A quick guide to bicycle chain oils and lubricants (2023)

The chain is one of the most important parts of your bike and one of the hardest working. Of course, this is one of the parts of a bike that requires regular maintenance. It is the chain, after all, that rotates and moves the gear cogs and metal cranks. All of these movements create friction, and that friction, overtime, will wear out both the chain and the drivetrain. It goes without saying that when they are worn down enough, your bike will become almost useless. The best indication that your chain needs maintenance is the sound the drive train makes as it runs. Is your drivetrain making noise and your gears aren't shifting as smoothly as they used to? Well, that means it's time to melt them down, if not replace a part or the whole thing.

Of course, the easiest and most effective way to extend the life of your chain, cranksets, sprockets—and, really, all the mechanical parts of your bike—is to reduce the friction that is necessarily created when they are used. This means keeping them regularly oiled or lubricated so that each part can slide more smoothly and efficiently over each other. However, not all types of oils and lubrication products are suitable for the mechanical parts of a bicycle, and the wrong product can end up doing more harm than good. Also, even the riding conditions you often find yourself in will help you determine the oil or lubricant that is most suitable for your bike.

In this article, we will discussbicycle chainoils, how to use them and we give you a selection of oils that we think are best for which types of bikes and for which types of riding conditions. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you'll have a good idea of ​​how to best maintain your bike's chain and drivetrain, and what specific oil to use.

Quick article navigation to hide

1 Oil application

2 Bicycle oils

3 Wet or Dry: What Kind of Lubricant Should You Use?

4 Best lubricant on the market today

51. Phil Wood Tenacious Oil

62. Triflow

73. of Pedro

84. Maxima Chain Pro Dry Formula

Oil application

Applying oil is one thing in the regular bike maintenance process that is often overlooked by novice riders. When applying oil tobicycle accessories, it is important to remember not to over-apply. A bike part that has been soaked in a lot of oil will just attract more dirt and grime - this, of course, will cause you problems in the long run. This is why one should avoid using oils that use an aerosol type applicator, at least if they could help it. Oils applied via a spray mechanism usually result in over application, and over lubricating your chain will only promote bulk build up, ultimately achieving the opposite of what you intended.

By far the best way to apply oil to a bike chain is with an applicator, and most oils marketed as bike lube will come in a bottle that incorporates some sort of drip design. After applying the oil and running it through the gears a few times, be sure to wipe everything down with a cloth to remove any excess oil. This will help stop excessive dust and dirt from accumulating on your chain. We'd also recommend letting a freshly oiled bike sit for an hour or two to let the oil settle before riding.

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Bicycle oils

We can't stress enough how essential bike oils are to bike maintenance. They are used to maintain almost every mechanical component mounted on a bicycle—from derailleur pivots, lever pivots, chain, sprockets, and basically any part of the bike where friction can occur.

As mentioned earlier, not all oils are created equal, and some are simply unsuitable for bicycles. Indeed, for a bike oil to work well, it should have more than a few properties. First, it should be resistant to grit and dirt build-up—you don't want the oil on your bike to attract dust, after all, which can eventually clog up and cause the friction you purposely oiled your bike to avoid. For another, it needs to be able to handle the long-term exposure to different elements you'll encounter while riding your bike. Finally, the oil should be light or have a low viscosity so that it can reach and coat the inside of a bike's mechanical parts.

As it happens, some oils are better than others depending on the driving conditions. For example, Phil Wood Tenacious Oil will be great for a bike that rides in wet conditions, but not so much for a bike that rides in dry and dusty conditions. On the other hand, the reverse is true for Lube Wax - that is, it will be great as a bike lube for dusty and dry conditions, but may perform poorly in wet conditions.

There are a number of very popular oils that are unsuitable for bicycles, such as WD40, 3-in-1 oil, gun oil and motor oil. These oils are commonly used to lubricate various mechanical things and many make the mistake of assuming that they will perform just as well on bicycles, but you must remember to avoid using them on bicycles as they can do more harm than good. In the case of WD40, which is mostly a solvent, using it on your bike can damage the gears and drivetrain. While WD40 can work well as a degreaserremove excess rust on a chain, it is precisely the degreasing ability of WD40 that makes it only a temporary solution. Indeed, WD40 will wash off very quickly, leaving your bike's mechanical parts dry and causing more friction than you started with. Engine oil, on the other hand, is too thick and sticky to penetrate the smaller mechanical parts of a bike and will end up attracting dirt and grime in the long run.

Wet or Dry: What Kind of Lubricant Should You Use?

While the information on bike chain lubricants may seem confusing at first, there are really only two categories to understand when choosing a lubricant product for yourbicycle chain. And it is whether you should choose wet or dry lube.

Liquid lubricant

Liquid oil can be used in most driving conditions, but is optimal in wet conditions such as fall and winter. Their water-repellent properties mean they won't wash off easily. Thus, wet oil will perform better than dry oil for someone who frequently drives through potholes, storms, or various other wet conditions. Corrosion from salt exposure during the winter months, which causes drivetrains to rattle noisily, is also another thing liquid bike oil can protect against.

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However, there are disadvantages to liquid lube. One is that liquid lube is very sticky and can lead to eventual gun build-up, particularly in the drivetrain. When the metal-to-metal components of a bicycle have accumulated a sufficient amount of dirt and dust, this will cause the components to wear out more quickly. So another downside to frequent use of liquid lube is that degreasing and cleaning the drivetrain will also need to be done more frequently.

Dry lubricant

Dry lube, or wax-based lube, will protect a bike better than wet lube during summer and dry conditions. Dry lube is not water-repellent and therefore can be washed off more easily than liquid lube, but it is more resistant to dirt and grime, meaning that dust build-up won't happen as often. This makes the dry lube particularly good for use off-road or over gravel paths where dust and dirt are common.

However, dry lube does not lubricate as well as wet lube, and a bike that has been lubricated with dry lube will see the lubrication in the drivetrain drastically reduced after an 80 mile ride. As mentioned earlier, dry lube washes off easily, too, and a small rain shower will be enough to completely wash dry lube off a chain. This necessarily means that applying dry lube will require more frequency to keep the bike's mechanical parts smooth and well lubricated.

Ceramic lubricant?

Ceramic lubricants are new types of lubricant products that have come onto the market in recent years. Manufacturers of ceramic oils have made bold claims about how superior they are to other types of oils, but so far these claims have yet to be verified.

A clear disadvantage of ceramic lubricant is that they are expensive. Of course, their supposed superiority over other lubricants is always touted as something that will save the user money overtime, but until a study comes out to back up those claims they've made, we can't really recommend them without more than a few caveats.

The best lubricant on the market today

Below is a list of oils that are suitable for bicycles. They are listed in order from 1 to 4, with 1 being the best for use in wet conditions and 4 being the best for use in dry and dusty conditions.

1. Phil Wood Tenacious Oil

A quick guide to bicycle chain oils and lubricants (1)

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Phil Wood oil is designed to lubricate and repel water, making it an excellent oil for those who rarely drive in wet conditions. Any metal part of your bike that comes into contact with other metal can be made to last longer by melting it with Phil Wood Tenacious Oil. It is actually one of the most used bike chain lubricants, precisely because it works exactly as advertised.

A bottle will last a long time, too, since all one needs to do (for bike chains, that is) is put a drop on each link, run the chain through the cogs, and wipe the excess oil off the chain with a cloth. . That's pretty much it. It also seems to have the perfect viscosity to penetrate deep into the crevices of any mechanical bike component. If one frequently rides in wet conditions, this would be the oil we would most recommend.

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2. Triflow

A quick guide to bicycle chain oils and lubricants (2)

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This is a brand that delivers consistently and is trusted by many bike owners. It is an excellent oil to loosen the stuck mechanical parts of a bike and bring an old chain back to life. It won't last as long as Phil Wood Tenacious Oil under heavy rain or creek crossings, but it's still a multi-purpose oil that's great at penetrating and loosening metal parts. One caveat we have about the product is that over-applying it can lead to an overdosegreasebuild-up in the medium to long term, so with Triflow, we recommend wiping your chain twice with a dry cloth to avoid excess oil.

3. of Pedro

A quick guide to bicycle chain oils and lubricants (3)

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Pedro's dry lube works fantastic and a bottle of it can last a long time. In fact, we're told the price drops drastically if you buy in bulk, and a gallon of this stuff will last a very long time—of course, it depends on how often you use your bike and how often it needs to be oiled. Pedro's also makes liquid lube, but they don't perform as well as the ones we mentioned above. Their dry lube products, however, outperform most products on the market.

The product lubricates extremely well in dry conditions, but one drawback is that it washes off easily. If you live in an area where it can rain when you least expect it, then you may want to either use liquid lube instead or be prepared to apply that dry lube more often than you would like.

4. Maxima Chain Pro Dry Formula

A quick guide to bicycle chain oils and lubricants (4)

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We'll just admit it: of all the dry lube brands on the market, few perform as well as we'd like. When it comes to liquid lube, it's hard to determine which brand is the best because many brands of liquid lube are great and perform just as well as the next. Not so much for dry lube, however. In fact, there are only a few brands that we trust and particularly like. And in our opinion, Maxima Chain Pro Dry Formula is the best available on the market today. Sure, Pedro's is good too. But if we had to pick one, we'd go with the Maxima Chain Pro Dry Formula.

The creators of this oil say they have incorporated a surfactant formula into the product that effectively reduces the rolling resistance of the drivetrain and improves shifting performance. While we can't verify if this is true, what's certain is that whatever ingredient they put in it seems to work.

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