Your bike maintenance requires a bicycle chain lubricant, also known as chain lube or chain oil. This helps prevent the parts of your bike chain from wearing down or rusting and even makes your ride more comfortable and less clunky.
Furthermore, we will see how to apply this lube to different parts of your bike. And how can you ensure that your bike remains efficient for a long time by simply lubricating it regularly?
What is Bike Chain Lube
Bike chain lube is a lubricant designed specifically for bicycle chain links to reduce friction, and wear between moving parts, keep the chain running smoothly, and protect the chain from corrosion.
It helps to maximize the lifespan of the chain and ensure optimal performance. Whenever your chain sounds rattly, shifts between gears with great difficulty, or appears rusted, it’s time to oil it.
It is typically applied to the entire length of the chain and should be reapplied regularly to ensure smooth performance.
You need to choose the right type of chain oil based on the weather and conditions in which you ride – find out what type you need.
What is the Purpose of Bike Chain Lube
It is understandable why the chain and its lubricants receive more attention than other parts of a bike.
When dirty, chains fling gritty muck everywhere, they grind and squeak loudly when dry, and they rust more quickly and more severely than other parts of a bicycle. In fact, these inconveniences are a clue as to the main jobs chain lube performs lubrication and corrosion resistance.
Bike Chain lube is, however, used for keeping your chain safe from harmful contaminants that enter through its tiny pins and rollers, not by matter that accumulates outside its links. Bike Chain lubricant basically fills the gaps between parts to prevent unwanted material from entering.
They are further also used for preventing any unnecessary corrosion on your chain. It varies how corrosion-prone a chain is, but anything from airborne moisture to rain-filled potholes can set it on a rusty course.
Chains are especially vulnerable to damage caused by salt, especially from ice-prone or seaside environments. Bike chain lube does not corrode chains, so it can be sprayed on the chain for safety.
One of the most common misconceptions about bike chain lube is that it cleans. There are already numerous products designed specifically to clean serious muck and grit from chains.
In most cases, people will use degreasers and cleaners to clean the bike chains once a considerable amount of debris has accumulated on top.
How Lubrication Supports Efficiency & Reduces Drivetrain Wear
Now to understand how lubrication supports great efficiency and reduces drivetrain wear. Let’s first know, “What is drivetrain efficiency?”.
Drivetrain efficiency is basically the energy you put on your pedals, which further reaches the rear wheel and helps the bike move forward. It is directly impacted by correct lubrication, cleanliness, chain line, cogs, and the size of chainrings.
When dirt and other strong contaminants enter your drivetrain they basically form a paste of liquid sandpaper that grinds your gears badly. This further reduces your efficiency to a great extent.
But with good cleaning and regular lubrication, you can avoid such a scenario. With this, not only does your drivetrain wear time gets diminished, but other bike components will also work optimally.
Hopefully, now you know the importance of lubrication for achieving maximum efficiency from the drivetrain and other bike parts too.
How to Maintain Chain Performance with Lubrication
1. Clean your bike regularly
Whenever you ride your bike, lift the rear wheel off the ground to examine the entire chain. You can inspect individual chain links with your hand by rotating the nearest pedal slowly, examining rust, dirt buildup, and tight links (links that do not bend easily).
While riding, listen for squeaks to determine if adequate lubrication is present. Your chain needs a spot clean if you find either condition.
The following steps should be followed if you want to spot-clean the chain while it still has been mounted:
- You can also use an old toothbrush to clean out the links.
- Keep the chain lubricated by relubricating the links periodically.
- Clean and dry a rag to remove excess lubricant. Dirt can actually be attracted to surfaces that are overlubricated.
Cleaning chains with a chain-cleaning tool is more thorough. Use it to deep clean your chain in a matter of seconds.
2. Occasional Off-Bike Chain Cleaning
If you ride a mountain bike, you should completely remove the chain every few months or so with a chain-removal tool.
To remove built-up grime that brushing can’t remove, consider fully immersing your chain in a solvent.
Make sure the chain soaks long enough to remove most of the dirt. A clean rag can be used to dry the chain completely. After the solvent has evaporated, lubricate and reinstall the chain.
3. Lubricants: A Word of Advice
Any type of bike chain lubricant must possess two key properties. They must:
- Keep dirt from accumulating since dirt accelerates wear.
- Be durable since chains wear more quickly without lubrication.
As long as you lubricate your chain often, durability is not an issue. Bicycle chain lubricants specifically marketed for bicycles are more effective than products not specifically designed for bicycles. The majority of them have Teflon coatings and are designed to resist water and dirt.
Note: Use a lubricant designed for bike drivetrains. The use of WD-40 on your bike is not recommended (it is a cleaner, not a lubricant).
4. Remove excess lubricant from the chain’s surface
It’s not necessary to apply excessive lubrication to the chain links since friction is caused by the links themselves. Surplus products attract dirt, resulting in deteriorating chain performance over time.
When you’ve allowed the sitting chain overnight, then gently clean it the next morning through some old band’s t-shirt to remove any excess lube.
Types of Bike Chain Lubricant
It’s easy to recognize that “bike chain lube” is more of a category than a specific item when you walk into any bike shop or navigate to any online store. There are even products that are considered bike chain lubricants by some, yet not by others.
For instance, WD40 is one example, while Phil Wood Tenacious Oil and Tri-Flow are also popular bike shop staples.
Now you may ask why? The answer to this question is something that some readers will find familiar. It depends on the situation.
Bike Chain Lubricants perform so many different functions, which is why there are different types of lube that prioritize those functions in different ways. It would be helpful for us to understand each lube one by one.
1. Dry Lube
Best For: Dry, Dusty Conditions
The last thing you want is a sticky lubricant attracting dust and gluing it to the chain on dusty or dry roads or trails. This is when dry lube comes into play.
You can apply it like a liquid, coat it on the chain, and then leave it to dry. By doing this, you’ll notice that when you touch the chain, it does not feel sticky or tacky.
Important Info: You should ensure that any traces of wet lube are removed before applying dry lube.
Allow the paint to dry for at least a few hours before you head out on your ride. In wet conditions, this type of lube will wear off, so you need to apply it regularly.
2. Wet Lube
Best For: Wet conditions
As the name suggests, wet chain lube is both wet (well, it is a liquid anyway) and it is designed for wet weather conditions. This type of bike chain lube is designed to remain in place when you are riding your bike through puddles, rain, torrential downpours, or mud. During the autumn, winter, and spring, you should use this lube on your bike chain.
Important Info: It is ideally applied to a degreased, dry chain. It is not best to use this one in dry and dusty conditions because it will attract dirt and will glue the grime to your chain. Replace the lubricant with a dry lube for dry tracks.
3. Ceramic / Microparticle Lube
Best For: Dry or slightly damp conditions
Ceramic Lube is an advanced form of dry lubricant. It consists of nanoparticles of ceramic material that coat the chain and provide lubrication to the links in the chain as they move.
While they do cost a bit more than traditional bike chain lubes, they can give you a more comfortable ride that is more quiet and smooth.
Important Info: It must be applied only to chains that have been degreased and dried! Depending on the instructions, it may be best to apply several layers and let each layer dry before riding.
4. Oil Lube
Best For: Being environmentally friendly
There is a growing number of companies producing bicycle chain lubricants and oils that are environmentally friendly. In place of petrochemicals, these products are going to use ingredients derived from plants and/or sources that are sustainable.
Important Info: In most cases, they come in the form of aerosol sprays or thinner liquids.
5. All Weather Lube
Best For: Suitable for road, off-road and MTB
There are no limitations to the use of all-weather lube. This is a trusted and reliable bike chain lubricant that is preferred by commuters and other riders who ride no matter the conditions in order to get wherever they need to go.
The technology added to the lubricant allows it to perform better regardless of the conditions.
6. Wax Lube
Best For: Dry to damp conditions
This is another variation of the theme of dry chain lubricants. In a nutshell, wax is a type of lubricating substance that goes on the chain as a liquid and then dries on the chain.
Despite being less messy, it might need to be reapplied more often, depending on how frequently and under what conditions you ride.
Important Info: In the same way as other dry lubes, it should be applied to a dry, degreased chain.
Once you’ve applied it, wait a few minutes before riding. Unlike dry or wet lubes, this will require frequent application.
What is Immersive Waxing?
If you want an efficient drivetrain, then immersive waxing is your go-to option. It’s getting quite popular with racing and time trial bikes. Now you might want to know what immersive waxing actually is.
Well, when a scrupulously clean chain gets immersed in refined paraffin wax and other sorts of additives, that process is called immersive waxing. Now before using immersive wax for lubrication purposes, you are supposed to clean your bike nicely.
It’s true that grease is tough to completely remove from the chain, but with a strong degreaser, this job can be done easily. After full cleaning treatment, use immersive wax. They are super dry, so do not allow dirt to stick easily.
It means you can ride your bike for up to 300-400 km without cleaning your drivetrain parts. However, it’s not true for riding in wet conditions. Because refined paraffin waxes have no oil, which makes them highly prone to rust-like issues on wet rides. Therefore, soon after wet rides, consider drying, cleaning, and then re-waxing your chain.
According to ZFC if we re-wax our chain after each wet ride or after covering 300 km, then we can expand the lifespan of our chain to about 15,000 km. And this also helps in increasing the lifespan of other drivetrain components like cassettes and chainrings.
Another benefit of immersive waxing or waxing lube is that it makes cleaning a handy process. That means you need no expensive degreaser. At the end of the day, it helps you save a lot of time.
How to apply Bike Chain Lube on different parts of the Bike
It is necessary to lubricate bicycle parts before every ride in order for the bike to move smoothly. The purpose of this section is to provide an understanding of what these parts are.
And the amount of lubrication these components require to be able to perform effectively. In addition, we’ll learn about things that should be avoided at all costs.
What happens without Lube: A chain that isn’t properly lubricated makes a squealing sound. As a result, shifting becomes a major problem as well. Plus, they rust more easily.
How to Lube it: The bike should be in gear so that you are able to backpedal freely when you clean the chain. It’s best to use a bike stand that lifts your wheels off the ground.
It is also possible to prop up the bike against a wall as long as the pedals and crankset can turn 360° without being blocked.
The next step is to spray some degreaser on it, but be sure to spray it far from your bike, as microparticles can get into places you don’t want them to. Rotate the pedals slowly backward while holding the rag against the chain so that chain can easily run through it.
If the chain slips, simply place it back and continue deep cleaning. Pedal the chain again and repeat the action. The moment your chain looks like new and is sparkly, you know it’s clean.
Next, apply lubricant. Run the lubricant through your fingers after placing your thumb and forefinger over the link plates. As a result, the lube will be distributed throughout without the need to reapply.
The more, the better, is not always the case. Once you are satisfied with this process, let the product soak in overnight. Don’t start riding right away.
Never use: The motor oil option should never be chosen. It will negatively impact the chain’s strength. In addition, chain wear will be accelerated.
2. Clipless Pedals
What happens without Lube: Most clipless pedals come with a “jaw” which is a sprung plastic or metal piece that grasps the cleats and holds them in place for optimal pedal power. Whenever the jaws start squeaking or creaking, lubricate them to keep them working smoothly.
How to Lube it: Lubricate the jaws and pedal surfaces (where the cleats rest) with a light layer of grease. There are even lubricants made specifically for this purpose. A little lubricant applied every two weeks’ worth of riding should do the trick for most riders.
You should lubricate less often if you have a build-up of grime. By doing this, you can extend the life and function of your clipless pedals and cleats.
Never use: The use of grease on pedal springs is never recommended. In order to prevent gumminess, you should avoid it.
What happens without Lube: If you are encountering problems with your brakes or shifting, it is time for you to re-lubricate your vehicle. It’s especially important to relubricate when you experience problems braking during your rides.
Don’t take chances! You can ensure optimal lubrication of brake cables all year long if you pay attention to these wear-and-tear indications, even when riding in cold weather or heavy rain.
How to Lube it: Your brake cables must be properly lubricated in order to provide optimal braking during your rides. Using silicone oil, for example, is an excellent way to lubricate brake cables. The use of mineral oil products and the lubrication of Teflon-coated inner cables must be avoided.
You should first lubricate the outer brake lever housing. An oil pipe will contain the inner brake cables when they are being oiled. Wipe off any excess lubricant. After that, you need to remove the brake cable.
Now the inner brake cable must be lubricated at the point where it exits the outer cable housing. The lubricant can be gradually pushed into the outer brake cable housing by making small back-and-forth movements. Wipe off any remaining lubricant.
Furthermore, some bicycles do not allow the brake cables to be removed. If that is the case, follow these steps:
- Ensure that the inner brake cable is lubricated at the exact point where it emerges from the outer brake cable housing.
- You will then need to pull the brake cable up and down so the lubricant can penetrate deeply into the outer brake cable housing.
Never use: It is never a good idea to use WD-40. This solvent is not suitable for use as a lubricant. In case your cables feel too gummy. So, instead of choosing solvent, it would be better to replace them.
4. Derailleur Pulleys
What happens without Lube: Without proper lubrication, derailleurs produce squeaking noises. Additionally, they cause pain when rotating.
How to Lube it: It is best to spray degreaser on the derailleur before completely disassembling it. Be careful not to soak it through too long, as it may drive grease from the bearings and pivots. A similar procedure applies to front and rear mechs.
After that, oil the jockey wheels. You’ll want to use the appropriate lube according to the type of weather you’re likely to encounter. Wet lube when it’s wet, and dry lube when it’s dry. It is now time to lubricate the pivots.
The rear and front derailleurs both have four pivots, which can benefit from occasional lubrication if they get sticky. This is particularly noticeable when shifting into the small chainring or moving down the cassette. Shift the derailleur to help grease sink into each pivot. It is also beneficial to lubricate the spring mechanism that tensions the rear derailleur.
Never use: Grease should never be used on derailleur pulleys. They will only accumulate dirt and deteriorate more quickly if they are exposed to it.
What happens without Lube: When your seat slips down constantly or swivels side-to-side, or both, it is very frustrating. Over time seat posts can experience this issue without proper lubrication. Luckily, it’s a simple fix.
How to Lube it: You might think that this is counter-intuitive; grease is slippery, so wouldn’t that cause it to slip more?
Well, luckily, it is actually the grease that helps the seat post and seat tube to stick together. You can think of it as putting sand under your tires when you’re stuck.
Moreover, the grease keeps the seat post from becoming permanently embedded in the frame and prevents corrosion.
The seat post should be removed from the frame periodically so that the old grease can be wiped off with a rag. Clean the inside of the seat tube with the rag, then push it into the frame with your finger.
The inside of the seat tube, or the outside of the seat post, should be greased with a thin layer of new grease. Now adjust the height of the seat post by inserting it again and clamping it into place.
For bicycle frames and seat posts made from aluminum, steel, or titanium, use standard bicycle grease. Grease should not be used on carbon fiber frames or seats. You can use carbon assembly paste here. Despite its similar function to grease, it is specially formulated to not react chemically with carbon fiber.
It is possible for some frame-Seatpost combinations to be particularly stubborn and prone to slippage. In fact, after using carbon assembly paste on metal items.
To prevent seizing in such cases, clean and reapply carbon assembly paste even more often (two to three times per year) if you use it on metal parts.
Never use: Be careful not to overapply grease. Sitting will otherwise result in slippage.
Best Bike Chain Lube Recommended as per the types of Bike
For Road & Time-Trial Bikes
Therefore wax lubes or immersive waxing is the perfect lubrication solution for road and time trial bikes. In wet conditions also, it can be used. The only thing you need to do is clean the chain as soon as you have finished your wet ride. This will prevent corrosion problems.
Another big advantage of using wax-based lube on the road and TT bikes is they are less prone to dirt. Your drivetrain, no matter what, always stays clean. Even if you ride a 100km of distance, still you’ll get a clean chain.
And when it needs cleaning, that’s a straightforward process. 1 sponge and towel are more than enough for cleaning the drivetrain because it does not accumulate black grease over it.
For Mountain, Gravel & Cyclocross Bikes
Doesn’t matter whether it’s mountain, gravel, or cyclocross bike riding. They all best go with wax-based lubrication. Although some people prefer wet lube its use widely collects contamination from the surrounding. That directly causes wear problems.
Some people prefer wet lubes so that they do not need to clean the drivetrain frequently. But not cleaning the drivetrain on a regular basis directly affects the component’s life shell. Which can greatly hit your pocket.
So, always consider going with wax-based lube for these riding styles. This will keep your bike running smoothly for a longer period of time.
For Commuting Bikes
Wet lubes are the wisest option for commuting rides. This will give you comfort in all weather conditions. However, try cleaning your bike frequently because wet lube attracts dirt and debris.
It’s seen that commuters care less about bike maintenance and cleaning. And on top of that, using wet lube greatly increases the chances of squeaking sounds and malfunctioning bikes.
So, here also, it’s advised to go for wax-based lubrication. Although it can’t triumph over wet lube in an all-weather riding scenario. However, it is straightforward to clean. So, it can sustain such situations nicely.
Can we use Bicycle Chain Lube instead of A Degreaser
No, using the bicycle chain lube as a cleaner or degreaser is not as feasible as many riders consider. According to some trusted resources, many riders don’t even consider cleaning chains at all before the application of new lube.
Whatever scenario you lie under can cost you heavily in the long run. Therefore always use a degreaser to wipe any dirt and debris. And don’t consider the bike chain lubricants as a degreaser and vice versa.
Should A new Chain be Degreased before Installation
There is usually a sticky feeling when you first use a new chain. The residues on the surface are the result of the high-performance grease that was applied during assembly.
The grease should be cleaned with a thin, non-aggressive oil or cleaner (no aggressive grease solvents! ), the rollers should be lightly oiled, and the excess oil should be wiped off with a cloth.
It is not recommended to completely degrease the chain. We also recommend that once the wax has been applied, the chain should only be degreased on the outside.
It is recommended to soak the chain in wax for 12–24 hours after completely degreasing it so that it can penetrate deep inside the chain.
On what Parts, Grease & Oil are used for Lubrication
Before you lubricate your bike with either grease or oil, please make sure they are appropriate for the purpose for which they will be used.
The grease is best used for headset bearings and can also be used for the hub bearings and the bottom bracket bearings. While chain oil is used for drivetrain and suspension components, pedals, cables, and jockey wheels.
Many of today’s lubricating oils have ceramic particles for reducing friction, while others have become wax-like pastes for maximum performance.
Additionally, there are Teflon-based oils that reduce friction between components. Ask your local bike shop for advice if you are unsure what type of oil or grease you need.
Final Words — Bike Chain Lubricant
Regular and precise lubrication is the best-kept secret to the long life of your bike. Now the kind of lube one should prefer completely varies with when and where you’re planning your ride.
If you ride in inclement conditions, try using wet lube. And often consider cleaning your bike to prevent any rusting and corrosion.
Conversely, if you are a fair-weather cyclist, then dry lube should be your preferred option. Other options also work well in their specialized area. So, kindly consider them too as per your need.
Still, if you have any suggestions or doubts or something that I have missed regarding the maintenance of the bike, feel free to drop a comment below. I will be more than happy to assist you with your query. Please follow our Facebook Page for more guides like this.
Bike Chain Lube – Frequently Asked Questions
Why should one use Lube on Bike Chain?
When you pedal, your legs do not move your bicycle on their own; it is your bike chain that does that! When you ride your bike, you’re transferring power from your legs to the wheels through the chain, which is under serious tension.
Due to its low height, it also picks up dirt, muck, sand, and other debris. Therefore you can keep your bike in good shape by lubricating and cleaning its chain regularly with the correct bike chain lube.
How often should you apply A Chain Lube?
Once a week or every 100-150 miles if you ride mostly on the pavement in dry conditions. But it may not be necessary to clean your chain every time you lube it if you ride mainly in dry conditions.
However, consider cleaning your chain after every two to three lubrication operations. If you ride in wet, snowy, salty, or dirty conditions, or when there is more sand or dirt, grease and clean your chain after every ride.
How to apply Bike Chain Lube accurately?
Chain lubes don’t work efficiently when misapplied. Thankfully, with the right technique, you can do this quite easily and without creating any mess around. Always start by degreasing your bike chain. If you have cleaned your chain clearly, now is the time for some lubrication.
In case you are using oil-based lube, then drip just a single drop of oil lube in each chain pin. Allow the lube to at least 30 seconds to sit. And then backpedal your bike for 15-20 revolutions.
This helps lube penetrate easily into the nooks and crannies of your dear chain. Always wipe off extra lube; otherwise, you’ll start collecting grime from your very first ride. Riders who use wax-based lube should allow it to sit overnight for the best effects.
Why are some Lubes Labeled Biodegradable?
Everything that is biodegradable reduces carbon footprint. And the same is true for bike lube, which is now agreed upon by lube manufacturing companies too. They know that Teflon and petroleum-based lubes are too unfriendly to the environment.
That’s why they are shifting to biodegradable lube options. This major step can greatly help nature and its surroundings. So, we should support it by shifting to biodegradable bike lubricants.
Why can’t we use regular WD40 for Lubrication?
Many people use WD40 as a lubricant. However, it’s not recommended from our end. Basically, WD40 is a good option if you want to clean your chain. This is especially true when your chain is too dirty to get cleaned from any normal grease-removing dish wash.
But using it as your bike chain lubricant is a bad idea. Because it acts more as a degreaser and, if used in place of lubricant, then keeps the capability of doing more harm than good.
Can the same Lube work on all Bikes?
Yes, this is possible because bicycle chain lube varies with climatic and track conditions and not with the kind of bikes. For instance, if you are going on a muddy ride, then always go for a wet lube. Conversely, if landing your feet in some desert, then dry lube is your go-to option.
In case your riding setting varies widely, then you can consider all-weather lube too. However, always clean your bike after a muddy or dusty ride. Because they have high chances of accumulating dirt and debris, which are not good for the health of your cycle in the long run.
Can too much Chain Lube be harmful?
You shouldn’t over-lubricate your chain as this will damage it and annoy your mechanic. Your drivetrain becomes grossly clogged up with dirt and dust when it is lubricated excessively. As a result, your drivetrain can be damaged faster than if the chain was dry.
Keep in mind that your chain will let you know when it needs to be lubricated. A dry and squeaky ride is a sign that you need to lubricate. You are likely to experience this if you have never oiled your chain before or if you rode in heavy rain.
How to extend the life of A Chain?
To prolong the life and ensure free movement of your chain, it is important to keep it properly clean and lubricated. A smooth ride is impossible if you don’t lubricate your bike’s chain regularly. You should spray plenty of lubricant on your chain in the middle gear while shifting your bike to the middle gear.
An excellent lubricant for this purpose is a water-based bike chain lubricant, as it not only lubricates the chain but also prevents it from rusting. You should invest in a lubricant that prevents rust and corrosion on your bike chain to extend its life.
Is expensive Bike Chain Lubes worth purchasing?
A good bicycle chain lubricant gets into your chain’s links to lubricate them and stays there afterward. A new generation of bike chain lubes includes clever additives that enable them to coat metal surfaces without attracting any crud.
The cost is high, but they are worth it if you have an expensive transmission and want to keep it running for as long as possible. Lubricating a dirty chain will simply wash grit into the links and cause them to wear, so you should always clean the chain thoroughly before lubricating it.
Is Aerosol Lubes worth using?
The bike market is full of a diverse range of lubricant options. Every lubricant has some pros and cons. Out of all of them, aerosols are also sold as a lubricant. But we will not recommend this as an option for bike chain lubricants.
Because, first of all, they are tough to apply precisely. Additionally, they have a higher chance of lubricating your brake rotors. This action can completely ruin the performance of your brakes. So, try avoiding them.
How to Switch from Wet to Dry Chain Lube?
The first step for switching bike chain lube is cleaning your bike chain. Then apply some degreaser to remove any kind of lubricant buildup and grease on the bike. Wait for the chain to get completely dry and clean.
After this, apply new chain lube, i.e., dry lube, and allow it a few minutes to sit well. And now, finally, wipe down any buildup to make the bike ready for the next ride.