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Chain Lube Basics

By Sarah Bonner

squirt-lubed-bicycle-chainsChain lube seems insignificant but it’s an important part of bicycle maintenance. Lubrication protects your chain from corrosion, keeps it clean, and will help prolong the life of your drive train. A properly lubricated chain also means less friction and easier pedalling! But before you buy and apply, make sure you know the chain lube basics.

1. There are two different types of cycling chain lubes: wet and dry. Choosing between the two comes down to what conditions you will be riding in. If you ride in wet or muddy conditions, opt for a wet lube. If you ride in dry conditions, choose a dry lube.

2. Wet lubes are thick so they won’t wash away in wet conditions which also makes them longer lasting. Wet lubes go on wet and stay wet so they attract dust and dirt which can wear down your drive train. Only use wet lubes when you need them for particularly wet and muddy conditions.

3. Dry lubes are thinner than wet lubes and, since they dry after application, don’t collect as much dirt. However, they wear off faster so you’ll have to lube more often or reapply if your chain gets wet. Dry lube is the most common type of lubricant used and usually suits most riders needs.

4. To apply wet or dry lube, drip one drop of the lube onto each chain link. [First make sure your chain is clean.] You can do this by setting the tip of the bottle on the chain and slowly turning the crank backwards to move the chain around. Once the chain is coated, wipe of any excess with a rag and then, if it’s a dry lube, allow it to dry for 2-4 hours.

5. You should lube your chain regularly but there is no set rule on how often since it depends on the conditions and how often you ride. Over time you will eventually learn what a lubed chain sounds and feels like but until then just remember that it must be done on a regular basis. If you use a wet lube, keep an eye out for debris or dirt build up and wash and re-lube as necessary. If you use dry lube, always reapply if your chain gets wet or it sounds squeaky.

[Squirt Dry Lube is biodegradable and, since it’s milky white, you can see where you’ve applied it before it dries. The added Teflon in Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube helps keep your chain extra slippery and can help save you some energy.]


Sarah Bonner

Sarah Bonner the author of two e-articles, How To Use A Foam Roller: An Illustrated Guide for Cyclists and The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion for cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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3 comments to Chain Lube Basics

  • Katie

    I have a vintage style bike with a partial chain guard and as my chain is cleaner as a result I was wondering which lube to use?

  • Marge

    Thank you. That makes sense of lots of fragmented info I’ve received kabout chain lubrication. I live in Seattle where conditions vary, but on a sunny day the roads can be wet from recent rain. I recently bought a nifty brush that has three sides and goes arou d the chain and also has some long bristles on the opposite end to clean the cassette.

  • Kat

    Great article. I would add to clean/degrease and dry your chain, or at the very least use a rag to wipe the chain down before lubing it so that dirt is not pushed into the chain by the fresh lube.


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