March 27, 2010
Chain lubricant seems as though it is a straight forward decision, however, selecting the proper lubricant for your environment and style of riding can add quite a bit of life to your chain and cassette. The goal of any lube is to create a barrier between your chain and natural elements you encounter on your ride, as well as reduce the amount of corrosion and friction placed on your overall drivetrain. When looking for a lubricant, you will often hear the terms 'dry lube' and 'wet lube' tossed around. Here's a quick run down on what these refer to, as well as where they can best be applied.
Dry Lube often refers to a wax-based lube. If you do the majority of your riding in a dry and/or dusty climate, this might be your ticket. Dry lubes resist buildup from dirt and road debris, leaving your chain relatively clean at the end of the day. They tend to require more frequent applications, however, you will spend less time cleaning your chain at the end of the day. For best results, try and apply dry lubricants the night before your ride, giving the lube more time to settle into their hardened state for optimal longevity.
Wet lubes tend to be oil based, and the type of oil base, as well as viscosity, can vary significantly from one brand to another. These lubricants stand up to harsh conditions very well, and can last for numerous days before another application is required, depending on road or trail conditions. Wet lubes also tend to attract a lot of buildup, so you will want to make sure to check your chain at the end of the day to see if it needs to be wiped down. You can reduce the amount of post ride cleaning by using wet lube sparingly.
When applying either style of lubricant, I have found it best to prop or lean the bike in a way that the pedals can be easily spun backwards without bumping into any objects. From there, place the nose of the bottle near the chain, and squeeze just hard enough for a rapid drip to come out. If the lube is coming out too fast, you're squeezing too hard. Let the chain run through completely just one or two times, and you should have plenty. From there, take a rag and wipe the chain down. This step will remove any excess lube, and help spread it over the chain pins and links. The last step is to shift the chain up and down the gears a few times to help lubricate your cassette.
If you have any doubt as to which lubricant is best for your bike, talk to your local mechanic and ask what they would recommend. They should have a good idea of what will work best for your region.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.