What Can I Use To Lube My Bike Chain?

Bike chains have a lot of metal-to-metal contacts. Proper lubrication reduces friction, corrosion, and wearing of the drive train. So, what can I use to lube my bike chain?

The best lubricant for your bike will depend on your riding habits and where you live. There is a wide range of bike lubes such as dry, wet, ceramic, and wax-based lubricants. Notably, each one of these lubes has its pros and cons.

Under lubrication leaves your chain with a lot of metal-to-metal contacts, while over lubrication makes the chain attract a lot of dirt and grit. So, the real trick in bike lubrication is striking a balance between the two.

what can I use to lube my bike chain

What Can I Use To Lube My Bike Chain?

With so many brands in the market offering various chain lubes and formulas, it isn’t easy to pick the best. Therefore, the best approach in choosing the best lube for bicycle chains is looking at the pros and cons of each type of chain lubricant.

1. Wet Chain Lubes

Wet lubricants happen to be the earliest form of lubes that manufacturers made. They featured something like ordinary engine oils. So, what makes the wet lube relevant to this day?

First, they are consistent and long-lasting. Actually, wet lubes can go up to 100 miles on a single application.

Also, the wet lubricants are ideal for all weather and, most importantly, during autumn and winter since they are water-resistant. Therefore, the best lubrication when riding in a rainstorm or puddles of water is wet lube, as it’s not easily washed away.

At the same time, wet lubrication will also resist salt corrosion and reduce drive train noise.

 On the downside, wet lubricants are sticky and attract lots of dirt. Therefore, you will need to degrease and clean the drivetrain regularly.

On the other hand, if left uncleaned, the dirt will build up into a grinding paste which would rapidly wear the drivetrain components. Also, the lube oxidizes and leaves a thick black slime.

Therefore, for you to maintain the efficiency of your bike’s drivetrain, you need to clean the chain before applying wet lubes. In that case, you may consider going for a drive train cleaning kit such as the Park Tool CG-2.4, which includes a gear brush, chain scrubber, and degreaser.

2. Dry Lubricants

Dry lubricants are called so because they are precisely for use in dry conditions. Notably, most dry lubes are usually 10% lubricant, which is primarily synthetic oils and additives, and 90 % is the carrier fluid.

On application, the carrier fluid helps to slide the lubricant between the rollers and the pins and then evaporates, leaving behind the actual lubricant.

Due to their lower viscosity, dry lubricants promise superior efficiency since they attract less contaminant than wet lubricants. As a result, the drive train experiences less friction and minimal wearing.

Typically, dry lubricants appear cleaner than oil or any other wet bike lubes. One of the popular dry lubes for bikes is the Finish Line dry bike chain lubricant. It has Teflon fluoropolymers that help to minimize friction and hold up in moderately humid conditions.

Is It Ok To Use WD40 On Bike Chain As A Lube

However, the dry lubes also do have shortfalls. First, since the lubricants contain 90% carrier fluid, it means that you spend a lot of cash on a liquid that will almost instantly evaporate from your chain.

Secondly, dry lubes easily wash off if you ride in puddles or in the rain. This will result in higher friction which will adversely affect the efficiency of your drivetrain.

3. Ceramic Lubricants

Ceramic bike lubes hit the market a few years ago. Notably, this lubricant comes with a bold claim be better than other types of lubricants. In addition, they are a bit more expensive than other lubes in the market.

The manufacturers of ceramic lubes say that these lubricants contain tiny ceramic particles that reduce the drivetrain’s friction more than standard lubes.

All the same, there is very little evidence to prove that ceramic lubricants are superior to other lubes in performance. As a result, it’s hard to confirm that the extra cost of ceramic lubricants is worth it.

4. Wax-Based Chain Lubricants

In recent years, the usage of wax-based lubes has increased due to increased independent testing data. Actually, this type of lubricant has gained popularity amongst performance-enthused cyclists.

Actually, data from independent testing has shown that these lubes score better in the longevity of use, efficiency, and contaminant resistance. 

When applied correctly, wax-based lubricants settle on the intended surfaces and form a hard, dry layer that has low friction without getting greasy.

Notably, wax-based lubricants rarely attract dirt. As a result, contaminants can’t stick on the drivetrain, a factor that would increase friction.

All the same, wax lubricants also have some shortfalls.

For example, if the chain isn’t completely clean during the first application, the wax won’t dry properly or stick to the chain.

Again, you need to allow the lube sometime after application before you can go for a ride. Mostly, it is advisable to leave it overnight for perfect results. 

If you need to try waxes-based lubricant on your bike, go for the Squirt Long Lasting Dry Lube. It comes in a4oz bottle and works perfectly for both road and trail riding.

Can I Use Gear Oil As Bike Chain Lube

Other Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is It Ok To Use WD40 On Bike Chain As A Lube?

Using WD40 on a bike chain as a lubricant is wrong. Actually, the product isn’t an actual lubricant but a degreasing solvent. In addition, if the chain has some rust, WD40 will help clean up all the corrosion mess and stop all squeaks caused by rust.

Applying WD40 on your chain will strip the drivetrain of all the existing lubricant and leave it dry. As a result, you will have a lot of metal-to-metal contacts. This will lead to more wearing of the drivetrain. 

Actually, using WD40 on your chain is worse than not using any lubricant.

2. Can I Use Gear Oil As Bike Chain Lube?

You can use gear oil as chain lube without any problem. Actually, for a long time, gear oil was the only available chain lubricant until the discovery of bike lubes.

The gear oil is liquid enough to get between the roller and pins, and it is sticky enough to hang on for a long time. In addition to that, gear oils also happen to cost less than some chain lubes.

The main problem with gear oil when used as chain lube is it collects a lot of dirt and gets messy.

Therefore, you need to clean up the chain thoroughly before lubricating it with gear oil.

3. How Often Should I Lube My Bike Chain?

The frequency of lubricating your chain will depend on the regularity of use, weather, and terrain. Therefore, it is hard to set a time frame for lubrication.

It is advisable to lubricate your bike chain after you ride in the rain or cleaning the drivetrain. 

Depending on how much you ride per week, adding a few drops of lubricant after one or two weeks will be of great help to your drivetrain.

4. How Do I Know If My Bike Chain Needs Lube?

When you see your bike chain getting dry and noisy, it’s time to lubricate. Also, you can apply some lube once the notches on the chain look free of lube.

Notably, the noise from a dry chain results from metal-to-metal contact that lubricants help prevent.

Also Read: What kind of grease should I use on my bike?

Final Take

An over-lubricated chain is as bad as an under-lubricated one especially when you ride in trails. It would be best if you were precise.

Again, since there are so many brands of chain lubes, it is hard to point the best lubricant for bicycle chains that will work for all.

If you find yourself riding on the roads in humid conditions, wet lubes will work for you. On the other hand, if you ride in dry areas with lots of dirt, dry lubes are the way to go.

Most importantly, you should clean your bike’s drivetrain before applying lubes for max results. Also, it is advisable to re-lubricate the chain if you happen to ride in puddles or in the rain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to use WD-40 on bike chain?

There is a widespread belief that using WD-40 on your bike chain will harm the components. However, using WD-40 on your bike chain is not necessarily harmful. While WD-40 does have degreasing properties, which means it can strip your chain of helpful lubricants, it’s also capable of displacing water which can be a benefit in maintaining your chain.

But, to be very clear, WD-40 is not foremost a lubricant. This means you can use WD-40 to clean and degrease your chain, then apply a proper bike chain lube afterwards for best upkeep. It’s akin to washing your hands before applying lotion – your skin can better absorb the lotion after the dirt and oils have been removed.

Can I use Vaseline on my bike chain?

Indeed, technically speaking, vaseline can be used as a lubricant for your bike chain. But it’s not ideal and I wouldn’t advise it for a couple of reasons. While in a pinch, vaseline can provide some level of lubrication, it has a tendency to attract a lot of grime and dust.

The constant accumulation of dirt and grime on your chain can over time be detrimental to the chain’s efficiency and lifespan. It can also be a real pain to clean off your bike chain after using vaseline, more so than conventional bike chain lubes. Therefore, while you can resort to vaseline if there’s nothing else available, it’s advisable to use a true chain lube when possible.

Can I use oil instead of chain lube?

You might be tempted to reach for a bottle of motor oil instead of a purpose-built chain lube, but this isn’t generally advised. Engine oil is much more viscous than the sort of lubricants typically used on bike chains. Motor oil is great for, well, motors where you have a substantial amount of heat and pressure. But on a bike chain, this high viscosity can actually impede the oil’s ability to penetrate the tiny crevices in a chain.

What’s more, the thickness of the oil can increase the drag on your bike chain, leading to premature stretch and wear of the chain. So, while it’s not the end of the world to use motor oil on your bike chain in a pinch, it’s generally better to stick with dedicated bike chain lube.

How do you make chain lube at home?

If you’re in a situation where you cannot purchase a dedicated bike chain lube, it is possible to make a basic chain lube at home. You would need to mix a heavy oil (like motor oil) with a lighter oil (such as mineral oil) to create a homebrew bike chain lube. Adjust the ratios of heavy to light oil to get a consistency that is not too thick or too thin. Apply a light coat to the chain, making sure to wipe off any excess to avoid attracting dirt and grime. Remember, this is a last resort method if you really cannot get any dedicated bike chain lube.”