Bike Lubricant: Which Part of Your Bicycle Should You Lubricate?

In last months bicycle maintenance post I discussed the most important bit of maintenance you can do. Keeping your bike clean.  The second most important is keeping it well lubricated. Yet, this is an area where many people make errors that can cause damage to their bikes.

The first most common error is to use WD-40 as a bicycle lubricant. I am ashamed to say that when I first started maintaining my own bike I made this error.

finish line wet lubricant on saddleLuckily I soon changed to something much more suitable. The Finish Line wet lubricant. This is the one most experts recommend and has served me very well. It is only £3.50 for a small bottle and it lasts absolutely ages. This can be used on most the moving parts of the bike.

I also use grease for sealed components such as bearings.

Before you read on make sure you clean your bike. If you apply lube to a dirty bike it will simply cause more dirt to stick to it and will wear out your drivetrain.

Chain lubrication

The chain is what should be lubricated most often. At winter, if you are cycling in the rain for a long period of time you should lubricate your chain as soon as you get home. (After having dried it of course)

In the summer, if you are riding every day, I would lubricate the chain once or twice a month.

Bicycle chain lubrication

To lubricate the chain spin it whilst dripping small amounts of lubricant on chain links. Then shift through all the gears and spin the chain so that it works its way around the different components. Leave the chain to dry and wipe off any excess. The chain should feel only slightly moist to touch.

You won’t need to lubricate the rest of the components as often as the chain but when they start to feel dry or become noisy it is time to add some lubricant.

Brake arms lubrication

With the brake arms you need to be careful not get any lube on the wheel rims or brake pads as this will reduce stopping power. Lubricate the parts demonstrated by the arrows. Apply lube by dripping some on and then working it in with your fingers.

Lubricating the brakes with arrows

Lubricating the levers

The brake levers should be lubricated as shown. Again only drop small amounts of lube and work it in using your fingers. Move the brake lever to allow the lube to work its way in.

lubricating the levers

Lubricate the cables

If possible remove cables from their housing and work in some lube using your fingers.

lubricating the bicycle cables

Lubricate the rear derailleur

Apply small amounts of lube to the rear derailleur at the points shown. Then move the derailleur around using your hand to work in the lube.

Lubricating the rear derailleur

Lubricating the jockey wheel

The jockey wheel picks up a lot of lube from the chain but it is a good idea to add a tiny bit more onto it. Make sure you spin the chain once you have applied some lube so it can work its way around.

Bicycle lubrication of the jockey wheels

Lubricating the front mech

Lubricate the front mech on the limit screws and pivot points.

Bicycle lubrication of the front mech

Finally wipe off any excess

Bikes really don’t need that much lubricant and any that is needed will sink into the components. The excess will just gather dust and cause problems. This is one of the common errors made by beginners that think more is better. Use a cloth to wipe away any excess.

Just do it!

Don’t just read this blog post and store it away as interesting, new-found knowledge: grab yourself some good lubricant, give your bike a quick clean and re-lube all the parts. It will make it last much longer and run smoother.

See also:

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4 Responses to Bike Lubricant: Which Part of Your Bicycle Should You Lubricate?

  1. Jp 18/03/2012 at 3:44 pm #

    thx alot

  2. sensisuperstar 03/07/2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Brilliant guide, just started cycling after a long layoff and guides like yours are invaluable, you obviously put a lot of time and effort into your blog, so keep up the good work.

  3. Mandy 12/05/2015 at 3:53 am #

    Thank you so much for providing such clear pictures with ARROWS! Most of the guides I have read on bike lubrication have said vague things like “lubricate the moving parts,” and pretty much left it at that. Even when referring to a certain part of the bike, like the brakes or derailleur, guides like this are rarely specific enough to help a total novice like me. Thank you for making this so easy to understand!


  1. Winter Bike Maintenance Tips | CYCLE CENTRE - 11/12/2013

    […] Winter as the more frequent wet weather will wash it away. London Cyclist has some great tips on which parts of your bike to lubricate if you’re not sure, but you can always bring your bike into our workshop if you’re […]

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