To the Point: Chain Lube

Apr 2, 2013 at 0:07
Apr 2, 2013
by Mike Kazimer  
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Along with airing up your tires, applying chain lube is probably one of the most commonly performed bike maintenance tasks. The sound of a dry, squeaky chain will drive even the most neglectful bike owner a little crazy after listening to it for an entire ride. But besides keeping your bike quiet, what exactly is the point of lubing a chain? To find out more about this basic, yet often-overlooked topic, we contacted DumondeTech, a manufacturer of lubricants for bicycle and motorsport usage.

Let's start with the basics. What is the purpose of lubing a chain?

Chain lube has three main purposes: reducing wear, reducing friction and providing
protection from corrosion. The ideal lubricant provides a low friction coating, prevents
metal to metal contact and protects the chain from the environment.

What are the main ingredients in chain lube?

Bicycle chain lubes are made from many different lubricants. Here is a list of some of the
possible ingredients: petroleum oils, synthetic oils, plant oils, paraffin wax, PTFE (Teflon)
and/or polymers.

How often should you lube a chain?

This depends on the kind of riding, the weather and what lube you are using. Many companies
suggest re-applying based on chain appearance, riding conditions, distance ridden, time
since last application and/or after the chain has been cleaned.Here at Dumonde Tech,
we recommend using the sound of the chain. Sound is always a good indicator of whether
a chain lube is doing its job. A clean, quiet chain, which shifts smoothly, is well lubricated.
We recommend re-applying when you begin to hear your chain.

What's the best way to clean a chain?

Using an ultrasonic cleaning tank is probably the most thorough method for cleaning
a chain. Unfortunately, most people don’t have access to an ultrasonic tank. Some
lube companies suggest applying their lube generously and wiping off the chain.
Others recommend using a cleaner or degreaser before reapplication; this can be
messy. At Dumonde Tech we do not recommend deep cleaning your chain between
applications. We simply suggest cleaning with water, mild soap and, if necessary, a brush.

Chain cleaning and lubrication.
A little time with a brush and some soapy water will leave your chain clean and ready to apply lube. One drop per link is typically all that is necessary.

What happens if you apply chain lube to a chain that hasn't been cleaned?

The new application of lube will carry dirt into the pins and rollers, the bearing surfaces
of your chain, where this mix of chain lube and dirt creates an abrasive slurry. If you
ride with this abrasive slurry it will increase friction and accelerate the wear of your
chain, cogs and rings.

The terms “wet” and “dry” are often used when referring to chain lube. What's the difference? Is one better than another?

It’s not that one is necessarily better, just that each works best when used in the correct
conditions.“Wet” chain lubes are recommended for wet riding conditions. They are generally
made from oils and are not easily washed off by water. They attract significantly more
dirt and grime than “dry” lubes, requiring a thorough cleaning between applications.

“Dry” chain lubes are recommended for dry riding conditions. They are commonly
made by mixing a dry lubricant with a carrier solvent. For "dry" lubes to work properly,
their makers recommend applying them generously and letting the carrier evaporate
for 2 hours or more before riding. This leaves a “dry” film to lubricate the chain.
When used correctly "dry" lubes attract little dirt. The trade off is loss of durability,
especially in wet conditions. "Dry" lubes often wash off in a light rain or a single
stream crossing.

Polymer based lubricants are different; they offer excellent performance in both “wet”
and “dry” conditions. Our polymer based technology applies like a lightweight oil.
When you ride, the pressure and motion of pedaling causes the polymer to transform
from a liquid into a hard dry plastic plating. The resultant plating is a dry lubricant.
Plating means it is bonded to the pins and rollers of the chain and can’t be washed
out with water. At the same time, it is a dry lubricant so it does not attract and hold dirt.

There are a number of companies, Dumonde Tech included, that offer “eco-friendly” chain lubes. What makes a lubricant “eco-friendly”?

This is a challenging question. There are little if any standards with regards to this subject. Which frankly leave us all to ponder, what makes anything “eco-friendly”? Here at Dumonde Tech we believe that all of our products are “eco-friendly.” We base this on the following: Our products are designed to be used very sparingly, less fluid per application, and they offer superior protection to the parts being lubricated.

All of these result in consumers using less of our products while at the same time helping the parts that are being lubricated last longer. We believe this is the essence of “eco-friendly.” That being said, many lube companies make plant based and/or bio-degradable chain lubes, Dumonde Tech included. We have a 100% plant based, 100% bio-degradable chain lube, which provides a clean and durable lubricant.

Most new chains come with a factory lubricant on them. What's the best technique here? Should this be removed and replaced with something different?

Chain manufacturers do not recommend stripping their factory lubricant. Their lubricant
is incorporated into the chain during the manufacturing process and as a result they
know it has penetrated the pins and rollers assuring proper performance. If the chain
is completely stripped of this lubricant, there is then the question of whether or not the
replacement lube will penetrate the pins and rollers completely. This is quite reasonable
as some replacement lubes penetrate better than others.
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  • + 1
 best comments on PB right now holy shit haha so funny!
  • + 23
 Blue MucOff- smells amazing. Even my gf likes it when I lube my chain and leave the rig in the living room. I wish the other lubes smelt that nice Wink
  • + 2
 The muc off lube in a little bottle stinks!!! Just my opinion though, smells like cat piss.
  • + 25
 im sure your gf likes it when you lube up
  • - 14
flag S-Va-Dijk (Apr 2, 2013 at 9:48) (Below Threshold)
 your girlfriend like to lube my chain Smile
  • + 32
 I like turtles.
  • + 12
 megatryn> have you ever lubed one?
  • + 19
 Tri-Flow does just fine.
  • + 14
 Smells like bananas too Razz
  • + 8
 haha i just opened mine to see if it smells like bananas. Indeed it does haha
  • - 1
 wd-40 all the hahahahhahahahahaha jk
  • + 3
 Tri comes off black though!
  • + 6
 I agree with Dumond's downplaying of using degreaser to clean your chain. I once decreased my chainlife by 80%* by cleaning it too thoroughly and too often.

*Compared to just dry-brushing and running it through a rag.
  • + 3
 A toothbrush and a medical syringe , clean dust with the toothbrush , then apply lube (motorex for me) with the syringe eye by eye and wipe off excess its more economical , but more importantly less dust sticks to my chain and whole drivetrain.
  • + 44
 'Clean dust with a toothbrush' ahhh to live where you are... I need a power hose and about 6 different brushes to get my chain remotely dirt-free after a ride on a British trail!!
  • + 12
 wanna trade? , i don't get all the gunk out i leave some on, so the new dust will have a friend when he comes on my chain Smile
  • + 3
 Haha Tom is right mate - it's a full on gloop fest for about 10 months of the year up north!
  • + 2
 lol... not a brit, but damn... we get a slurry fest of mud, red dirt and clay here... cleaning a drivetrain is an hour long event, lol.
  • + 2
 but daemongrad we are ontarians, no such thing as mud after may.
  • + 2
 @Frank, it aint any better down South
  • + 2
 I moved away from the UK (Leicester = clay and no MTBing) to the SW of France thinking: "mmm lovely dry trails surely?" Nope. Think mud mixed with sand: even worse! My XT drivetrain has a f*cking time of it! But no complaining, it's not snowing here!
  • + 0
 Used to clean with a spray I found in Walmart at $10 per can. Quickest most wasteful way I have ever found. Kerosine in a spray bottle or on a rag then floss every link with a shoe lace. Silicone or PTFE teflon lubes attract less sand but the latter isn't a friend of Mother Natures. Can the high end bikes please start using Gear box's and belt drives so that the technology trickles down to something I can ride before I die. I'm sick of this shit circa 1930's drivetrain technology.
  • + 1

True that it does dry up nicely, making for an easier ride most of the time. After May, the humidity sets in hard though, lol... Ever ridden on the coast?... You can breath easy out there!!! lol
  • + 1
 no I spend all my time on the local mountain, xc park, and secret shuttling trails I wouldn't know what its like to bike the coast. I will be doing lift access in spirit mtn duluth this year. never been to a bikepark but I'm stoked on it considering I just bought a dirtbag.
  • + 7
 Norbs got degreased.... Robbed, I'm mean!
  • + 5
 Thanks for the info sounds like I need both types! Lol oregon weather! But I really love rock n roll. The dirt comes right out of the chain.
  • + 2
 I hose the chain (and bike), then run it through a chain cleaner for 100 or so revolutions then hose again. I use prolink lube next, it pushes all the shit out from in the chain...wipe off the goop then lightly relube...seems to do the trick...
  • + 2
 I like Dumonde lube too. Can go really long between chain lubing, compared to basically every ride with Pedro's or every 2 with ProLink (or after rain/water crossing). Rock n Roll is comparable, though. You get a lot of it, but they say to slather it on the chain, so I don't know if it's a better value than Dumonde, with all things considered.
  • + 2
 I have found that instead of using the legit chain cleaner I use kerosine as it is a much cheaper alternative and after 2 times through the parktool chain cleaner (first to remove all the crap and second to make the chain all shiny) then run it through a rag, wipe all the running gear down and then lube. seems to stay clean for a long time and change gears a whole lot better when it is clean.
  • + 2
 Great way to shorten the life of a chain. A clean chain shifts better, but you can do it adequately with a rag without the use of damaging degreasers.
  • + 4
 Chuck the chain in an old water bottle with degreaser, shake the eff out of it, squeeze out the degreaser and wipe the with a rag. Done
  • + 1
 Kero is great. When I raced for skating we cleaned all our wheel bearings in kero, and they ran smooth, quiet and super fast. I haven't been able to find any where I live now, or I'd use it for sure.
  • + 2
 Isn't kerosine too invasive? It absolutely strips any piece of grease out of the chain- you need to repack the rollers with lube afterwards... In my opinion it would indeed shorten the lifespan of your chain- but prove me wrong indeed...
  • - 3
 I would never use kerosine or any other solvent/ degreaser. After you strip all of the lube from your chain, you are going to have a snowballs chance in hell getting any lubricant into the tight tolerances of the pin, barrel, roller assembly. The lubricant that the manufacturers use while assembling the chain is the best lubrication your chain will ever see.
  • + 1
 car brake cleaner is also a good alternative
  • + 1
 If you want to shorten your chain's wear life...
  • + 6
 Not the only sort of lube to smell good

"If you know what I mean"
  • + 6
 I let mine rust and then buy a new one.
  • + 1
 I just keep my drivetrain clean maybe every 3 rides or so. (Spotless) I take my chain off & soak over night in diesel fuel then dry reinstall. Once that's done I'll is PJ Penetrator rotate the drivetrain then wipe dry. I've seemed to have good results over the years with that method.
  • + 1
 I use ProLink chain lube... through commutes, 9 hour mudfest endurance races, urban assaults and all manner of trail rides in wet or dry conditions running Shimano XT and XTR 9-speed chains. I clean my chain with a rag and re-lube when I begin hearing it. Generally getting close to ~1,000 miles out of a chain before replacing it ( as it reaches .75+ on the Park CC-2 chain checker tool). I have 5,000 or more miles on two XTR cassettes (M960 and M970) and they aren't showing signs of wear.
  • + 1
 It's pretty rad Dumonde Tech provided some their take on this. Dumonde is so much better then all the other lubes. I spent to much cash on those that claimed to be the best lubes. My expereince, they just Failed compared to the abuse I give Dumonde Tech. I use all their stuff. Liquid Grease............ hell yes.
  • + 1
 Dr Scholls foot massager for my vibrating sonic tank with a paint can full of citrus degreaser from the $.99 store sitting it. Just set them in there hanging from old bent spokes, vibrating for about 1/2 hour and then rinse them off with the nozzel on a hose. Air dry them immediately w/ air compressor. Chainsaw bar oil in a large mayonaise jar from Costco (64oz.size) thinned 5% with mineral spirits. Dunk them in completely for a minute until all the bubbles stop coming out, and hang above the jar to drip off the excess. About an hour later they are ready. Quick wipe on the chain you are about to use and leave the rest hanging from their hooks. I buy 3 chains per bike with my new cassette and chain rings. 3 for my AM and 3 for my DH bike, rotating them after each ride or every 30 miles or so. Always a perfect chain and I get about 3000 miles out of my cassettes and chainrings this way because they are all wearing out at the same rate.

My old technique only got about 700 miles out of a drivetrain on my AM bike before a new chain would no longer mesh with the gears. Never calculated the miles on the DH though.

Next time I am buying 7 chains so I only have to do it once a week!
  • + 5
 You sir, have far too much time on your hands
  • + 1
 You're right, more time to ride and buy bikes.
  • + 1
 I use Purple Extreme, have done for years its excellent, I hardly ever need to lube the chain and with the shit weather we have in the UK thats saying something. It was predominantly used to lube massive chains used in oil drilling under the sea I believe. So keeping a bike chain lubed up is a sinch.
  • + 1
 My secret is to degrease transmissions, and chain, after every ride. I relube with "Finish line/ WET" lubricant since it lasts longer on long distance rides, hard uphill pedaling, and my outdoors conditions can't be any worst, we got salt and sand from the beach, grass, dirt, rain, and the list goes on. Had the same XT chains for about a year and a half on both my bikes, never had a chain snap, making noises, or getting rusty. For transmissions, after degreasing and cleaning, I use a Dry Lube Spray, any brand is good... By the way, a better way to clean you chain is by using a dedicated bicycle chain cleaner with degreaser, not a brush..
  • + 1
 Chainsaw chain oil is a deff winner with me and the crappy uk weather i usualy muck off my gearing chain ect leave then rub in with a stiff brush not a toothbrush lol then jetwash it off then gt85 rear cassete rollers ect then use chainsaw oil for a nice coat works for me
  • + 2
 Phil's Tenacious Oil is winter-grade chainsaw bar oil, in a smaller fancier bottle, at 1000% markup.
  • + 1
 Good and very cheap way to lube your chain is chain saw oil like this Although it may be named differently essentially is just biodegradable eco oil. It's not as good as Oil of Rohloff but it's good enough.
  • + 3
 I soak my chain in diesel fuel in a coffee container...let it sit for a couple days...comes out cleeeeean.
  • + 1
 Related question: How do you clean a chain cleaner like the ParkTool? It worked great for a season, but now it's basically just smearing all the old dirt and lube back onto my chains...
  • + 2
 try any "brake cleaner" if you want to do this fast - or any solvent and a rag
  • + 0
 Remove chain. Place in empty water bottle. Spray in WD-40. Shake it up. Pour out the WD-40 goo. Rinse, then add Dawn dishwashing soap. Shake it up. Rinse off and dry with a clean towel. Re-install the shiny chain and relube. Takes about 5 minutes. I always remove and clean the cassette at the same time as well.
  • + 3
 simple green, cleans it real nice... then Dumonde Tech. lubes it real well, just the way she likes it... DON'T USE WD40!!!!!
  • + 0
 If anyone in Ontario wants their chain ultrasonically cleaned, I'll do it but it's unnessesary. Just fill up a mason jar with your chain, some degreaser and water, and shake it around (repeat if nessesary). Does the same thing. I've got a nifty ultrasonic cleaner, but instead of paying me $10 to clean your chain, you can do the same thing yourself.
  • + 0
 I clean about every two rides depending on conditions. I use one of those fancy park chain cleaners where you run the chain through it a few times and viola you have a clean chain. I use whatever lube I have on hand at the time, I think right now I am using some sort of paraffin type chain wax. I would say it works pretty good.
  • + 0
 I ride UK trails and seem to spend half my life cleaning and lubing my chain. Always after every ride unless we're having a (very rare) heatwave and the trails are dusty. Even then you need to give them a spray and wipe with a cloth. 99% of the time you need to spend time doing your chain, although I try and use degreasers sparingly.

for UK trails I'll tend to use dry lube on each link and then put wet lube on every 5th link or something. I don't use mixed lubes but maybe I should It was disconcerting to read that dry lube can get washed off in a single stream crossing. WTF!

anyway thats enough about lubing ffs
  • + 1
 Seems more like a choice to spend so much time on your chain. If you just use wet lube and clean it and relube it every ride you'll spend less time and get a better effect.
  • + 0
 Ten speed chains are so narrow that they wear out incredibly fast. (Not to mention that you can bend a ten speed chain with your bare hands) Drivetrains these days are like tissue paper- don't even bother trying to take care of it, because its gonna be worn out after a month- you are wasting your time. Just ride it for a season, then replace everything: chain, cassette, rings. Back in the day, eight speed chains lasted twice as long, and they were actually worth maintaining.
  • + 0
 Clean your drivetrain with simple green, a brush, and . Relube with Tri-Flow and you have a perfect setup. It's never failed me.
  • + 2
 I use a thin hydraulic oil i get from work....have been for years...seems fine on my chain....any objections? :-/
  • + 1
 Good info in the comments and article! I just bought chainsaw lube after reading up a little more. I will also clear my chain more now.
  • + 3
 I finally understand the difference between wet and dry lube. Yay!
  • + 3
 "lube" and "penetrate" snickers Smile Smile Smile
  • + 2
 Dumonde rocks, then boeshield, then pro gold.
  • + 1
 Oh, finally I get to use my ultrasonic cleaning tank! Been sitting there for ages...
  • + 1
 " IT put's the lotion on! " Really though, Rock and Roll extreame works very well here in central Oregon.
  • + 3
 it puts the lotion in the basket or it gets the hose again.....PUT THE LOTION IN THE F**KIN BASKET!!

  • + 1
 To funny fingerbangextreme! Gotta like Wild Bill.
  • + 1
 Gnarlube is the answer. Nice instructional video.

Great product and fun people!

  • + 2
 Tri-Flow then wipe down.. like a million times......
  • + 1
 Tri-flow all the way. Been using it for many years.
  • + 1
 I knew I shouldn't have used chainsaw bar oil for my chain, geeeeez I'm such a idiot!
  • + 1
 Dumonde tech rocks. And it smells good too.
  • + 0
 My coworker says it smells like ranch dressing....dafuq???
  • + 1
 Definately smells pleasant....i dunno about ranch. Their freehub oils and greases are legit too! Mavic recommends them.
  • + 1
 time to grab a brush and some soapy water...
  • + 1
 I don't lube... I don't need to.
  • + 2
 That's what she said....psss
  • + 1
 "ultrasonic cleaning tank". That sounds geeky and fun!
  • + 2
 they're used by dentists for instrument decontamination, you can actually pick them up quite cheap on ebay - £30. not too bad.
  • + 2
 I have a 3 litre one and it gets bits and pieces sparkling.. The ones on ebay for 30 quid are only suitable for watches and jewelry, nowhere near enough cycles or big enough to take a chain, you'll need at least 1.5L to be powerful enough.... Another vote for chainsaw chain oil in the winter.
  • + 1
 so what is ceramic lube?
  • + 1
 It works like a jiff on guns in sandy environments. It's like dust, think of it as a trillion tiny ceramic ball bearing. Ya not the most scientific explanation but... I don't have all night
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