10 Things You Can Use To Lube Your Bike Chain

About The Benefits And Disadvantages Of Using Dry Chain Lubes
The question of whether you should use wet or dry lube really comes down to the conditions you are riding in whether on a mountain bike or a gravel bike. A dry lube, not surprisingly is better for dry conditions, it won't attract dirt or dust but it often doesn't last as long as more durable wet lubes.

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Your bike chain is the most demanding part of the entire assembly process

bicycle Chain lubricants
Your bike chain is the most demanding part of the entire assembly process.

Even pedaling at a slower speed creates more metal-to-metal contact between the chain itself and all other parts of the drivetrain.

A chain in need of repair can make riding a bike more difficult than ever.

There are many lubricants on the market designed specifically for bicycle chains, as well as many unique alternatives.

Your bike chain is the most demanding part of the entire assembly process. You can use bike-specific lubricants (i.e. dry, wet, ceramic, and wax) and substitutes like motor oil, silicone spray, and 3-in-1 oil.

It is important to understand which lubricant will best suit your needs, and its pros and cons. We’ll dig deeper into what you can use, what you can’t, and why.

Why is it necessary to lubricate the bicycle chain?

Bicycle chains should be lubricated regularly as this helps to protect them from rust and reduce friction. Abrasion makes the chain more likely to break. Therefore, taking good care of the chain not only ensures the top performance of your bike but also ensures that the chain won’t break or break.

Lubricants protect the chain from the effects of the environment. Mud and sand can increase friction on the chain, while rain, snow, salty air, or any form of moisture can accelerate the rusting process.

The Best Ways to Lubricate Your Bike Chain

You can re-lubricate your chain by following easy-to-understand steps. After choosing a lubricant based on your needs, you’ll follow these five steps to ensure your chain is properly lubricated.

Applying Degreaser To Clean the Chain

You need to clean the chain properly first before you can re-lubricate the chain. Using soap and water won’t help as it won’t clean the chain as thoroughly as it should.

This is where the degreaser becomes vital to the job. This will ensure that all debris, dirt, and old grease are completely removed from the chain. Slowly apply the degreaser while pedaling in the opposite direction, making sure the chain is properly coated.

Removing the Grease From Your Chain

Let the degreaser sit on the chain for a while. This will allow it to penetrate enough and easily remove grease from the chain. After soaking, run the chain cloth or sponge over the chain to remove all the grease.

Remove any Excess Degreaser From the Chain

Then you need to remove excess degreaser by rinsing thoroughly with warm water. The easiest way to do this is to soak a paper towel in warm water and run the rope through the paper towel. Any excess degreaser will break down the newly added lubricant, which means the chain will not be lubricated enough.

Applying the New Lubricant to Your Chain

Once you’ve given the chain enough time to dry completely, it’s time to apply new lubricant. Apply a steady amount of lubricant to the chain while reversing slowly. Make sure the leash is evenly covered and that there are any omissions. The best way is to smear it on the upper part of the lower part of the string.

You can run your finger over the chain to check if all the links are fully saturated.

Remove the Excess Lubricant from the Chain

Allow the lubricant to coat the chain appropriately and let it sit for a minute or two. You should then gently wipe off excess lubricant on the chain with a new rag.

Let the lubricant coat the chain appropriately and let it sit for a minute or two. You should then gently wipe excess lubricant off the chain with a new rag. 

Types of Bike-Specific Lubricants You Can Use on Your Chain

There are many types of bike-specific lubricants on the market, each with their own pros, cons, and specified uses that we’ll cover. Different types include dry, wet, wax, and ceramic lubricants.

Most lubricants contain synthetic oils as well as friction-reducing additives, such as Teflon. They also contain a carrier liquid that evaporates after the lubricant is applied.

Lately, wax-based lubricants have become increasingly popular among more performance-oriented cyclists. Don’t just think about price when choosing which lubricant to buy, because a cheaper but poor quality lubricant can cost you more in the long run due to its below-average performance.

Types of Chain Lubricants

Let’s now talk about the different types of lubricants manufactured for use on bicycle chains and all their pros and cons, as well as the specific conditions under which they are designed.

Dry Chain Lube

Dry lubricants are specifically designed for use in drier conditions and consist of 10% lubricant made up of synthetic oils and additives. The remaining 90% is carrier fluid. Some companies also refer to wax-based lubricants as dry lubricants.

Dry lubricants offer much greater efficiency with significantly reduced friction and much less debris grip. This is because the oil has a low viscosity. The downside of dry lubricants is that they can be easily washed away by water, rain or puddles.

Some experts argue that dry lubricants are ineffective because they contain very little of the actual lubricant. About Dry Lube

Wet Chain Lube

Wet lubricants are designed for use in wetter conditions and year round. This lubricant has a much higher ratio of lubricant and viscosity. The greater thickness means the lubricant will have a much longer life and is less likely to be washed away by water or rain.

The added benefits of this type of lubricant can also cause problems. Higher lubricant content means more dirt will be attracted, especially if applied too much. Higher viscosity will also reduce chain performance, mainly due to viscous drag.

The chain needs to be cleaned regularly, as when wet lubricant deposits debris on it, it can cause the chain to wear out. About Wet Lube

Ceramic Chain Lube

Ceramic lubricants are a new addition to the lubricant market. They made claims of superior performance but much higher prices.

Wet and dry ceramic lubricants are available. They are said to contain small ceramic particles that reduce friction more than the synthetic oils found in standard lubricants.

The higher price of ceramic lubricants can be overlooked due to reduced friction and increased performance which increases transmission life. The increased durability reduces long-term costs due to less damage to the gearbox. About Ceramic Lube

Wax Chain lube

Lubricants have become popular in recent years among cyclists. This lubricant is paraffin wax based and has shown remarkable results in terms of increased performance, longer service life and much higher resistance to contamination.

Wax lubricants are made from highly refined paraffin wax particles with additives such as Teflon and carrier fluid. For the lubricant to work properly, the wax must fully settle and form a hard, dry, frictionless coating over the entire chain.

The dryness of the lubricant ensures that frictional contaminants are less likely to stick to the chain and damage the chain or transmission.

Summary of all the different types of lubricants and the benefits of each:

TypeBenefits
Dry lubeSpecially designed for use in drier conditions and offer much greater efficiency with significantly reduced friction and they capture much less debris.
Wet lubeDesigned for use in wet conditions year-round and the higher viscosity means the lubricant will have a much longer life.
Ceramic lubeWet and dry ceramic lubricants are available. They are said to contain small ceramic particles that reduce friction more than the synthetic oils found in standard lubricants.
Wax lubeThis lubricant is paraffin wax based and has shown excellent results in increased performance, longer service life and much higher resistance to contamination.

Advantages of lubricating oils and Waxs

Alternative Chain Lubes You Can Use

While chain lubricants are the ideal tool to use on your chain and provide the best results, you may be looking for a cheaper solution or need a quick fix.

Grease

The use of household grease is every day when it comes to brake replacement or changing gear cables. Grease can be a temporary fix but lacks the properties necessary for a long-term solution. Grease can maintain its thick viscosity even at very high temperatures, so it cannot correctly coat all the small parts of the chain.

Grease is incredibly sticky, making it a magnet for dirt and debris, and a thick and abrasive paste forms. The paste can extensively damage and speed up the breakdown of your chain. A damaged chain will end up wearing out your cogs and cassette. Grease is also tough to remove from the chain when changing lube.

Grease on bike chain
Grease is a magnet for dirt and debris on your bike chain

Engine Oil

Engine oil, like most alternatives, can work in a pinch. It is designed to operate at much higher temperatures and speeds than those found on bikesIt will remain thick at the rates of your bike, making it difficult for the viscous oil to reach all the parts of the chain, and it will take longer to coat the chain.

As it is thicker and stickier, it will gather up more dust and grime than regular bike chain lubricant. If you used it for an extended period, it would become dirtier, causing wear and tear on your chain.

Engine Oil
Engine oil will gather up more dust and grime than regular bike chain lube

Cleaning motor oil from your bike chain is also challenging because it is resistant to more moderate degreasers. You’ll need to use something more powerful to remove the motor oil from your bike chain.

Sewing Machine Oil

Since sewing machines contain tiny yet fast-moving components, the oil’s viscosity is relatively thin. It must be reapplied every eight hours of stitching. You would have to constantly apply oil to the chain due to its low staying power.

Sewing machines are also used in a reasonably regulated atmosphere, with moderate temperatures and little dirt. Therefore, sewing machine oil isn’t designed to protect against the dirt and extremes a bike would encounter on the road.

3 in 1 Oil

One of the top alternatives to bike chain lubricant is 3 in 1 oil. 3 in 1 oil is mineral oil, which implies it is derived from petroleum. It was designed to strike a balance between performance and protection. In other words, when used as a chain lubricant, this oil will preserve your drive train from wear and tear while also reducing friction, which loses energy.

Silicone Spray

Silicone has several advantages, including retaining its greasiness even at high temperatures, the inability to react to most chemicals, the inability to rust, and low friction.

Silicone spray is fantastic because of its aerosol nature, which allows it to go into all kinds of tiny nooks and crannies, making it ideal for getting into the little portions of a bike chain. The disadvantage of silicone spray is that it is readily removed.

Silicone spray on a bike chain
Silicone spray can penetrate your bike chain well, though it is easily removed

Takeaway

If you have the correct bike chain oil, you can avoid being stuck with a dry chain. But sometimes, you don’t have what you need and must settle for an alternative.

Several other lubricants will work in a pinch, but only as a last resort and not regularly. Clean the chain and apply proper bicycle chain oil as quickly as possible for your peace of mind.


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