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A bicycle chain can be very energy efficient: one study reported efficiencies as high as 98.6%.The study, performed in a clean laboratory environment, found that efficiency was not greatly affected by the state of lubrication. A larger sprocket will give a more efficient drive because it moves the point of pressure farther away from the axle, placing less stress on the bearings, thus reducing friction in the inner wheel. Higher chain tension was found to be more efficient: "This is actually not in the direction you'd expect, based simply on friction
How best to lubricate a bicycle chain is a commonly debated question among cyclists. Liquid lubricants penetrate to the inside of the links and are not easily displaced, but quickly attract dirt. "Dry" lubricants, often containing wax or Teflon, are transported by an evaporating solvent, and stay cleaner in use.
The cardinal rule for long chain life is never to lubricate a dirty chain, as this washes abrasive particles into the rollers. Chains should be cleaned before lubrication. The chain should be wiped dry after the lubricant has had enough time to penetrate the links. An alternative approach is to change the (relatively cheap) chain very frequently; then proper care is less important. Some utility bicycles have fully enclosing chain guards, which virtually eliminate chain wear and maintenance. On recumbent bicycles the chain is often run through tubes to prevent it from picking up dirt, and to keep the cyclist's leg free from oil and dirt.