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A Little Bit of Casual Research

Bergman's "Chain" Formula - for Bikes!


Introduction

I'm an avid cyclist and try to log about 100 miles a week on the road. Chain lube discussions are always eye-rollers on any Bike Forum. Everyone has their favorites or special elixers. Most are very fine lubricants for chains and others although good lubricants are a REAL PAIN to deal with (my bias is against oily lubes). I have had a fascination with lubricants for bikes for many years and have tried most of them. It started many years ago...

When I was a young teenager I got interested in cycling and started working in Bike Shops to make money during the summer. Al's Bike Shop in Cleveland Ohio (sadly gone now) is where I got started. That progressed to working in shops during the school year also. Along the way, and I can't recall exactly which shop or who it was, a master bike mechanic showed me melted paraffin and how well it worked as a bike chain lubricant.

I was sold but boy was it a pain to use. Stripping a brand new chain of all lube, drying it, melting the wax, soaking the chain in the wax, running the chain through a worn-out derailleur mounted on a vise to loosen it up after it cooled, THEN putting it on the bike. The bike ran like a champ for a few hundred miles before it had to be partially cleaned then re-waxed. The cleaning ritual was also a drag and time-consuming.

I gave up on melted wax at some point and then went through a long list of other lubricants, none of which ran as well as a waxed chain but the time-consuming effort was a little less than a waxed chain...mostly because I was lazy and un-motivated to clean a chain all the way.

Then the liquid wax lubricants came out a few years ago. I got particularly attached to one of them (Squirt) and it really performed well in the dry heat of Arizona as well as the humidity and heat in North Carolina. The wet wax lube worked really well as a chain lube, really well, but the the cleaning intervals, well, not too bad but I thought, there's got to be a better way.

As you can see from my web site, I love to fly fish and Bergman's Formula is my go-to fly floatant. I got to thinking one day...

What if I put PTFE powder and/or molybdenum disulfide powder in the Bergman's Formula? I wondered if it would work on my bike chain?...

I tried it. And, it works! Really well actually. All of the benefits of a melted wax chain and so far none of the downsides. What about cleaning intervals? I got that covered. You just relube. No cleaning involved! No foolin'.

How is this possible?

Here's what I did, but first, read-up on Bergman's Formula so you get the basic gist of what this fabulous elixer is all about. It will make understanding how it works as a chain lubricant a little easier.

I call this modified Bergman's Formula, Bergman's Chain Formula. Catchy and original, eh?

The Process

 

New Chain:

1) Thoroughly clean a new chain in mineral spirits

2) "Rinse" the chain in denatured alcohol. This gets all of the residual mineral spirits out of the chain and really helps during the drying stage.

3) Dry the chain in the sun or a warm place inside (away from flame or fire obviously)

4) Go to "Lubricate the Chain" below

 

Old Chain:

1) Soak and scrub the chain two or three times in mineral spirits or full-strength "Orange Degreaser"...your choice. For old chains, I actually prefer the Orange Degreaser.

2) Thoroughly rinse the chain in clean mineral spirits

3) "Rinse" the chain again but this time in denatured alcohol. This gets all of the residual mineral spirits out of the chain and really helps during the drying stage.

4) Let chain dry COMPLETELY.

5) Test chain for cleanliness and/or grittiness. If it's still dirty or gritty, repeat steps 1 through 4above again. Are you thinking it's probably easier to buy a new chain? Yes, it is.

6) Once you're satisfied that your chain is clean, go to "Lubricate the Chain" below.

 

Lubricate the Chain:

Ingredients you will need:

1 lb. block of "Gulf Wax" paraffin wax (grocery stores will have this in their "canning" section)

1 or 2 ounces of PTFE powder (minimum of 1.6 microns in size - if you can find smaller that's even better)

1 gallon of Coleman fuel or painter's naptha (this will last a really long time)

1 quart Mason jar

Two 1 gallon clean empty "pristine" paint can - get one at your local home improvement center in their paint section...make sure you get the lid also. A plastic painter's bucket works also but not nearly as well, and, you can't seal it back up again.

Optional: 1 or 2 ounces of molybdenum disulfide ("Moly") powder - the smallest ground you can find.

Hint: You can find PTFE and moly powder on eBay or Amazon

Instructions:

1) Make up a 1 quart batch of Bergman's Formula
Hint: lean towards a little heavy on the wax.

If you don't want to read through all of that, here is the short version:

Shave-off 1 (one) bar (about 1/4 lb) of the Gulf Wax into the quart Mason jar, fill to the top with Coleman Fuel or painter's Naptha. Both are the same thing but the Coleman has additives in it that may actually benefit for this purpose. Let the jar sit in a warm SAFE place until the paraffin is completely dissolved. Depending on the temperature, this can take a few hours or a couple of days. The thinner/smaller you shave the paraffin the faster it will dissolve.

SAFETY WARNING: Once disolved, Begman's is basically napalm and VERY flammable.

** Make sure all of the wax has dissolved before going to the next step **

2) Add in 1 or 2 teaspoons of the PTFE powder

3) (Optional) add in 1 teaspoon of the moly powder - if you don't want a "dirty" looking chain, leave it out. You really don't "need" it but I add it in.

4) Shake the Mason jar really well to thoroughly mix the powder. It will settle-out but the very fine particulates will remain suspended in the solution for a while.

5) Put your cleaned and prepped chain in the clean paint can.

6) Add in enough Bergman's Chain Formula to cover the chain by a couple of inches.

7) REMEMBER!! This stuff is extremely flammable at this stage.

8) Put the lid on the paint can and gently swirl the chain inside. Don't go crazy but the more you agitate it the faster this will go. Did I say GENTLY swirl the can? Swirl for about two minutes then set the can down and let it soak for an hour or so. I sometimes let it soak over-night.

9) Once the chain has soaked, gently swirl the can again for about 30 seconds and remove the lid and chain.

10) Let the chain air-dry OUTSIDE for a couple of hours.

11) Install the chain on the bike.

 

Cleaning Intervals:

Were you wondering what that second gallon paint can was for? This is where it comes in to play.

1) Remove chain from bike after, oh, every few hundred miles depending on how the chain is running. With Bergman's Chain Formula, it completely penetrates the inner-most sanctums of the chain rollers and plates with paraffin. The paraffin will probably never fully come out of or off of the chain.

2) Put the chain into the second paint can

3) Pour Bergman's Chain Formula into the can to cover about 3 or 4 inches.

4) Put the lid on the can and GENTLY shake sideways for about 2 or 3 minutes, soak for about 10 minutes, shake again, soak for another ten minutes then remove the chain from the can.

5) Let the chain air-dry OUTSIDE for a couple of hours.

6) That's it! You basically just "dry-cleaned" your chain. It's now ready to put back on your bike.

TIP and cost savings: Don't pour out this Bergman's Chain Formula. Put the lid tightly on the can and save it for the next time. After a few cleanings it's a good idea to replace the Formula.

Tip for cleaning the bike: If you want to clean up your bike (usually not necessary), wipe it down with a little bit of mineral spirits on a rag or if you're so inclined, use a little plain Coleman Fuel on the bare metal parts (Not the painted surfaces).

 

Longevity of the Chain:

I have a chain that I treated in 2016 and it is still on my bike and running like a champ. It's got a few thousand miles on it for sure. Two of my other bikes have probably 500 miles a piece on their chains with no signs of re-treatment needed (started as new chains). Your mileage may vary.