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What should one use for hub gear lubrication?

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  • prester_john_in_cathay
    Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper lubrication - a century ago!
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 3, 2009
      Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free
      service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper
      lubrication - a century ago! There's every reason to think we can do
      the same, and some reason to think we could do even better today.

      Let's start out by assuming that if you ponied up the considerable
      sum for a Rolhoff or NuVinci, you'll use the manufacturer's lubricant
      and no go experimenting yourself.

      Now, with Shimano, SRAM or Sturmey hubs, how about using the
      manufacturer's recomended lubricant as well?

      Shimano: hub, Y-041 20600

      SRAM: gear, 0369 135 200/...201
      bearing, 0369.001.015
      pinions, "quality cycle oil"

      Sturmey: gear, SA103A
      bearing, SA103B

      Oh, you don't know where to buy those lubricants? Your LBS doesn't
      know where to get them either? Well...neither do I!* Isn't it weird
      that there's not a 'net retailer of these necessary items?

      For grease, as Mark indicated Sturmey SA103A is a semi-fluid, NLGI
      #00 grease, a product that has been developed for industry to replace
      oils in gearboxes either for longer service life or because the
      gearbox has developed a leak. That should do fine, if only you can
      find a small quantity.

      How about oil? I've seen the following recomended, all of which seem
      reasonable:
      20wt motor oil
      30wt motor oil
      10W-30wt synthetic motor oil
      automatic transmission fluid
      75W-90 gear oil (note: the viscosity of gear oils is measured
      differently - this is NOT "three times as thick" as 30wt motor oil)
      75W-90 synthetic gear oil
      sewing machine oil

      Of these I'm personally attracted to the 75W-90 synthetic gear oil.
      It's locally available in quarts, it's not terribly expensive, it has
      extremely long shelf and service lives, it's designed for use in non-
      pressurized lubrication systems and as a purpose designed gear
      lubricant it has anti-sheer additives.

      On the other hand, I like the way top quality sewing machine oil is
      as clear as gin. Internal gear mechanisms are simply beautiful when
      nicely damp with this lubricant.

      PJ

      PS - I live in the south so I've no experience with IGH lubricants in
      very cold temepratures.

      *OK, Harris does carry Shimano hub grease.
    • pj
      Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper lubrication - a century ago!
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 11, 2012
        Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free
        service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper
        lubrication - a century ago! There's every reason to think we can do
        the same, and some reason to think we could do even better today.

        Let's start out by assuming that if you ponied up the considerable
        sum for a Rolhoff or NuVinci, you'll use the manufacturer's lubricant
        and not go experimenting yourself.

        Current manufacturer's recommended IGH greases:

        Shimano: hub and coaster brake, Y-041 20600

        SRAM: gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 200 – 200gm container
        gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 201 – 35gm container
        bearing, 0369.001.015
        pinions, "quality cycle oil"

        Sturmey: gear, SA103A
        bearing, SA103B
        coaster: SA103E

        SunRace Sturmey-Archer has published in various official factory documents that their SA103A gear grease is an NLGI #00 and suggested Castrol Impervia TR Light as a commercial equivalent. Many American lawnmower repair shops carry NLGI #00 in 4 oz tubes as Snapper 7061017 or Stens 770-123. Sturmey says their SA103B bearing grease is an NLGI #2 and one commercial equivalent is Castrol LMX. They even officially said that with the older oil lubricated hubs the user can pack the labyrinth seals with Vaseline and use sewing machine oil on the gears and bearings.

        So how about oil? IGHs were traditionally lubricated with oils and have a history of giving excellent service used that way. The Kyle/Berto drivetrain tests suggested that oil lubrication was more efficient than grease lubrication by a small amount.

        Sturmey-Archer no longer offers their private branded Cycle Oil. 3-in-One's Motor Oil with the blue label (NOT 3-in-One's Multi-Purpose Oil with the black label) is probably our closest modern equivalent to those little bottles of Cycle Oil of yore.

        Shimano now offers an IGH oil, their Y00298010 Maintenance Oil (in a rather expensive "kit").

        In commercially available lubricants, I've seen the following recommended, all of which seem reasonable:
        20wt motor oil
        30wt motor oil
        10W-30 (& synthetic) motor oil
        75W-90 (& synthetic) gear oil (Note: the viscosity of gear oils is measured differently than motor oil - this is NOT "three times as thick" as 30wt motor oil. At the same temperature, it runs through a viscometer about like10W-30 motor oil.)

        If the IGH uses oil lubrication, some recommend a soap-based grease (Sta-lube blue marine grease or Park Poly-Lube or tan automotive grease have all received votes) on the labyrinth seals/grease channels to minimize weeping. Others have suggested the use of this grease on the hub's main axle bearings as well.

        Some feel that Phil's Tenacious Oil is too heavy for IGH pawl springs, especially in colder weather. Others have used it with no problems and swear by it.

        There have been many recommendations for IGH oil lubrication with automotive automatic transmission fluid, a high quality oil common in America. Automatic transmission fluid can be very light weight, some running through a viscometer like 3wt motor oil. Numerous reports on the `net say automatic transmission fluid improves shifting and cold weather performance. I am not aware of any reports to confirm this light weight lubricant adequately protects against wear in high mileage, long term use IGHs.

        Coaster brakes used to control speed down long/steep hills can get very hot. (Google 'repack hill' for some interesting bicycle history.) Coaster brakes used in this service should be lubricated with a grease that does not break down at high temperatures. Shimano, SRAM and Sturmey all offer grease suitable for use with coaster brakes, and many brands of high temperature brake greases are common at auto parts stores.

        And lastly, everybody's favorite: that little bottle of 3-in-One you have out in the garage. "3-in-One" debuted during the first great bike boom in 1894, making it one of the oldest cycling products you can still buy. The oil was originally intended for bicycle chains, and the name indicated it "1) cleaned, 2) lubricated and 3) rust proofed", hence, 3-in-One. After 115 years, it's still not a bad choice for chain lubrication.

        3-in-One (original formulation, now marketed under the descriptor Multipurpose Oil, with the black label) contains a vegetable based component, citronella oil (ever notice the way 3-in-One smells?), which will go rancid, break down and turn into very much a non-lubricant. This residue would get cleaned off a chain in the next application, but when enclosed in a small metal shell it has nowhere to go. Probably more Sturmeys in the USA have been rendered inoperable by 3-in-One residue than for any other reason. The 3-in-One folks themselves do not list hub gears as a potential use for their Multipurpose Oil, which remains widely available.

        These days the company also makes several other lubrication products: their 3-in-One (electric) Motor Oil with the blue label is SAE 20wt non-detergent oil and should be just dandy for IGHs.

        Fun fact: In the 1920s, pioneer American Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger was married to then president of the 3-in-One Oil company, J. Noah Slee. She smuggled illegal European-made diaphragms into the USA in secretly coded barrels of the citronella oil imported by 3-in-One.
      • k3eax
        Presty, is it possible, using the safety data sheets, to identify the type of ingredients in the high-priced boutique lubs offered by the hub manufacturers? If
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 11, 2012
          Presty, is it possible, using the safety data sheets, to identify the type of ingredients in the high-priced boutique lubs offered by the hub manufacturers? If so, it would be possible to locate a more realistically priced and more easily obtainable substitute off the auto supply store's shelf.

          Now, will the multi-millionaires in the group please excuse my emphasis on value for money. There are I'm sure a significant number in the group who see the expenditure of $100 for a boutique lubricant as something to be avoided.

          Al
        • Rich W
          PJ; An outstanding lubrication summary. If you would place a copy in the Files area it would be appreciated. Otherwise give me the OK and I will do so. Rich
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 11, 2012
            PJ;

            An outstanding lubrication summary. If you would place a copy in the Files area it would be appreciated. Otherwise give me the OK and I will do so.

            Rich Wood

            --- In Geared_hub_bikes@yahoogroups.com, "pj" <prester_john_in_cathay@...> wrote:
            >
            > Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free
            > service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper
            > lubrication - a century ago! There's every reason to think we can do
            > the same, and some reason to think we could do even better today.
            >
            > Let's start out by assuming that if you ponied up the considerable
            > sum for a Rolhoff or NuVinci, you'll use the manufacturer's lubricant
            > and not go experimenting yourself.
            >
            > Current manufacturer's recommended IGH greases:
            >
            > Shimano: hub and coaster brake, Y-041 20600
            >
            > SRAM: gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 200 – 200gm container
            > gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 201 – 35gm container
            > bearing, 0369.001.015
            > pinions, "quality cycle oil"
            >
            > Sturmey: gear, SA103A
            > bearing, SA103B
            > coaster: SA103E
            >
            > SunRace Sturmey-Archer has published in various official factory documents that their SA103A gear grease is an NLGI #00 and suggested Castrol Impervia TR Light as a commercial equivalent. Many American lawnmower repair shops carry NLGI #00 in 4 oz tubes as Snapper 7061017 or Stens 770-123. Sturmey says their SA103B bearing grease is an NLGI #2 and one commercial equivalent is Castrol LMX. They even officially said that with the older oil lubricated hubs the user can pack the labyrinth seals with Vaseline and use sewing machine oil on the gears and bearings.
            >
            > So how about oil? IGHs were traditionally lubricated with oils and have a history of giving excellent service used that way. The Kyle/Berto drivetrain tests suggested that oil lubrication was more efficient than grease lubrication by a small amount.
            >
            > Sturmey-Archer no longer offers their private branded Cycle Oil. 3-in-One's Motor Oil with the blue label (NOT 3-in-One's Multi-Purpose Oil with the black label) is probably our closest modern equivalent to those little bottles of Cycle Oil of yore.
            >
            > Shimano now offers an IGH oil, their Y00298010 Maintenance Oil (in a rather expensive "kit").
            >
            > In commercially available lubricants, I've seen the following recommended, all of which seem reasonable:
            > 20wt motor oil
            > 30wt motor oil
            > 10W-30 (& synthetic) motor oil
            > 75W-90 (& synthetic) gear oil (Note: the viscosity of gear oils is measured differently than motor oil - this is NOT "three times as thick" as 30wt motor oil. At the same temperature, it runs through a viscometer about like10W-30 motor oil.)
            >
            > If the IGH uses oil lubrication, some recommend a soap-based grease (Sta-lube blue marine grease or Park Poly-Lube or tan automotive grease have all received votes) on the labyrinth seals/grease channels to minimize weeping. Others have suggested the use of this grease on the hub's main axle bearings as well.
            >
            > Some feel that Phil's Tenacious Oil is too heavy for IGH pawl springs, especially in colder weather. Others have used it with no problems and swear by it.
            >
            > There have been many recommendations for IGH oil lubrication with automotive automatic transmission fluid, a high quality oil common in America. Automatic transmission fluid can be very light weight, some running through a viscometer like 3wt motor oil. Numerous reports on the `net say automatic transmission fluid improves shifting and cold weather performance. I am not aware of any reports to confirm this light weight lubricant adequately protects against wear in high mileage, long term use IGHs.
            >
            > Coaster brakes used to control speed down long/steep hills can get very hot. (Google 'repack hill' for some interesting bicycle history.) Coaster brakes used in this service should be lubricated with a grease that does not break down at high temperatures. Shimano, SRAM and Sturmey all offer grease suitable for use with coaster brakes, and many brands of high temperature brake greases are common at auto parts stores.
            >
            > And lastly, everybody's favorite: that little bottle of 3-in-One you have out in the garage. "3-in-One" debuted during the first great bike boom in 1894, making it one of the oldest cycling products you can still buy. The oil was originally intended for bicycle chains, and the name indicated it "1) cleaned, 2) lubricated and 3) rust proofed", hence, 3-in-One. After 115 years, it's still not a bad choice for chain lubrication.
            >
            > 3-in-One (original formulation, now marketed under the descriptor Multipurpose Oil, with the black label) contains a vegetable based component, citronella oil (ever notice the way 3-in-One smells?), which will go rancid, break down and turn into very much a non-lubricant. This residue would get cleaned off a chain in the next application, but when enclosed in a small metal shell it has nowhere to go. Probably more Sturmeys in the USA have been rendered inoperable by 3-in-One residue than for any other reason. The 3-in-One folks themselves do not list hub gears as a potential use for their Multipurpose Oil, which remains widely available.
            >
            > These days the company also makes several other lubrication products: their 3-in-One (electric) Motor Oil with the blue label is SAE 20wt non-detergent oil and should be just dandy for IGHs.
            >
            > Fun fact: In the 1920s, pioneer American Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger was married to then president of the 3-in-One Oil company, J. Noah Slee. She smuggled illegal European-made diaphragms into the USA in secretly coded barrels of the citronella oil imported by 3-in-One.
            >
          • Dan Burkhart
            ... Very interesting stuff there.I personally am of the belief that gearhubs, being low speed, low load machines have few criteria for specific lube qualities.
            Message 5 of 6 , Aug 12, 2012
              --- In Geared_hub_bikes@yahoogroups.com, "pj" <prester_john_in_cathay@...> wrote:
              >
              > Cyclists were reporting tens of thousands of miles of trouble-free
              > service out of their hub gear if they only provided proper
              > lubrication - a century ago! There's every reason to think we can do
              > the same, and some reason to think we could do even better today.
              >
              > Let's start out by assuming that if you ponied up the considerable
              > sum for a Rolhoff or NuVinci, you'll use the manufacturer's lubricant
              > and not go experimenting yourself.
              >
              > Current manufacturer's recommended IGH greases:
              >
              > Shimano: hub and coaster brake, Y-041 20600
              >
              > SRAM: gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 200 – 200gm container
              > gear and coaster brake, 0369 135 201 – 35gm container
              > bearing, 0369.001.015
              > pinions, "quality cycle oil"
              >
              > Sturmey: gear, SA103A
              > bearing, SA103B
              > coaster: SA103E
              >
              > SunRace Sturmey-Archer has published in various official factory documents that their SA103A gear grease is an NLGI #00 and suggested Castrol Impervia TR Light as a commercial equivalent. Many American lawnmower repair shops carry NLGI #00 in 4 oz tubes as Snapper 7061017 or Stens 770-123. Sturmey says their SA103B bearing grease is an NLGI #2 and one commercial equivalent is Castrol LMX. They even officially said that with the older oil lubricated hubs the user can pack the labyrinth seals with Vaseline and use sewing machine oil on the gears and bearings.
              >
              > So how about oil? IGHs were traditionally lubricated with oils and have a history of giving excellent service used that way. The Kyle/Berto drivetrain tests suggested that oil lubrication was more efficient than grease lubrication by a small amount.
              >
              > Sturmey-Archer no longer offers their private branded Cycle Oil. 3-in-One's Motor Oil with the blue label (NOT 3-in-One's Multi-Purpose Oil with the black label) is probably our closest modern equivalent to those little bottles of Cycle Oil of yore.
              >
              > Shimano now offers an IGH oil, their Y00298010 Maintenance Oil (in a rather expensive "kit").
              >
              > In commercially available lubricants, I've seen the following recommended, all of which seem reasonable:
              > 20wt motor oil
              > 30wt motor oil
              > 10W-30 (& synthetic) motor oil
              > 75W-90 (& synthetic) gear oil (Note: the viscosity of gear oils is measured differently than motor oil - this is NOT "three times as thick" as 30wt motor oil. At the same temperature, it runs through a viscometer about like10W-30 motor oil.)
              >
              > If the IGH uses oil lubrication, some recommend a soap-based grease (Sta-lube blue marine grease or Park Poly-Lube or tan automotive grease have all received votes) on the labyrinth seals/grease channels to minimize weeping. Others have suggested the use of this grease on the hub's main axle bearings as well.
              >
              > Some feel that Phil's Tenacious Oil is too heavy for IGH pawl springs, especially in colder weather. Others have used it with no problems and swear by it.
              >
              > There have been many recommendations for IGH oil lubrication with automotive automatic transmission fluid, a high quality oil common in America. Automatic transmission fluid can be very light weight, some running through a viscometer like 3wt motor oil. Numerous reports on the `net say automatic transmission fluid improves shifting and cold weather performance. I am not aware of any reports to confirm this light weight lubricant adequately protects against wear in high mileage, long term use IGHs.
              >
              > Coaster brakes used to control speed down long/steep hills can get very hot. (Google 'repack hill' for some interesting bicycle history.) Coaster brakes used in this service should be lubricated with a grease that does not break down at high temperatures. Shimano, SRAM and Sturmey all offer grease suitable for use with coaster brakes, and many brands of high temperature brake greases are common at auto parts stores.
              >
              > And lastly, everybody's favorite: that little bottle of 3-in-One you have out in the garage. "3-in-One" debuted during the first great bike boom in 1894, making it one of the oldest cycling products you can still buy. The oil was originally intended for bicycle chains, and the name indicated it "1) cleaned, 2) lubricated and 3) rust proofed", hence, 3-in-One. After 115 years, it's still not a bad choice for chain lubrication.
              >
              > 3-in-One (original formulation, now marketed under the descriptor Multipurpose Oil, with the black label) contains a vegetable based component, citronella oil (ever notice the way 3-in-One smells?), which will go rancid, break down and turn into very much a non-lubricant. This residue would get cleaned off a chain in the next application, but when enclosed in a small metal shell it has nowhere to go. Probably more Sturmeys in the USA have been rendered inoperable by 3-in-One residue than for any other reason. The 3-in-One folks themselves do not list hub gears as a potential use for their Multipurpose Oil, which remains widely available.
              >
              > These days the company also makes several other lubrication products: their 3-in-One (electric) Motor Oil with the blue label is SAE 20wt non-detergent oil and should be just dandy for IGHs.
              >
              > Fun fact: In the 1920s, pioneer American Birth control advocate Margaret Sanger was married to then president of the 3-in-One Oil company, J. Noah Slee. She smuggled illegal European-made diaphragms into the USA in secretly coded barrels of the citronella oil imported by 3-in-One.
              >
              Very interesting stuff there.I personally am of the belief that gearhubs, being low speed, low load machines have few criteria for specific lube qualities. It matters more that lubricant gets to where it's needed, and stays there.
              There may be some hubs with internal components not compatible with some blended oil additives, but Sturmey Archer hubs, having no non metalic parts, would not be subject to this, in my opinion.
              I'm currently running a long term test on another rider's Alfine 8 speed, doing annual ATF dunkings. He rides it about 3,000 km per year. so far, I've treated it with ATF at 3,000 and 6,000 km. Should be comming up on 9,000 km this fall if he has kept up the pace. Have not been in touch with him for a while.
              So far, the only hub of my own that I've switched to ATF is the XRF8(w) that I recently documented the failure of here.After a cleaning and re-assembly, it's running great on ATF.
              I don't expect I'll live long enough to do a really long term, high mileage test on it. Too many bikes, gotta spread the fun around.
              I will do regular teardowns of the 8 speed Sturmey, just to see if the parts are all well lubed.
            • bikealfa
              I found plastic spring seats in some later AW equivalents. I do not remember if I ever found plastic ball cages; I have seen plastic ball cages for either
              Message 6 of 6 , Aug 13, 2012
                I found plastic spring seats in some later AW equivalents. I do not remember if I ever found plastic ball cages; I have seen plastic ball cages for either hubs or bottom brackets.

                Probably neither matter for the purposes of lubricant choice.


                Michael Wilson
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