One of the basic measures to enhance a bike chain’s performance is proper lubrication. There are several types of chain lubricants that you can get from the local bike store. But you could be asking, “Can I use vegetable oil on my bike chain?”
You can use vegetable oil on your bike chain for emergency purposes but not as the default lubricant. It lacks the additives found in bike lubricants which make it less effective, and it disintegrates faster. In addition, vegetable oil attracts a lot of dirt and grime.
However, any oil or lube is better than no oil on the chain. Unlubricated chains usually wear out more due to the extreme metal-to-metal contacts.
Can I Use Vegetable Oil On My Bike Chain? – Pros and Cons.
Although cooking oil has almost the same viscosity as bike chain lubricants, it can’t hold on for long as most riders would like.
All the same, when you have nothing else to use, vegetable oil will do for a quick fix before you get the proper lubricant. Notably, using vegetable oil as a chain lubricant has several advantages and disadvantages which include:
1. Vegetable Oil Is Non-Toxic
Though this may not relate directly to the performance of your bicycles, vegetable oils are not hazardous.
When repairing or lubricating your bike, you are exposed to atomized vapor from mineral bike lubricants. Even if your hands soak with the oil or vaporize into your eyes, there is no danger of toxicity.
Therefore, there isn’t too much worry if you forget to put the cooking oil away from children’s reach.
2. It’s Non-Carcinogenic
In the same breath, cooking oil is safe and doesn’t contain substances that could cause cancer.
Unlike genetically modified products, vegetable oils are biodegradable. Notably, cooking oil applied to the chain will eventually evaporate into the air or wash into the drains without posing any threat to you or the environment.
For this reason, vegetable oils happen to be one of the safest products around that you can use to lubricate your chain.
In addition, vegetable oil is gentle on your hands, unlike mineral oils that dry the skin and leave it susceptible to more damage.
3. Vegetable Oil Is Cheap
Unlike bike-specific chain lubricants, cooking oil happens to be significantly cheap. Pressurized lubricants in some small 4oz tins cost about 3 times as 500ml of vegetable oils.
Therefore, with only a few bucks, you can get more vegetable oils than chain lubes.
Since cooking oil may pose a challenge when it comes to application, you can use the traditional oils cans such as the GOLDENROD (707) Industrial Pump Oiler, which comes with an 8” flex spout for easy oiling.
4. Vegetable Oil Can Lubricate And Degrease
Other than lubricating the bike chain, vegetable oils, which have a lower viscosity than most mineral oils, will dilute old lubricants. As a result, the greasy dirt and grit fall off the chain, leaving it clean.
Degreasing is essential since it helps to keep the chain clean and efficient in its performance.
In addition to degreasing the chain, vegetable oils ensure that the rollers and pins are not left naked. The oil gets between the moving components of the drivetrain and keeps them lubricated.
At the same time, vegetable oils can unstiffen rust from the chain.
1. Attracts A Lot Of Dirt
One of the significant drawbacks of using vegetable oil to lubricate bike chains is that it attracts lots of dirt and grime. On the contrary, bike chain lubricants are less sticky, and therefore, they don’t get messy so fast.
Notably, this dirt will form a gritty paste that wears out the drivetrain fast. In that case, the effect will be similar to not having any lube on the chain.
2. Cooking Oils Breaks Down Quickly
Definitely, vegetable oil has a slightly lower viscosity than automobile oils or most chain lubricants. Again, it lacks the additives found in purpose-made lubricants.
As a result, when used as bike chain lube, vegetable oils break so fast, thereby becoming ineffective. Specifically, cooking oil can hardly do 50 miles and still maintain its qualities.
Therefore, since the lubrication effect of cooking oil on the chains is short-term, you should only use it for emergency fixes.
Vegetable oil can’t work well as a dedicated drivetrain lubricant would for aggressive riders.
3. It Washes Away Easily
The other notable disadvantage of using vegetable oil on a bike chain is that it easily washes away. Considering that cooking oil loses its viscosity so fast, it can’t hold on when it gets into contact with water.
Whether it is washing the bike, riding in puddles, or the rain, be sure the vegetable oil will be off your bike chain before you know it.
Though veggie oil may work in dry conditions, it might not be of great help during the wet seasons.
4. Solidifies In Cold Weather
The other drawback of using vegetable oil as chain lube is that the oil solidifies in low temperatures.
Compared to engine oils, or bike chain lubricants, cooking oils will solidify at about -10 degrees Celsius. As a result, the oil will make a greasy mess that will attract lots of dust and debris that affect the drivetrain’s efficiency.
In addition, the gritty mess will wear out the chain as well as the sprockets.
On the other hand, if you use purpose-made chain lubes such as the Off Dry Lube, it works well in all weather conditions. In addition, it attracts dirt as vegetable oil does.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I Clean My Bike Chain After Every Ride?
It is advisable to clean your bike after every ride, especially after riding in the rain or on trails. A clean chain is as important as one that is perfectly lubricated.
Unfortunately, not all riders will make it to clean their bikes after every ride. In that case, it is advisable to clean your bike after a few rides in a week.
Also, you can use degreasing solvents such as the WD-40 for chain cleaning instead of hosing it all the time.
2. Can I Use gear Oil As Chain Lube?
You can gear oil as chain lube for your bike without much of an issue. The oil has an ideal viscosity and contains additives that enhance a bike’s efficiency.
On the other hand, gear oil is a bit greasy, and it picks a lot of grime. In addition, cleaning and degreasing a chain with gear oil is harder than one that uses bike chain lubes.
3. How Do I Know If My Bike Chain Needs Replacing?
You can use the ruler test at home to tell whether your bike chain needs replacement. You only align the zero mark to the center one rivet and check where the 12”-mark falls on the chain.
If the 12-inch mark lines up with the center of the rivet it falls on; then your chain is in perfect condition.
If you find the rivet is 1/8” or more ahead of the 12-inch mark, then you need to need to replace your chain.
4. How Long Should A Bicycle Chain Last?
A bicycle chain should last about 2000 to 3000 miles, depending on a rider’s style. All the same, aggressive riding activities would see a rider use up to 3 chains in a week.
Notably, the life of a bike chain also greatly depends on the care you accord it.
Also Read: What can I use to lube my bike chain?
In Summary- Can I use vegetable oil on my bike chain?
Yes, you can use vegetable oil to lube your chain. All the same, the oil is only effective for a short while.
Unfortunately, it collects dirt, breaks, and washes away easily. Therefore, cooking oil should only be used as a quick fix when you don’t have any other better lubricant.
As mentioned earlier, a well-lubricated chain will operate at its optimum efficiency. Proper lubrication also adds life to a bike’s drive train.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does vegetable oil work on bike chain?
In essence, yes, you could use vegetable oil as a stopgap to lubricate your bike chain. However, using vegetable oil on your bike chain is far from an optimal solution. It might suffice in the short term if you find yourself in a bind and without any alternatives at hand. Having said that, there are some serious downsides to consider.
Over my years as a cyclist and biking hobbyist, I've learned that using ill-suited substances such as vegetable oil on your chain can have some undesired consequences. The nature of vegetable oil means it is prone to quickly gumming up and thickening on your chain. This not only attracts more dirt and other particles that will stick to your chain but it also partly defeats the purpose of the lubricant – to reduce friction and ensure smooth operation.
So, while it's somewhat effective in the short term, the long-term use of vegetable oil can lead to increased maintenance and cleaning of your drivetrain. So, as a word of advice from an experienced cyclist, vegetable oil is not the best choice for your bike chain and it is wiser to stick to specific, purpose-made bike lubricants.
Can you use vegetable oil as chain lube?
Using vegetable oil as chain lube is not an ideal choice. Yes, if you find yourself in a dire situation where you have absolutely no other option for lubricant, it will technically do the job, but it’s far from optimum. Vegetable oil simply does not have the same properties or additives specially made for your bike chain.
As someone who understands the in's-and-out's of biking, particularly the mechanics to a decent extent, I can tell you that these additives make a substantial difference. They help ensure greater performance, longevity, and less maintenance on your part. The absence of these additives in something like vegetable oil just underscores inferior performance.
To illustrate this point, imagine being at a race or on a longer bike excursion. You realize you forgot your chain lube and all you have is a jar of sunflower oil from last night's dinner. Yes, it's indeed better than nothing. It'll get you back on track – for a time. But what'll happen over the next few hours, days, weeks? You'll start to notice the drawbacks, from the chain sticking due to thickened oil to dirt hanging onto your chain like a leech. You'll wish you'd brought along the right set of tools for the task.
Can I use any oil to lube my bike chain?
Technically, you can use a wide range of oils and lubricants on your bike chain, granted that they are not very viscose and they can permeate into all the links of your chain. However, if you, like me, are into cycling as a sport or hobby to get the most out of the experience, I strongly advise opting for high-quality chain lube formulated specifically for bikes. Believe me, they can make a noticeable difference.
For instance, some premium bike lubricants boast of even affording you an extra boost of over 30 watts compared to other more makeshift lubricants. And being an avid cyclist, I can vouch for this firsthand. So while you could resort to any oil in a pinch, it's simply not a viable, let alone advantageous long-term solution.
Can I use olive oil for my bike chain?
Similar to vegetable oil, using olive oil on your bike chain is certainly not an optimal solution. Olive oil tends to gel and harden when subjected to typical outdoor environmental factors, such as temperature changes. This can lead to chain stiffness and a buildup of muck, reducing the performance of your drivetrain.
As a seasoned cyclist, I have experienced the same situation while experimenting with different oils and lubricants. What I have realized is that not all oils are made equally, and some are simply not designed for the kind of stress and strain a bike chain undergoes. So unless it's an emergency and olive oil is the only option available, I would not suggest using it as it could potentially disrupt the smooth functioning of your bike chain and ultimately end up causing you more problems in the future. Always remember, using the right lubricant can enhance the life and performance of your bike chain.