Breaking the Chain – Oil and the Peak District.

As riders in the Peak District know, there is a distinct change in the landscape between the White and Dark Peak areas. In this article I argue that, whether road or mountain biking, or anything in between, a harder wax chain lube is far more agreeable to the life of your drivetrain than oil. I’ll break it down to show how, both the North and the South of the Peaks, actively react with chain oil to speed up the “stretching” process, increasing the wear on your drivetrain as a whole.

The Northern half(roughly) of the Peak district is huge popular with riders of all denominations. Generally known as the “Dark Peak”, it is so called because a crust of black gritstone encompasses a limestone interior. The gritstone is a form of sandstone but generally contains larger particles of silicate. Throughout the winter months this top layer tends to remain saturated but does retain a relatively hard crust – much more enticing to ride than the slop of the White Peak.

This friable crust, whether saturated or baked dry, does tend to get sprayed upwards as the nobbles (I’ll get to road bikes in a minute) of your tyres dig into it. An oiled chain then, becomes a veritable magnet for particle spray from the front wheel, and that gritstone, as I pointed out in the geology bit, is larger than the sandstone found further North and South. Essentially it acts like 20 grit sandpaper on the moving parts of your drivetrain – it accelerates wear rapidly.

In the White Peaks, the limestone is more exposed, and the resulting spray, in the dry, is far mor dusty. Lime, however, is a natural degreaser – it is excessively acid, and it creates a much finer grinding paste. This dust is highly likely to find its way into the delicate internals of your chain.

Oil is, of course, a very good lubricant, but it works best when fully enclosed from the elements – such as in a car engine or gear box. Drop some oil in a sand box and its lubricating properties become almost non-existent.

This dust and grit are just as prevalent for road bikes. Look around the Peaks and, wherever you are, you are never far away from a quarry, an aggregate mill, a cement factory etc… All these businesses, the lifeblood of the Peak District, create a fine dust which settles very nicely on the harsh tarmac of the area. The multitude of stone carrying lorries and cement mixers, which are prevalent to our roads, leave a detritus of settling dust behind them, which attaches itself to our lubed chains eventually morphing into the grinding paste which accelerates wear on the drive train.

Of course, wax is king, it is resistant to all forms of dust mud and water and while it is initially a faff, it will save money in the long run, as well as extending the life of your drivetrain. In fact, a decent wax mix sets up a hard shell around the pins, inside the rollers, which prohibits elongation and shrinkage, while allowing free rotation – slowing the dreaded chain stretch. It usually takes between 700 (wet) miles and 1200 (dry).

Ironically, the marketing around hot chain waxing is aimed at road riders and yet, waxing is just as, if not more beneficial to Members and gravel bikers as their chains wear faster in general. Wax, as I have pointed out, sets up a barrier against the ingress of dust, dirt, grit and water, it is also far easier to clean after a dirty ride, just needing a rinse with cold or lukewarm water, a brush for any particularly tenacious muck, a dry and a relube with a decent liquid wax.

I offer my own initial waxing service at £22 and each subsequent wax (usually after a thousand miles or so) at £9. My wax blend has added PTFE to create a molecular bond to the ferrous metal, and Tungsten Disulphide for extra friction reduction. I also offer the Absolute Black Graphene Wax at £27 and £12 for every subsequent refresh. Both the Ultimate Drive Train Service and the Premium Service Include a full chain wax or Revo-lube.

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