Lubes & Chains & Marginal Gains

If you were to rank the hardest working parts on a bicycle, you’d be hard-pressed to find a component that goes through more than the chain. And keeping that chain working well has become a real obsession for Marginal Gainers. So this episode, we dig into chains, lubes, and who should be using what.

Got a question you’d like to ask? Text or leave a voicemail at the Marginal Gains Hotline: +1-317-343-4506 or just leave a comment in this post!

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  • Scott Service

    Is there any benefit to using a lower quality chain for training versus racing? I’m thinking of running an SLX chain for training and an XTR chain for racing, both 11speed. A lower quality chain would likely be slightly less efficient caused by higher friction through the drivetrain and heavier. Would training with this less efficient setup and then racing with a lighter, smoother chain provide a marginal gain in addition to a cost savings or would the gain only be a placebo and in my wallet?

  • Travis Verhoff

    The manufacturers suggest a number of uses for their quick links so we can defer to them, but we have seen single use quick links be used many times without any issues. We would consider a chain “worn” when it reaches past a .5 measurement.

  • Stan Gall

    i have 2 questions in follow up to the Chains and Lubes podcast

    Firstly, you have recommended removing the chain from the bicycle for better cleaning and lubrication. How many times can the quick link such as that supplied with Shimano chains be used? My reading from their product support is “single use.” does that mean one quick link for the life of the chain? Adding in the cost of a new quick link with each Chain Spa Waxing would potentially equal the cost of the chain.

    Second question: I would love for you to unpack the mechanisms by which a chain may now last 10,000 miles with the superior cleaning and lubrication methods you recommend. What is the model of chain end of life. Does end-of -chain-life occur when the links have physically stretched ( nominally > 0.5 – 0.75%) or by another mechanism? What measurement is best to determine end of life and preventing damage to other drive train components? How does better lubrication reduce chain stretching as a cause of end of life?

    Love your podcast – perfect for binge listening on long rides

    Kingsport, TN

  • Adam Kerin

    Hi Mike i can help here if josh is a tad busy!

    You wont want synergetic getting onto the chain you are then going to pop into your hot melt wax pot. This wont mix too well with the hot melt in the pot and will very likely hinder the hot melt wax’ adherence to your chain when you re-wax.

    Alas its not so simple as swapping just the cassette as chain rings & pulley wheels will have a wet lube on them too and be getting onto you lovely waxed chain.

    Those two lubes aren’t really designed to mix & match – there isn’t a wet lube im aware of that is compatible with immersive waxing / top wax drip lubes.

    If i was me and i was you – I would consider running two chains in rotation. Whilst synergetic will be a bit more set and forget in a way re you can ride in the rain and not worry too much needing to immediately take care when get home – remember it will still be hammered with contamination. Synergetic will likely (its on test list of course) perform likely just about as well as anything in wet rides, no lubricant will escape the fact that there will be a measurable increase in the contamination in the lubricant. Again imagine doing these rides with no seals on your bearings – its a tough gig for your chain and its lubricant.

    Two chains on rotation means you can pop chain one off when get home, give it a few quick flushes in boiling water (i actually put mine in an old pot and put it on the stove on high whilst i go and have a shower, by the time i come back its been bubbling away and a lot of the old contaminated wax coating has been melted off. Dry and either then re-lube with silca ss drip. As you are now popping the other chain on, the SS drip will have a nice long set time that you want for riding in wet conditions. It may sound like some faffing, but if you ride in the wet and want to keep chain low friction and not wearing out itself and your drive train components, there is no avoiding ensuring chain is looked after. You can look after a synergetic chain easily too, but it will take some type of cleaning agent vs boiling water for Hot melt / silca ss chains.

    Running two chains in rotation is also a great way to ensure you get two chains through your cassette and not be caught out running one chain too long.

    In short – hot swapping between synergetic chain and wax chain on same bike would not be my recommended way to go – most will either have a bike they run synergetic on & and a bike they run wax / wax drip lube on to save cleaning all the drive train components between swapping. Synergetic is there to be the top wet lube for those who are not on the wax / wax lube bandwagon, or for a longer lasting per treatment lube with no snow flakes on floor (ie dedicated indoor trainer bike) not for being used in-conjunction with on the same bike.

    Hope that makes sense / helps!

    Adam Kerin

  • Ben Hallam

    Love the podcast and rave about it to all my customers. I’ve joined the hot melt wax cult and preach your teachings line and verse. I’ve even convinced my boss to stock your products (mainly so I can get my hands on your super secret sauce). My question for you is in regards to bearings: We hear a lot from companies about the efficiency gains of certain bearings but should we be also be treating them with as much care and attention as we do our beautifully waxed chains? Should be be stripping out the stock grease and replacing it with something else? Are there efficiency gains to be had with different lubricants? Thanks in advance. Ben

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