(Last modified on May 10, 2022).
Your bike will not run as fast and your drivetrain will be less efficient if it isn’t using the correct chain lube. Properly applying the correct lube will improve your bike’s efficiency and ensure that your drivetrain is in good health.
Chain lubricant allows for smooth contact between the gears and the chain. Friction Among the internal components of the chain. Lube’s overall goal is to reduce friction. To increase efficiency, friction is applied throughout the system. Lubricant moves inside the rollers, pins, and chains to prevent rust. It also ensures that the chain spins freely around the drivetrain.
Read this complete buyer’s guide to the best bike chain lubes of 2022 to get all the answers to the ideal lubricants for any situation.
Chain Lube is Important
One of the best ways to maintain your bike in good shape is by using chain lube. Properly lubricating the chain increases the drivetrain’s efficiency and prevents excessive wear on the system. A good chain lube will help you go as fast and last as long as possible.
A clean and well-lubricated chain increases your bike’s efficiency by limiting the energy lost to friction in the drivetrain. Leakage of energy can occur between the chain and different gears, which results in less power for the same pedaling effort.
The drivetrain efficiency refers to the amount of energy the rider puts through their pedals. This energy actually reaches the rear wheels to move the bike. Drivetrains have been shown to achieve 98% efficiency in controlled testing, with very little friction.
Exposed to the elements and a dirty chain can cause efficiency to drop. Proper lubrication and proper bike maintenance are just as important to ensure your drivetrain is running at its best.
Wear for the Drivetrain
Lubrication also has the advantage of less wear on the entire drivetrain system including the chain and rear. cassette, and front chains. Those metal components are constantly in contact with each other and can wear down quickly when there isn’t sufficient lubricant to keep things running smoothly.
The proper amount of lube will reduce friction during metal-on–metal contact. This helps to prevent dulling gear teeth, and reducing chain wear.
Chain lube works to keep dirt and contaminants away from the drivetrain and further damage. The chain can become clogged with dirt and grime from riding out in the elements. The mixture creates a tough paste that can impede reliable shifting performance.
How to take care of your chain
1. A clean chain is a happy chain: Bike mechanics can’t stress this tip enough. Clean chains not only make your bike look better, but they also increase efficiency and reduce wear on your drivetrain. Take a moment to clean your chain after every few rides rather than a huge overhaul once a season— your drivetrain will thank you.
2. You need to choose the right bike lube. There are many types of bike chain greases. Some are designed for racing, riding in rain or dry conditions. Wet lube prevents mud from sticking on the chain and gunking up your system. You should choose the lube that is most appropriate to the conditions under which you ride.
3. Add the proper amount of bike lube: Too little and it won’t make a difference, and overdoing it can attract dirt and contaminants to the chain. When applying lube to your bike, be patient and make sure every link has been properly lubricated. The natural distribution of lube through each link will be by pedalling. It’s best to go drop by drop rather than an unwieldy stream of lube (most of which will just end up on the floor).
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What are the different types of chain lubes?
Bike chain lubes were once one-size-fits all. However, today there are many types of bike chain lubes to fit specific riding conditions and goals. There are several types of lubes that are specific to bicycles. These include wet lubes and dry lubes. Learn more about the pros and cons of each lube.
Dry lube is best for riding in dry conditions. Its main purpose is to reduce friction, not keep dirt and mud away. Dry lube typically has a lower viscosity than other lubes which helps efficiency and won’t stick to contaminants. This kind of lube predictably doesn’t do well in the wet and is easily washed away by rain. Recent advances in wax-based lubes have made dry lube less popular.
Wet lube has a higher viscosity and is designed to withstand rain, wet conditions, and puddles. The thicker and other additives of wet lubes keep the chain on the chain longer than dry ones, but they can attract dirt and contaminants. Extra viscosity can keep grime from sliding off the chain.
With wet lubes, it’s important to only add the minimum amount to avoid dirt-attracting excess and to clean the drivetrain regularly. You will make the bike muddy if you ride in the rain. Give the drivetrain a good cleaning after every ride.
Wax-Based Wax Emulsion
In the last few years, wax-based lubricants have seen a surge in popularity, particularly among performance-minded cyclists.
This lube uses refined paraffin wax to create a durable coating that reduces friction. It also discourages contaminants sticking to the chain. Since it’s more of a coating than a liquid lube, riders have to apply it to an already squeaky-clean chain, or else you’ll trap the contaminants inside.
Wax-based lubes are applied as a liquid— thanks to the carrier liquid— and harden slightly to form a dry, low friction layer on the chain that doesn’t attract contaminants. This allows wax-based lubes to be very efficient and keep grime buildup under check.
Ceramic and Microparticle Lube
This brand new category of bike chain grease has only recently been introduced and has proven to be a hit. But, it may also have its roots in clever marketing. It is believed that the tiny ceramic particles in the lube reduce friction by up to 50% compared with standard lubes.
‘Ceramic’ and ‘microparticle’ (sometimes even ‘nanoparticle’!) sure have a nice ring to them, but there haven’t been enough independent tests to corroborate the claimed advantages, especially considering the higher price tag. If you’ve got the cash, I recommend buying a high-quality lube from the other categories.
Reserved for serious racers or the performance-obsessed, immersive waxing is the key to achieving the most efficient drivetrain. Pro peloton time trialists and pro-cyclists who are looking for marginal gains use this method to dip the entire chain in a paraffin wax treatment. As usual with high-end DIY projects, this isn’t the most cost-effective method, but the low-friction results can be worth the fuss.
Pre-made paraffin wax compounds can be purchased by consumers. The hot liquid will heat up and allow the entire chain to soak in. The heat allows the wax to get into all the chain’s nooks and crannies, and the wax hardens into a low friction coating across the whole chain. This wax preparation is more dry than wax-based oils, which means that less contaminants stick to the chain.
Bike Chain Lube Buyer’s Guide
These tips will help you decide the right lube for your riding style and conditions.
- DRY: This lube is great for dry conditions. This lube often goes on quite thin and doesn’t attract as much dirt, typically a bit cleaner.
- WET: Works great in wet conditions, whether that’s heavy rain, humid environments, or big puddles. It’s often a thick lube that will stay on the chain but can easily stain hands or clothes.
- WAX: A viscous liquid wax is now a newer type. This lube has additives and dries on your chain to create a low-friction coating across your entire system. It’s great at keeping away dirt and grime.
- OIL: This oil-based lube can be applied as a spray or quite thickly, like the old standard bike grease.
- CERAMIC or NANOPARTICLE These are the latest advances in lube tech, which mix in small particles into a wax base in order to reduce friction.
How These Lubes were Rated
This list of top-rated chain lubricants was compiled by a combination of expert opinions and user reviews. These were the most important criteria:
- UtilityLow friction, effective formula
- Longevity: stays on the chain in the specific weather conditions it’s designed for
- PricesCompetitive price and small bottle size
Compare the Top Bike Chain Lubes At a Glance
|Model||Type of lube||Bottle size||Prices||Best for|
|Mucoff C3 Ceramic Lube||Oil / Ceramic||120ml||$15||Race in dry conditions|
|CeramicSpeed UFO Dripper||Wax-based/ceramic||177ml||$45||Race in dry conditions|
|Finish Line Wet Lube||Wet||120ml||$9||Wet or rain|
|Green Oil Wet Lube||Oil-based/Wet||100ml||$10||Rain or wet|
Best Overall Budget Lube
Bottle size: 120ml
Squirt is a wax-based lubricant for the chain. It’s a more durable alternative to oil lubricants. Originaly, Squirt was a system that was mounted to the bike and allowed the chain to be lubricated while it moved. The three founders, an engineer, a pharmacist, and a mountain biker, ended up making a biodegradable wax-based lube that was so long-lasting that there’s no need to apply it on the go.
This lubricant was created during extensive testing in South Africa where dry conditions and dirt present a challenge. Oil lubes often collect grime and turn black, but Squirt’s wax coating prevents the build-up of contaminants and lasts longer. A wax-based lube requires riders to clean the chain before applying.
Squirt can last a long time on the chain under normal conditions. However, it washes off quickly in wet conditions. This takes half off its overall rating. While this is normal for most lubes it was noticeable that Squirt works a little faster than other lubes. Choose this lube if you want professional performance and don’t mind a bit more maintenance to get the most out of your drivetrain.
- Oil-based lubricants last longer
- doesn’t attract dirt
- Increased efficiency of the drivetrain
- Easy to wash off in the water
- Chain preparation is required before applying
Best Race Day Lube
Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Lube
Bottle size: 120ml
Muc-Off C3 ceramic dry chain lube is a high-performance formula for moderate riding conditions. The biodegradable oil is made with advanced ceramic polymers and coats the chain in a very low friction layer. This lube is perfect for riders who prefer speed to protecting their chain from mud and harsh weather.
Muc-Off has a reputation for being an innovative and creative brand and this lube doesn’t disappoint. The ceramic lube also carries a UV dye that glows under a blacklight so riders can check if the coating is distributed over the entire chain— now that’s cool.
The C3 formula is a multipurpose chainlube that performs well in wet conditions. This allows you to rest assured when you encounter unexpected rains or puddles. It won’t hold up in the wet forever, though, lowering its overall rating slightly.
- doesn’t hold up in severe wet conditions
Best Lube when Money is Not an Issue
CeramicSpeed UFO Dripper
Type: Ceramic / wax-based
Bottle size: 6 oz / 177ml
CeramicSpeed UFO drip ceramic lube is race-specific to ensure maximum drivetrain efficiency while preventing contaminants. CeramicSpeed is a brand that is known for its ball bearings and low friction components. They have updated the formula. Independent industry studies have shown that this new formula is effective in Zero Friction Cycling as well as Road Energy.
The lube is composed of waxes, oils, and particulates that CeramicSpeed calls ‘friction modifiers’, which create a super slippery coating. The low friction layer covers the entire chain, so it’s important to start with a new or thoroughly cleaned chain. The lube can be biodegradable, which will please many riders.
This lube doesn’t score full marks because of its hefty price tag. This version is one of the fastest bike lubes available, so it’s well-loved by racers and professional riders. The price is high and it comes only in a large 6oz jar, but the added race pace is well worth it.
- Drivetrain efficiency and speed
- Lasts up to 300 km per coating
- Only available in large bottles
Bottle size: 125ml
Smoove, a wax-based product that is designed to deal with the harsh South African conditions, is another product. It lasts much longer than other lubricants.
The brand’s founder Ruan Deyzel recognized that oil-based lubes attracted far too much dirt and opted for a wax-based recipe to keep the chain clean. The product was much more durable than expected, which Ruan Deyzel discovered. Pro MTB teams quickly adopted it.
Since it’s wax-based, Smoove lube requires that the chain be thoroughly cleaned before application, so no grime is trapped under the wax coating. This extra step may seem tedious to some riders but it is worth it for the long-lasting performance. The wax coating makes the chain virtually silent by reducing noise.
This is a great choice, but it doesn’t get a full 10 rating due the extra steps involved in applying it to a clean and squeaky-clean chain. Smoove lube isn’t the cheapest option on this list, but its longevity and dirt-repelling qualities mean you’ll get your money’s worth out of every application.
- Easy-to-use nozzle
- In extreme conditions, it can last for a long time
- keeps dirt away
- For proper application, a clean chain is required
Best Lube for Wet Conditions
Finish Line Wet Lube
Bottle size: 120ml
Finish Line is a well-known brand and their wet lube has been serving cyclists for decades. Finish Line Wet Lube is made to stick to the chain, even in the most severe rains, to prevent corrosion and maintain smooth operation of the drivetrain. The unique formula includes synthetic oils, hydrophobic Polymers, and other additives that enhance performance.
This lube should be reserved for use in severe weather, when other lubes could simply wash away leaving the chain exposed to the elements. The thick viscosity is similar to grease, so it’s a bit of a magnet for dirt and grime during normal rides, knocking a point off its rating. Check out Finish Line’s Teflon Plus lube if you typically ride in dry conditions.
Finish Line Wet Lube can be a great choice for winter riding in harsh weather conditions. You can rest assured that this lube will not slip off the chain if you are on a long trip and in wet conditions. You should be ready for some dirt and mud if you have to take the lube off for deep cleaning.
- Stays on even when it’s wet
- great value
- attracts dirt
- It is possible to get messy with thick viscosity
Best Eco-Friendly Lube
Green Oil Wet Lube
Biking is a great sport Environment friendly Chain lube is a form of recreation. Green Oil is a biodegradable oil made from plant-based ingredients that can withstand wet weather. The 100% recycled plastic bottle also makes the bottle!
Green Oil Wet lube has a medium viscosity that is a bit thinner than the Finish Line wet lube, so it doesn’t attract as much dirt and contaminants. That said, it’s still thick enough to stay on the chain no matter the weather. This lube is able to withstand heavy rain and puddles. It can also be sprayed with a hose after you have cleaned your bike. The slightly high price tag for volume takes a point away from this lube’s overall rating.
The green formula does not use harsh chemicals like PFCA or PTFE which can help with lubrication, but can also be damaging to the environment. Green Oil uses N-Toc plant extract instead. This provides the same lubrication but is better for the planet. If you are searching for ways to be more sustainable, Green Oil wet lube is a great choice that doesn’t sacrifice performance.
- Resists dirt quite well
- It lasts in wet conditions
- Noise-free chain
- Environment friendly
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
You should choose bike-specific oils that are designed for the specific conditions in which you will be riding. You should consider the weather conditions where you ride, and then choose a lubricant on this list that is appropriate for those conditions.
Wax-based chain lubes stay the cleanest the longest because they don’t attract as much dirt and grime as oil-based lubricants. The application isn’t as sticky and the wax coating flakes off over time, taking any accumulated contaminants with it.
While WD-40 won’t damage your chain, it’s only an effective light lubricant in dry, clean conditions. It is primarily a cleaner and doesn’t last long in wet conditions.
Jeffrey Brown A writer, editor and professional bike mechanic, he has more than 7 years experience working in community-based and full-service bike shops. As a bicycle educator, he supports youth programs across the US that teach mechanics and life skills to the next generation.
Jeffrey His university bike coop was where he began his professional mechanic work. He recognizes the strength of the cycling community. Although he was self-trained initially as a mechanic and later as a manager and teacher, he received formal training. His role as an environmental advocate and biker has earned him many awards and grants.