Your Guide to Bicycle Chain Oils and Lubes

Our simple guide will help you pick the right one for your bike

Bicycle chain lubricant, chain lube or chain oil is an essential item for your bike maintenance. It ensures the hardworking moving parts of your bike chain are able to move smoothly past each other, it helps stop the chain wearing down or rusting, and makes your ride less clunky and more comfortable.

If you’ve noticed your chain sounding rattly, find it doesn’t shift between gears as easily as it used to, or it’s looking a little rusty, then it’s time to oil your chain.

There are a variety of bike chain oils and lubes on the market. Although it’s a bit of a mine-field to work out which one is suitable for your bike and in what weather condition.

Clean your chain in five easy steps

  • It’s always best to clean your chain before applying bicycle chain lube. This gets the muck and dirt out of the way so the lubricant can get where it needs to go.
  • Some bicycle chain lubes will only work if applied to a clean, degreased, dry chain – read the instructions on the oil to check.
  • Chain lubricants will work on all types of bicycle, including road, mountain and commuter bikes.

Dry Bicycle Chain Lube

Best for: Dry, dusty conditions

When the road or trails are dusty and dry, what you don’t want is a sticky lubricant that will attract all that dust and glue it to the chain. This is where dry lube comes in. It applies as a liquid, coats the chain and then dries so your chain won’t be sticky or tacky to touch.

Important info: Make sure you clean and remove any traces of wet lube before applying dry lube. Apply a couple of layers and give it time to dry before heading out on your ride, ideally a good few hours. You need to apply this type of lube regularly, ideally each time you ride, and it will wear off in wet conditions.

Wet Bicycle Chain Lube

Best for: Wet conditions

Wet chain lube is both wet (well, a liquid anyway) and for wet conditions. It’s designed to stay put on a chain through rain, puddles, torrential downpours, mud, the works. This is the lube you need to apply if you will be riding a lot through the autumn, winter and spring.

Important info: Again, ideally apply to a degreased and dry chain. Don’t use this one in dry and dusty conditions, as it will attract dirt and glue it to your chain! Use a dry lube instead.

Ceramic Bicycle Chain Lube

Best for: Dry or slightly damp conditions

Ceramic Lubes are a high tech type of dry lube. They have tiny micro-particles of ceramic material that coats the chain and lubricates the movement of the links. They cost a bit more than traditional chain lubes, but can give a much smoother, quieter ride.

Important info: Absolutely must be applied to degreased and dry chains only! Check the instructions, but again it’s probably best to pop on a couple of layers, giving the lubricant time to dry before heading out for your ride.

Wax Bicycle Chain Lube

Best for: Dry to damp conditions

Another variation on the dry chain lubricant theme. Wax is, as you guessed, a lubricating wax that goes on like a liquid then drys on the chain. It’s even less messy than dry lubes, but you might find that it needs to be re-applied more often, though this will depend on the conditions you ride in, how far and how often you ride.

Important info: As with the other dry lubes, it needs to be applied to a degreased and dry chain. Leave for a few minutes after applying before riding. This will need to be applied more frequently than dry or wet lube.

Green Bicycle Oil

Best for: Being environmentally friendly

More and more companies are producing environmentally friendly bicycle chain lubricants and oils. These will use plant-based and/or sustainably sourced ingredients rather than petrochemicals. You can get the full range of lubricant types mentioned above (dry, wet, wax, etc) in most of the different green oil ranges on the market.

As we always say: Take care your bike, and your bike will take care of you…

You may also enjoy:

How to clean your bicycle

Your essential bike maintenance kit

How to change an inner tube

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