each ride, but don't go overboard. I used to give my chain a soak in degreaser after every ride and then a modicum of lube, then wonder why it was wearing out much faster than it should. Now I just leave them as is when fitting and after every ride give it a wipe and apply a bit of white lightning or Rock 'n' Roll and it's good as new and lasts much longer.


Chitts's picture

My understanding is that the stuff that comes on the chain is a "semi-synthetic grease with gleitmo White Solid Lubricants, which is liquified with a solvent for easy penetration into the cavities of the chain. After evaporation of the solvent a tacky, adhesive grease film is formed, which is resistant to acids and lyes, protects against corrosion and can neither be thrown off nor washed away by water."

This may well be superior for roadies, but if you mountain bike, then the I am not too sure how you avoid either the wet or dusty conditions that Sheldon Brown says would negate the use of the grease. Between the water, mud and the fine soft "beach type" sand you get at Manly Dam, Cascades, Terry Hills etc, I seem to pick up muck everywhere.

While Sheldon Brown is undoubtedly a legend, in my mind, if "This factory lube is superior to any lube that you can apply after the fact.", as stated in Matt's post above, then economics dictate that it would be bottled and sold and be making someone heaps of money.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I would say get it off the chain ASAP and use your MTB applicable lube for the conditions in which you ride. My view is that the grease serves no purpose, other than protecting the chain while in storage/transit.

Anyway, just some different views to ponder....

Justin's picture

The grease that comes with the chain is good

The grease that comes with the chain picks up sand really easily, it is very 'tacky'.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the factory grease is any better or worse than anything else you would apply. As long as it isn't really, you know, grease. Bacon bits don't go so well.

My suggestion would be to wipe the chain down with whatever your preferred is before you ride, but don't go to any effort to totally remove. Also remember that a well-lubed chain is one where you don't really see grease or oil on it (e.g. wiped off before riding). That will minimise dirt pickup. The only part of the chain that needs oil is the rollers.

Matt's picture

What follows isn't an expert opinion but...

I think what SB was getting at in the bit about wet/dusty is just that the factory stuff will wash out quicker, not that it is no good for those conditions, from personal experience it's much better at keeping your chain going longer in crappy conditions than without it.

It's not an aftermarket product because of how it's applied, immersing the chain in a heated bath of the stuff so that it gets into all the nooks and crannies, which isn't the sort of thing I'd be doing in a home workshop (Though I do know one very committed mechanic who used to do something similar with a wax type lube, in-between machining his own tools...). If it's not heated it's too viscous to penetrate the inner bits of the chain.

Factories need to apply the stuff because if they didn't there's a good chance chains will rust while sitting around in damp warehouses. I've often come back to a bike after having cleaned and re-(dry)lubed a chain a week back and found a bit of superficial rust, a factory lubed chain doesn't do that.

The reason the factory lube is so much better is that it's applied comprehensively and evenly into the inner bits of your chain and will stay there because of its viscosity, so even if there's all sorts of grime on the outside of your chain then it's not going to get inside the chain as it's already full of good stuff. To do that with a dry lube on a bare chain you'd need to use a full bottle of the stuff and would still miss bits.

I've been through lots of chains doing both the removal and not of the factory lube, then riding in silly wet and sandy conditions i.e. at Red Hill and Oxford Falls when I shouldn't, and my experience says leave it, just wipe the exterior coating off with a cloth that has a bit of dry lube (or maybe a stingy amount of degreaser, though I've not tried that) on it.

Anyway, just my personal experience, up to you Brian.


Flynny's picture

The stuff that comes on the chain is just a packing grease to stop it from getting surface rust in transport and on the shelf.

It's not a lube and it's terrible for attracting grit. I always degrease first thing and put on a proper lube like Prolink

Brian's picture

It was actually an oily lube and not the sticky stuff that comes on it with a new bike. I left it on but after riding in todays conditions I have removed it to soak.

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