There are few things as irritating as squeaking noises on a bike, or a chain skipping gears when shifting. One easy solution to prevent those problems is keeping your chain properly lubricated. That’s no easy task given the plethora of options for bike chain lubricants at your local bike shop. Knowing whether you need a dry lubricant, wet lubricant, ceramic wax or some other type of lube is about to get a lot easier.
Dry Bike Chain Lubricants
Dry conditions lead to added debris for both road cyclists and mountain bikers. Dry bike chain lubricants perform best in dry conditions because they are made with a paraffin wax or Teflon which gets into all your chain’s cracks and crevices. The liquid, or solvent, then dries leaving a protective layer on your dry chain.
The problem with dry bike chain lubricants is their longevity. You must apply them frequently, and they wash off in wet conditions. A large portion of the liquid you apply to the chain evaporates, so using a wet lubricant can be better from a value perspective. Wet chain lubricants are not without their own set of problems though.
Best Wet Chain Lube
The major problem with wet chain lube is that it will hold onto more dirt and grime than it’s dry counterpart. However, if you ride in a very humid climate like Florida or wet area like the Pacific Northwest a wet lubricant will be the way to go. The best wet chain lube is the one you remember to apply, but the good news is you don’t have to apply wet lubricants as often.
Another negative to wet lube is application. When you apply dry lube you simply add it to your chain. When you apply wet lubricants you must clean and degrease your chain before reapply. Failing to do so will result in you chain wearing down much faster.
Ceramic Lubricant For Bikes
Adding to the bike chain lube quandary are ceramic lubes. There are ceramic dry lubricants, ceramic wet, and ceramic wax lubricants which we will dive into shortly. A quick search on Amazon will yield you no less than a dozen different ceramic lube options. The good news is, following the same maintenance principals above leads you to the right choice of ceramic lubricant.
If you aren’t familiar, ceramic lubes have particles infused in them. Those particles lodge themselves in every crevice of your chain creating a ceramic coating. Once that coating is in place dirt buildup cannot diminish the performance of your chain. Ceramic lubricants are either wax based or synthetic.
Wax Bike Chain Lube
Wax lubricant requires a thorough cleaning of your chain before applying. If the chain is not clean your lube and the dirty chain grease will combine to become sticky. That sticky substance then attracts contaminates rather than repelling them. Once applied wax bike chain lube provides the best performance.
Because of the way wax lubes keep dirt off your chain, they are not a good idea for indoor bike trainers. When I moving your bike to the trainer you need to thoroughly clean the chain. On my Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainer I always use a dry lubricant. There is less possibility of the lube washing off your trainer than your bike, and dry lube won’t require application as often.
What Type Of Lubricant Is Best For Bike Chains?
In conclusion, the type of lubricant best for bike chains will depend entirely on your riding conditions. Whatever you do, be consistent about it. If you fail to properly lubricate your chain it can lead to additional issues. If you have to replace your chain it may skip on your old cassette. Replacing your cassette because you failed to properly lubricate your chain is an expensive way to learn.
The easiest way to pick the right bike chain lube is following the old adage of dry lube in dry conditions, and wet lube in wet conditions. A true cyclist will own multiple types of lubricant so they are properly equipped for any situation.