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I rent bikes in remote beach locations. What lubrication will reduce rust and sand accumulation?

  • Well, for sand you use dry. For water you use wet. Good luck! – Daniel R Hicks Dec 14 '14 at 22:43
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    (Probably your best bet is a semi-dry lube, then be fairly aggressive about cleaning & relubing the chains.) – Daniel R Hicks Dec 14 '14 at 22:44
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    What do you care about lubing rental? – paparazzo Dec 15 '14 at 1:38
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    There's no point to care too much about it. Seashore has sea winds which are as aggressive as the sea water and you will get plenty of rust in any case, with or without any lube. Instead, wash the bicycle throughoutly after every single use by freshwater and avoid keeping it outside close to the seashore - wind alone will make the bicycle rust. – Rilakkuma Dec 15 '14 at 1:51
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    @Blam I inferred that OP is the operator of the rental service, not the customer. – Emyr Dec 15 '14 at 15:55
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There's not much you can do against the evil trifecta of salt, water, and sand. You can use a teflon, graphite, or moly based dry lube but inevitably sand particles are going to gouge the metal and salt+water is going to start corrosion.

The problem with chain wear due to sand is that the chains themselves can look good (i.e., not rusty on the outside), but will in fact be considerably worn internally. This can lead to considerable chainring and sprocket wear before you catch it. As other commentators note, one option if you want to keep your current bikes is to buy a chain tool and chain in bulk, and replace the chains on a regular basis.

That being said, if you haven't bucked the trend of every other rental place and decided to get the absolute cheapest bikes possible, then you might want to look into belt-drive bicycles. You'll solve at least the problem of chain rusting and sprocket damage from the sand and salt. Your customers will also be impressed with belt-drives as they are silky smooth.

This doesn't solve the problem of salt+water+sand getting in other places (bottom bracket; headset) but the chain is the one part that customers will really notice poor maintenance on.

However, whether buying a nicer bike is worth it depends on your business model: how much you expect to spend on maintenance and how long you amortize each bicycle given also abuse and theft levels.

  • I would be a little worried that sand would get in the belt and jam it. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 15 '14 at 12:08
  • Most belts are self-clearing – RoboKaren Dec 15 '14 at 18:46
  • @DanielRHicks Look into the gates centertrack system. It's self clearing – Jørgen R Dec 15 '14 at 23:08
  • I see little point in spending good money on a belt. There is more to rust on a bike than the chain. – mattnz Dec 15 '14 at 23:24
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    I agree - which is why I noted that the OP should judge the amortization of the bike against his decision. But I should note that the chain is the one thing that naive customers look at when gauging the condition of a rental bike and the title of the question specifically asks about the chain. – RoboKaren Dec 16 '14 at 0:04
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You could try the "soak chain in paraffin wax" method. That would at least keep the water out of the rollers. Good how to page:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Lubricating-a-Bicycle-Chain-using-Paraffin/

It's cheap and is likely as good as anything else.

Salt water will pretty much destroy every part of a bicycle, washing with fresh water every day might be your best investment in keeping the bikes running as long as possible. The wax method helps there as it is very resistant to washing out.

Good Luck, and look for cheap bulk chain on ebay....

  • Seems likely that this will be more cost in time alone than just replacing chains with cheap Nashbar chains or something (they're just re-branded KMC chains, so they aren't exactly expensive). – Batman Dec 17 '14 at 17:10
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    It should be noted that most new chains are delivered with wax lube coating. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 18 '14 at 3:27

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