Which Bike Chain Lube Should You Choose? All You Need to Know

Cycling is only possible if you use bike chain lube. Oiling your chain and keeping your tires inflated are two of the most important things you can do. These two simple tasks will fix a lot of cycling maintenance problems.

It is very easy to oil or lubricate a bike chain. There are many high-performance bike chain oils and multi-purpose oils that you can use. Even though WD40 is no longer a staple in a bike shop, it is still widely used by cyclists.

Bike Chain Lube Jobs

When discussing lubricants, the chain is often given more attention than any other component of the bike. Chains can be prone to rusting faster than other parts of your bike, as they can scatter gritty mud all over the place if they are dirty. These are signs that chain lube is doing its main job: cleaning, lubrication and corrosion resistance.

Cleaning is perhaps the most misunderstood task in chain lube. Many products can be more effective in cleaning out grit and dirt from a chain. These degreasers or cleaners are the most popular for cleaning chain because they can only see a chain dirty if there is a lot of material on it. However, it’s contaminationinsidethe chain’s tiny pins and rollers that harms a chain, not buildupoutsideits links. These contaminants can be cleaned away with chain lube. The lubricant is placed between the parts to keep any unwanted material out.

Although lubrication is easier to understand, it can be more difficult than you might think. Chain links that ride on gears create metal-on-metal contact. Lubrication can reduce friction at these points. As we have discussed in relation to cleaning, the magic of motion is found in the chain’s tiny pins and rollers. Lubricants don’t reduce friction between the chains and the gears, but only between the parts of a chain. Although the difference may not seem significant, it is critical because chains and gears eventually wear out. However, lubrication does not cause this. To avoid chain and gear wear, you might need to use more lubricant.

This makes chain lube very easy to use. Every link, roller, and pin on a bike chain, from the first to the most recent, are made of steel. It is rare to find corrosion-resistant stainless steel, so most chains are susceptible to corrosion. Although the degree of corrosion can vary depending on where you live, any moisture source from rain-filled potholes to airborne humidity can cause a chain to rust. Chains are especially vulnerable to salt from the seaside and ice-prone areas. Chain lubes, on the other hand, do not corrode chain. Simply stick them between the chain and some water to solve your problem.

Different types of bike chain lube

You’ll see that chain lube is more of an umbrella term than a product when you go to any bike shop or online store. There might be products that are chain lubes based on one aspect, but not another: WD40 is just one example. But, there are many other staples such as Tri-Flow or Phil Wood Tenacious Oil, which are all great options for bike shops. Why? It depends. This is the answer, some readers may be familiar with. Different lubes have different priorities because chain lube performs many tasks. However, chain lube can be divided into two types: dry lube or wet lube.

Dry Lube is often misunderstood as it’s typically sold in a container containing liquid. It is easy to see why there is so much confusion. Many dry lubes are visiblely separated in the bottles, leaving liquid and solid components that need to be recombined. The liquid component is a solvent, but the solid component contains most of the lubricating qualities. The lubricant can be mixed into the solvent to make it easier to deliver to the chain than if you paste a dry film onto the chain. Additionally, the thin solvent helps the lubricant penetrate the chain’s moving parts. The solvent evaporates quickly leaving the chain dry but lubricated with a thick film.

The wet lube is applied wet and remains wet. Wet lubes tend to be viscous and stickier than dry lubricants. Wet lubricants are generally used on bikes chains such as 3-in-1 oil. Wet lubricants are usually oily to the touch on chain. This is why wet lubes can leave a splatter on frames and riders’ legs.

Both wet and dry lubes offer advantages and disadvantages. Dry lube sticks less well to chains and is more likely to be washed away in rainy weather. Dry lube can cause bikes to squeak violently after being outside for a while. Even larger puddles can strip dry lube from a bike’s chain. These same puddles can also be a problem with wet lube. The grit in the roadside water and slush can easily be combined into wetlube to create a nasty, abrasive mixture. This muck can cause a significant performance impeded if it is not removed promptly. Flung drops of mud can also contaminate everything, from clothing to frames to braking surfaces. This issue can also be caused by dusty environments like construction sites.

While the choice between wet and dry depends on personal preference, there is a simple logic to it: dry weather requires dry lube while wet weather requires wet. Because of the constant dampness from melting snow, winter riding can also be a place where wet lube is able to excel. Either dry lube should be reapplied frequently or wet lube should be cleaned up regularly.

Our Favorite Bike Lube and Oil for Various Situations

ProductDescriptionWhere to Find It
Pedro’s Chain WaxThis paste lubricates your bike chain without oil. It can be applied like wax paste or paste and used indoors without drippage.Amazon
Finish Line Dry LubeAll-purpose bike oil and bike lube that can be used in dry conditions. It’s effective for all moving parts of your bike.Amazon
Tri-Flow Dry Squirt LubeThin oil is a popular choice for moving parts and chains. It’s effective in difficult-to-reach areas.Amazon
WD-40 Bike Wet-Chain LubeWet chain lube from the trusted manufacturer of lubricants. It provides corrosion protection and basic lubrication.Amazon

Bike lubes: Why use them?

We all want to avoid it!

Now that we have established the differences between dry and wet lube, let’s address the problem: The cost of bicycle-specific lubricants is prohibitive. It’s not impossible for cyclists to lubricate their chain using more affordable, generic spray cans of motor oil. Chain lube washing off is an indicator that environmental considerations must be taken into account. Motor oil is intended to be used in a motor. Shops and individuals are required to dispose of used oil at designated recycling centers. However, most bike lubes have been designed to minimize any environmental impact and many manufacturers offer organic options.

Fair comparison: Most lipsticks and lipbalms end in being swallowed by the wearer. It’s not surprising that lipsticks are relatively benign when compared to the strong fumes that can telegraph nail varnish from the next room. Paraffin wax has seen a revival in popularity due to environmental concerns. It is one of the most organic and inert lubricants. Its appeal is limited by the fact that you have to take off the chain and then dip it in hot wax.

Other cycling lubricants

Every moving part of a bicycle, like chains, benefits from cleaning, oiling, and protecting against corrosion. These lubricants are built-for-cycling, such as Finish Line and Triflow bike lubes. Chain links are exposed to a lot of force and motion, so chain lubricant is not as effective elsewhere on the bike. Bearings like headsets, crank bottom brackets and wheel hubs are generally grease-filled and will be the topic of another conversation. Cable systems are now less common, but they are still very popular in this age of electronic shifting and hydraulic brakes. These systems are designed with some form of lubrication, such as low-friction liner. These parts should be replaced if they become sticky. Sometimes, however, older parts can be
re-used with the right product to get more mileage and better performance.

Here is where we welcome back our friend WD40. It is important to note that WD-40 also makes bike-specific lubes, one of which is listed in the table above. But here we are talking about the legendary lubrication product.

WD40 has a very low lubrication but can displace water and correct corrosion. These properties make WD40 a great choice for cable and pivot lubricants. WD40 and other similar products are also useful when you need to add enough lubricant to reduce noise, but without the hassle of a heavier lubricant. These problems are most common in headsets, wheel hubs, pedals and their outer rubber dust seals. Even creaky saddle rails and a difficult quick release skewer can benefit from a little bit of lubrication. WD40 can also be used as a mildly effective penetrating oil for loosening stuck bolts, screws and spoke nipples. However, it is safer to use on delicate parts or at home than more aggressive products such as PB Blaster. Be careful not to use any product on braking surfaces, especially disc
brake pads and rotors.

There are many other products that have similar or better properties to WD40, both for bikes and general use. However, teflon, also known as PTFE, is a common component of many of these products. This should be weighed in conjunction with the potential for environmental contamination, inadequate ventilation, and the lack of personal protective equipment that often accompany bicycle care products.

Bike Lubricant Service Schedule

The last most frequently asked question about any lubricant, is how often it should be used. Big surprise: it depends. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing a “too much lubricating”. It is because too much lubricant can cause damage to the engine. This is why mechanics recommend moderation. Wet lube can accelerate the buildup in a drivetrain. It is possible to clean a chain without damaging it and then re-apply lubricant. It is important to clean and lubricate a chain if it becomes noisy or noticeably dirty.

Although there is no set frequency, here are some guidelines. Hardcore commuters or other daily riders might need to do this multiple times per week, while weekend warriors can only do it every other week. It’s a good opportunity to remind everyone that tires should be checked before each ride. To settle any doubts, don’t hesitate to purchase a gauge.

A chain is the only part of a bike that requires the same lubricant performance. Few moving parts are as constant or as exposed. For cables and derailleur pivots, lube only symptomatically. Over lubrication can cause problems because there are fewer places for lube to go. If these parts are not taken care of, the worst outcome is replacement. In most cases, diligent lubrication will only delay replacement.

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