Author Topic: Factory lube/chaincase experiment (X8 chain, Chainglider, Surly SS & Rohloff)  (Read 64663 times)

Andre Jute

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Just to centralize reports on an experiment that are spread over other transmission threads:

I fitted a new KMC X8 chain 2000km ago and decided to dedicate it an experiment to determine how good the factory chain lube is and, beyond that, whether in a close-fitting but not sealed chain case the factory lube is good beyond the 700 miles Sheldon Brown claimed, presumably on information received from a factory rep, that it is good for.

The setup is a Utopia Kranich with a Rohloff hub gearbox. There is thus a "single speed" 16T sprocket of Rohloff manufacture, driven by a KMC X8 chain from a Surly stainless steel 38T chainring. The chain runs in a well-fitted long Rohloff-specific Hebie Chainglider.

Elsewhere on this board are several threads in which I describe my chaincase experiments; they conclude that I can recommend without reservation only Hebie's Chainglider.

You may argue that I don't need the X8, which is built to survive the flexing of derailleur chains, that I could make do with the cheaper single-speed Z8, but in fact I can buy the X8 cheaper than the Z8, so I take the superior chain. I doubt it makes much difference to the experiment or to the overall cost for a private buyer; at a manufacturing scale it could make an accounting difference.

The previous KMC X8 lasted 4605km before being replaced due to wear. It was used with a steel Amar crankset, which showed just about zero wear but was replaced by the Surly stainless item because the Surly went better with my new, smart cranks. Cheaper chains, sprockets and ali chainrings lasted around a third as far (on different, more overtly sporting bikes), so I conclude, by comparison with the tales here of awesome distances on a single chain, that I'm heavy on transmission.

***

I've reported earlier at a few hundred miles that the factory lube seemed good, and there was no visible or measurable wear on the chain.

***

There was very occasional skipping at gear changes from the fitting of the new crankset forward but I had quite serious medical problems that prevented me bending over the bike, so it wasn't until a few months ago that I tightened a chain that was set too slack by moving the rear axle back in the sliders (this particular bike doesn't have an eccentric bottom bracket, like a Thorn, it has long rear-facing slots, like a track bike, in which the Rohloff-designed axle hangers slide). This might have caused a spot of extraordinary wear but, again, nothing visible.

***

JULY 2013 at 2000km

The chain has now travelled precisely 2000km (near enough 1200m). I opened it up when I cleaned the bike, and closed it again. There is no visible wear on the chain, the factory lube seems good with no metallic filings in it, and no odd shiny bits on the chain. The sprocket, which has done a total of about 6500km doesn't seem worn either. The chainring seems unmarked, but then you would expect that as stainless steel is just running in at a couple of thousand klicks. I didn't see that it was worth measuring as there clearly is no chain wear that a crude instrument like the normal chain-"stretch" gauge can measure. No action, chaincase closed up again. I'll check it again at 500km intervals.

***

While the interest here seems to be in the chain lube and chain, just a gentle reminder: The experiment isn't really about the chain lube, or the chain, both of which are the cheapest components under discussion. (KMC X8 chain about 14 euro landed, Oil of Rohloff chain lube about 5 euro a bottle, and it lasts years as you use only a couple of drops inside a chaincase, and rarely at that.)

The experiment is about a maintenance-free bike, and about cleanliness. A chain without added oil is less likely to spread filth everywhere, I thought, and so it has proved. What is visible of my chainring inside the Chainglider no longer spreads oil to my trouser bottoms, and when I wiped it for the first time in months just now to see if there is anything worth reporting, it hardly made the kitchen roll I used grey.

On my bike the gear change click box (supposed to be serviced at 500km intervals -- my views on this, and an experiment to discover how long the service interval can intelligently be, are elsewhere on this board) and the chain are the last items requiring regular service, except for the gearbox oil change, and who will begrudge Herr Rohloff less than an hour a year to keep his marvelous box running.

In that sense, with the chain already outlasting my earlier, only slightly cheaper chains (at delivered price) without any service being required, the experiment is already a success for someone who is used to getting under 2000km out of a chain. If the factory lube in combination with the Hebie Chainglider will carry the chain to the same distance of 4605km as the previous KMC X8 chain without causing undue wear to the expensive sprocket and chainring, the experiment will point to a major advance for hub gear bikes.

****

FINAL REPORT, 26 April 2015

The test was aborted at 3562km on 26 April 2015 when the Bafang QSWXK front motor on my bike gave up the ghost and was replaced by a Bafang BBS01 mid-motor (on which the 38T Surly chainring couldn't be made to fit), the new motor in a new test receiving its own brand new KMCX8 chain.

Just a reminder. The purpose of the test was to run a KMC X8 chain 4506km on the factory lube, inside a Hebie Chainglider, with a Surly stainless steel chainring and the normal Rohloff sprocket at the rear. The 4506km was set as a target by the previous chain, also KMC X8, running in a Utopia Country chaincase (similar to the Chainglider), but with Oil of Rohloff added every 500 or 1000km, reaching 4506km before visible "stretch" was found (less than 0.5mm). The ulterior, overall motive of the test was not to save a few Euro on chains but as a step towards a near-zero maintenance bike.


A gilmpse inside the famous Jute Laboratories.
That's the 0.75mm side of the gauge, so the chain wear, eyeballed, could be around 0.5mm

The KMC X8 chain ran on the factory lube inside the Hebie Chainglider together with a Surly 38T stainless steel chainring and a 16T Rohloff OEM sprocket, without any other lube being added at any time, or any cleaning being performed, for 3562km before the test was aborted, as described above. During this time the wear on the chain, measured as "stretch", was less than 0.75mm, eyeballed on the rough gauge as around 0.5mm. There is no doubt in my mind that the KMC X8 would have made 4506km by the time it required replacement at 0.75mm "stretch".

However, I'm happy to replace chains, the cheapest component in my transmission, at the first sign of measureable wear, which is around 0.5mm, so in that sense the factory lube fell short of the same chain under roughly the same circumstances serviced with Oil of Rohloff, 3562km to 4506km.

No excessive wear of the Surly stainless steel chainring or the Rohloff sprocket was observed. In fact, there is no wear observable. (This is very unlike my previous installations of Shimano Nexus transmissions, in which in around a 1000m/1600km I would use up a chain, a sprocket and a crankset because the chainring was in unit with the crank.)

The late, great Sheldon Brown once said that the factory lube was good for 700 miles. In my two experiments the factory lube plus Oil of Rohloff chain went 944km further than the factory-lube only chain. That, if scaled up to the full 0.75mm wear, is pretty close to Sheldon's 700 miles!

Now, I know, some of you think that 3500km and 4500km on a chain isn't much chop, the mileage of a wrecker. But I'm over the moon with these mileages. Considering that previously I rarely got over a thousand miles (1600km) out of a chain, two and three times that distance per chain is exceptional.

I'm very happy to declare these two experiments, 8068km altogether, a success.

They have confirmed my belief that the only enclosed chaincase that I can in good conscience recommend is the Hebie Chainglider, that KMC makes high commendable chains, and that Oil of Rohloff is the light chain oil of choice. I suspect that another thing they indicate is that a precision chainline is worth setting up with repayment for the effort in extra chain mileage.

With thanks to all who helped with advice, and to everyone for their patience in waiting for these results.

This is Andre Jute signing off with only slightly oily hands.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2015, 12:09:11 pm by Andre Jute »

Danneaux

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Outstanding followup report, Andre, and all going in the hoped-for direction; indeed an advance toward the totally maintenance-free bike (or very close to it).
Quote
I didn't see that it was worth measuring as there clearly is no chain wear that a crude instrument like the normal chain-"stretch" gauge can measure. No action, chaincase closed up again.
Not to quibble, but if you should happen to need service (unlikely), I'd sure be interested to see a measurement of the chain's overall length compared to the half-inch pitch standard, which would give an indication of actual wear that wouldn't necessarily be picked up by using a "chain checker" on a short run. Surely, there must be *some* wear, and it appears to be evenly distributed along the chain's length.

I do think a good part of your success comes down to:
The chaincase.
Rohloff's straight chainline and and no sideways deflection in shifting, as is the case for derailleurs.
Absence of tensioners.

I've never had much luck running only the factory lube with my chains on derailleur drivetrains, even though my most-used gears are large in diameter and very close to perfect chainline (M-3 in my half-step arrangements). They're exposed to the environment, which has a lare effect, and then there's the double-back chain run through the 10t (sealed bearing alu) derailleur pulleys. The most I've gotten on factory lube before the increasing noise drove me crazy was ~300mi/480km, so I admire your results to date. 

I just yesterday received an update email from the Friction-Facts.com website with a link to their recent test of oversized derailleur pulley efficiency. As expected, larger pulleys have less friction than smaller ones. The test report download is free, available here: http://www.friction-facts.com/test-results/free-reports/oversized-pulley-test?utm_source=July+2013+Friction+Facts+Test+Results+Update&utm_campaign=July+Newsletter&utm_medium=email Please note, one does have to register to download, but I've never been spammed as a result. I do believe derailleur pulleys contribute considerably to drivetrain friction (as the FF test results support) and the small-diameter of the pulleys and double-folding of the chain ad a great deal of wear. Compound that with the inherent sideways shifting action and deviant chainlines, and the reasons behind your results are obvious.

As a side note, Hebie informed me in correspondence they expect the chain will be lubed with a mixture of oil (to lube the chain) and grease (to minimize friction in the chaincase and allow it to "glide" more freely on the chain). This sounds very much like the mix that accounts for factory lube. I've often thought if Hebie were to make a 36T Chainglider (unlikely; they are still asking me for proof Rohloff have relaxed their gearing recommendations and say they have no plans to expand their line), I would try lubing my chain with Phil Wood grease to see what might happen. Phil grease has an interesting quality of turning to oil quickly in bearing tracks and under load, while remaining "greasy" to make a seal in areas of lower friction. It would be ideal for this sort of experiment, I would think. A moot point for me, given the Chainglider's unavailability in that size, but an interesting thought nonetheless.

Thanks again, Andre, for such a thoughtful compilation and update in one place. Nicely done.

Best,

Dan. (...who would dearly love to measure Andre's current overall chain length and compare it to new)

Andre Jute

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I do think a good part of your success comes down to:
The chaincase.
Rohloff's straight chainline and no sideways deflection in shifting, as is the case for derailleurs.
Absence of tensioners.

Absolutely agree. I would add

Quality Rohloff sprocket (compared to fast-wearing Shimano Nexus sprockets).
Even an inexpensive steel chainring, like the Amar I used before the Surly stainless steel chainring, helps to preserve the chain by not itself wearing and thereby changing the operating length of the transmission.

However, until we can somehow quantify all of this, I would put the chaincase keeping out grit at No 1. Jobst Brandt once observed that grinding paste is nothing but dust and oil, of which an unprotected bicycle chain manufactures its own... And at No 2 I would put the absence of tensioners and their associated jockey wheels. They're the devil's invention.

....I'd sure be interested to see a measurement of the chain's overall length compared to the half-inch pitch standard, which would give an indication of actual wear that wouldn't necessarily be picked up by using a "chain checker" on a short run. Surely, there must be *some* wear, and it appears to be evenly distributed along the chain's length.
....
Dan. (...who would dearly love to measure Andre's current overall chain length and compare it to new)

I thought of taking the chain off and stretching it out next to a new chain, but the problem was that all the handling from removing it, and fitting it back on, would remove at least a significant amount of the factory lube, which is now quite soft and oily. A fraction smaller than 1/8in in length between two chains is difficult to measure accurately among other reasons that no amount of fiddling gets the beginning ends of two chains perfectly aligned; I measured the chain I wore out against a new one, so I'm not talking through my neck. If much greasy oil were removed, I'd have to stop the experiment and start over with a fresh chain. It would be an unnecessary interference in an experiment that clearly doesn't require it, because we are already at 45% (or greater) of the furthest distance the chain will run before the cruder instrument will measure change (I'm assuming on no evidence whatsoever that the factory lube will not beat the Oil of Rohloff previously used...). And, as you say, the wear, however much it is, is very likely evenly distributed, so we won't learn very much for succumbing to premature curiosity. I just wish I did a higher mileage, so we could learn the outcome sooner.

Your Phil experiment sounds interesting. Perhaps after this factory-lube only experiment concludes... The factory lube's operating mode appears to be exactly as you describe. It's quite sticky, dryish stuff, more grease-like than oil, in its natural state, but in use it becomes liquid and even stickier. By comparison the Oil of Rohloff is face cream. But the factory lube doesn't creep out. And, amazingly, it seems to prefer the metal of the transmission to the plastic of the Chainglider. For practical purposes, the inside of my Chainglider, after several thousand kilometers, is clean.

Andre Jute

Danneaux

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Quote
I thought of taking the chain off and stretching it out next to a new chain, but the problem was that all the handling from removing it, and fitting it back on, would remove at least a significant amount of the factory lube, which is now quite soft and oily.
<nods> Yes, I understand the problem, Andre. A bit like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle ( http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/quantum-suicide2.htm <-- There's a free book plot in there for you, Andre; maybe even a title) applied to bicycle chains. In attempting to measure the chain, one would corrupt the experiment and therefore the validity any data it might produce.

In this case, it is Enough to learn things are still looking very good indeed in there, Andre. And...if things do go bad, all you're likely to be out is a chain which you would otherwise have replaced long ago with any other lube.
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A fraction smaller than 1/8in in length between two chains is difficult to measure accurately among other reasons that no amount of fiddling gets the beginning ends of two chains perfectly aligned
The solution? Hang 'em both on the same (headless cabinet) nail driven straight into a wall or old board, then measure the difference in the ends. The weight of the length of chain will cause it to pull to its full length thanks to gravity.

I am so intrigued by your experiment. This is one of the most-overlooked aspects of long-distance touring to remote regions, where one is almost guaranteed to be away from regular parts resupply chains. Who needs a low-maintenance/high-reliability drivetrain more? This is something that would benefit all cyclists, but tourists and commuters would see the most gains in terms of longer parts life and greatly reduced maintenance costs -- particularly at bike-shop prices.

I do so very much hope Hebie will someday see the light and produce a Chainglider for 36t 'rings. For that matter, I'm surprised at how few Adventure tourists have adopted Rohloff's relaxed ratio requirements, and until the number of adoptees reaches critical mass, we're unlikely to see a chaincase to address this need. I've got my fingers crossed, but am not holding my breath.
Quote
Your Phil experiment sounds interesting.
If you find yourself in need of more Phil Waterproof Grease or some Phil Tenacious Oil, give me a shout, Andre, and I'll ship it to you at cost.

Nice work and a very welcome report and followup; many thanks.

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 02:19:10 pm by Danneaux »

Andre Jute

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Thanks for the tip on hanging the chains from the same nail, Dan.

Andre "Duh" Jute

Andybg

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Not to hijack the thread but based on your results Andre I am seriously considering adding a Herbie to the Tour. My question is I am running a 110bcd crank with a thorn 38t chainring. Any sugggestions on which chainring to go for or would I need to change the crank to a 104 to take the Surly.

I am running a 17t sprocket so that should be good to go.

Cheers

Andy

Danneaux

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Andy,

Though you addressed your question to Andre, I have the info fresh from Surly and Hebie at hand in my correspondence folder.

The Surly stainless chainrings are available in a whole range of sizes if you need one for a 5-arm 110BCD/PCD. Sizes are much more limited at present if you require a 4-arm 104 BCD, and 36T is the largest currently available in that diameter.

As Surly say here: http://surlybikes.com/parts/drivetrain/stainless_steel_chainrings
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Sizes: 94mm BCD x 30t, 31t, 32t, 33t, 34t, 35t and 36t
104mm BCD x 32t, 33t, 34t, 35t and 36t
110mm BCD x 34t, 35t, 36t, 38t, 39t, 40t, 42t, 44t, 46t, 47t, 48t, 49t and 50t
130mm BCD x 38t, 39t, 40t, 42t, 44t, 46t, 47t, 48t, 49t and 50t

* Our 94bcd,104bcd and 110bcd x 34/35/36t chainrings are made with a 2.2-2.3mm thick stock plate and work best with 5-8 speed chains. Many folks are using these on 9 speed drivetrains but this can often results in a "tight fit" right out of the box (This will loosen up and shifting should improve after the chain breaks in). The 110bcd 38-50t and all 130bcd chainrings are machine finished to have a 2.1mm tooth thickness and thus work fine with 9spd chains.
The 17T sprocket would be fine at the rear if matched with the compatible Hebie Chainglider tailpiece, no problem. However, Hebie advice me that at present they have no plans to produce a Chainglider in sizes smaller than their present 38T model.

Hoping this helps,

Dan.

Andybg

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Hi Dan

Thamks for that. I think I must have been having a slow brain morning. For some reason I was thinking it was the 104 chainring availability for the 110. I think I may just be going mad.

Thanks for the help Dan. As always much appreciated

Andy

julk

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I am getting similar results to Andre.

I have been running a Surly SS 38, Rohloff 17, Rohloff chain in a Hebie chainglider, all from new, for almost a year now with probably close to 1000 miles ridden.
I had to take a link out of the chain and adjust the eccentric not long after fitting as everything bedded down.

I thought I might need to adjust the eccentric after nearly a year so off came the Hebie, but to my surprise and delight the chain is in new condition and not needing the eccentric adjusting yet.

Definitely the way to go if you can use any chainring/sprocket combination the Hebie fits.
Julian.

Andybg

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Definetly added to my wish list.

Thanks guys

Andy

Andre Jute

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Not to hijack the thread but based on your results Andre I am seriously considering adding a Herbie to the Tour. My question is I am running a 110bcd crank with a thorn 38t chainring. Any sugggestions on which chainring to go for or would I need to change the crank to a 104 to take the Surly.

I am running a 17t sprocket so that should be good to go.

Cheers

Andy

Andy: Dan has already given you a comprehensive answer about availability, so I'll add some opinion from my experience:

104mm PCD may have a lot of choice in cranks because it is an MTB standard but 110mm is a good old road standard and the narrowest treads (Q factor) are available in 110mm, also the prettiest cranks. So at 110 the Surly SS chainring and the Hebie all work together at the tooth count I want which is 38T, same as you.

Your chain will probably last a wee bit longer on a 17T sprocket than on the 16T I have fitted.

Andre Jute

Andre Jute

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I am getting similar results to Andre.

I have been running a Surly SS 38, Rohloff 17, Rohloff chain in a Hebie chainglider, all from new, for almost a year now with probably close to 1000 miles ridden.
I had to take a link out of the chain and adjust the eccentric not long after fitting as everything bedded down.

I thought I might need to adjust the eccentric after nearly a year so off came the Hebie, but to my surprise and delight the chain is in new condition and not needing the eccentric adjusting yet.

Definitely the way to go if you can use any chainring/sprocket combination the Hebie fits.
Julian.

Did you add any lube, Julian, or are you too still running on the factory lube?

Andre Jute

julk

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Andre,
I did not oil the chain when I installed it, so it has run for nearly a year on the original grease/oil as put in by Rohloff and it still  looks new.

I did wipe out the chainglider when I took it off recently -  and I just oiled the chain with Rohloff chain oil - more to give the chainglider some new lubrication or glide factor than for the chain.

So not quite the same experiment as you are running.

I would now expect at least twice the chain life using a chainglider and probably more.

I have been surprised just how much muck is deposited on the outside of the chainglider as run off from the rear mudguard/wheel near the seat tube. Much more than came past the front mud flap. No wonder bare chains get so gritty.
Julian.

Danneaux

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Oh! Julian's added report of success makes me wish even more for a Chainglider to fit a 36x17T combo, but in correspondence as recent as 27 March, Hebie's representative tells me [extracted]...
Quote
At the moment we have no plans in order to produce a 36T chainglider.

At the moment the use of a 36T gearing in the market is not sufficient to do so.

As soon as we  change our plans in this I will inform you.

I send you the actual information from Rohloff as we know them. In these overviews I do not find a change to 36T in combination with Rohloff. [Emphasis Dan's]

If you have other information please share it with us!

http://www.rohloff.de/de/technik/werkstatt/entfalltungstabelle/index.html

http://www.rohloff.de/fileadmin/rohloffde/produkte/speedhub/kettenuebersetzung/rohloff_shimano.de.pdf

http://www.rohloff.de/fileadmin/rohloffde/produkte/speedhub/kettenuebersetzung/shimano_rohloff.de.pdf
I sent them these links myself late last year, and a 36T for 26in wheels is mentioned as Rohloff-approved in the first one.

I also sent these links from Rohloff announcing their new, warranty compliant ratios allowing a 36T chainring used with a 17T cog and 26in wheels:
SPEEDHUB 500/14 revised permitted transmission factor now 2.1!
11.12.2012
http://www.rohloff.de/en/news/news_rss/news_in_detail/archive/2012/11/december/article/SPEEDHUB_UEbersetzungsfaktor_von_mind_235_auf_ak/index.html
...and...
http://www.rohloff.de/fileadmin/rohloffde/download/beschreibung/speedhub/Entfaltungstabelle_Speedhub_Solofahrer_13_17_Primaer_2_1.pdf

Perhaps those interested in adding a Chainglider to their own 36T chainring Rohloff drivetrains can join me in asking Rohloff to consider adding a front section to accommodate this newly available gearing, ideal for those living in hilly terrain, doing mountain touring, or carrying expedition loads -- the very conditions where drivetrain cleanliness would pay tremendous dividends, especially away from ready service opportunities. Hebie's representative is a gentleman named Ron Hout, available via their website contact form here: http://www.hebie.de/Contact.11.0.html?&L=1 Referencing the above inks might convince them to offer a 36T Chainglider.

Best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

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...I just oiled the chain with Rohloff chain oil ... I would now expect at least twice the chain life using a chainglider and probably more.

Yes, I also plan to use the Oil of Rohloff if necessary, but cannot say if or when it will become necessary. At present it seems possible that the factory lube, protected inside the Chainglider, might go the target distance, set at 4605km by my previous chain.

Andre Jute