Bike lube: What’s all the fuss?

Bike lube

Keeping your bike well lubricated is probably one of those maintenance tasks that too frequently gets forgotten. But why does it matter? Which lubricant should you be applying? How frequently? Where? How much lube does a bike need?

Why should I bother to apply lubricant?

We’ve all been told we should keep our bike chains well lubricated. However, without knowing why, it’s too easy to think: “Nah, I don’t think I’ll bother with that fuss”. The benefit of lubricants is that they reduce the friction between the moving parts of your bike. Essentially making them last longer.

The main parts that wear away are the chain and the cassette. Replacing them both costs around £40 for the parts and at least another £30 for labour, if you are using a bike shop for the repair.

Also, a bike lube normally makes things a lot less squeaky providing you with that dreamy silent bike that glides through London.

Which bike lubricant should you be applying?

Right, so you know why bike lube is important (saving money) and now you need to know which lube to buy. Off you run to the nearest bike shop to buy bike lube but then you are presented with another problem. There are both dry and wet lubes available. Which one do you need? Afraid to look silly in the bike shop you turn to your favourite cycling blog; London Cyclist.

Essentially, during the winter you need a wet lube. This is ideal for rainy places like London. For a tube that will last you about 2-3 years you’ll pay £3.99 on Wiggle or £8.48 on Amazon. Or you can head in to your local bike shop armed with the knowledge of which lube you need.

If you are reading this blog post from a beach sipping on a piña colada and tanning your big cycling thighs then the chances are you’ll need a dry lube. These are ideal for drier climates and in dusty conditions. These bike lubes penetrate quickly and repel dust. The only downside is that in the rain they’ll wash away far more quickly than a wet lube. I recommend the Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube which costs £3.99 for the small bottle of 60ml or £6.99 for the 120ml.

As a general rule: Wet lube = winter. Dry lube = summer.

Alright, Andreas I’ll do it! How long is this going to take?

The problem with applying lube is it needs to be applied on a clean bike. Otherwise, the lube will just attract dirt and soon you’ll be wearing out your bike worse than if you just left it as it is. Therefore, lubricating your bike also means giving it a thorough clean. Fortunately, we’ve got a good article on how to do this. Once your bike is clean (20-25 minute job) and dry then lubricating it will take about 2 minutes.

How frequently should you apply lube?

Little and often is the quick answer. Some people will do this after every ride where the bike gathers muck but once every two weeks would be great, depending on how much riding you do and the conditions (winter = more often). The best thing to do is to put a recurring reminder with an alarm in your calendar and that will remind you it’s time to give the bike a quick once over.

How much lube should you apply to your bike?

Less than you think. Normally people put way too much and the lube ends up getting on your clothes and your bike gets really dirty as all the road muck starts sticking to the lube.

Where should you apply lubricant?

Starting at the chain apply a small amount of lubricant in to each link. Back pedal the chain so that the lubricant spreads around. Then, use a rag to wipe away any excess lube that hasn’t seeped in to the links.

Apply a little bit of lube with your fingers to the front and rear derailleurs.

Also apply a little to the rear derailleur’s jockey wheels.

See also:

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17 Responses to Bike lube: What’s all the fuss?

  1. Ben Ritchie 05/04/2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Good work, thanks!

  2. Alan 05/04/2012 at 3:15 pm #

    General Oil from ASDA does the job.

    No need to pay 2 – 3 times more in a Bike shop to buy a similar product with a picture of a bike on it.

  3. Mark S 05/04/2012 at 3:40 pm #

    For the price of getting the cassette and chain replaced by a shop you can easily purchase the tools needed to do it yourself; chainwhip, cassette removal tool and chain splitter.

    It’s a reasonably straightforward process, the trickiest part I’d say is ensuring you shorten the new chain to the correct length :-)

    • Andreas 05/04/2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Exactly – find most people need to do that repair ideally every year or two years so will pay off big time.

  4. botogol 05/04/2012 at 3:40 pm #

    this might be useful

    http://www.finishlineusa.com/downloads/pdf/Lube_for_Every_Cyclist_Chart.pdf

    • Andreas 05/04/2012 at 3:48 pm #

      That’s cool though I’m not entirely sure how the “clean + lubricate” in one oil would work but then I also don’t have a degree in chemistry ;)

  5. Mike 05/04/2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Perfect timing! I am re-lubing the beast this afternoon, just waiting for it to dry.

  6. Chris 05/04/2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I use Green Oil products http://www.green-oil.net/ does the job well and as cyclists hits all the green points !!!!

    • Andreas 05/04/2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Keep hearing about Green Oil – need to give them a try myself :)

  7. Barton 05/04/2012 at 7:37 pm #

    I use the Dri Flow stuff (only wet in the winter where I live, low-ish humidity, infrequent rains, etc). I typically clean and lube every fortnight, but will do it more frequently depending on weather and any noises coming from the chain

    I have to admit, the smell of the bananas took a bit of getting used to, especially since the first time I cleaned/lubed my own bike I put WAY too much on and didn’t take off the extra. Many passing cyclists commented on the scent, “lube or sunscreen?” Lesson learned, and smell tolerated (wish it was vanilla or lavendar, but I guess that is a personal choice).

  8. Cycling Alpe D'Huez 06/04/2012 at 9:11 am #

    I’ve been using the Finish Line wet and dry lubricants for a few years and find them really good (dry lube in summer and wet in winter, perfect for the climate where I live), and the two bottles have lasted for ages. I’d also recommend buying a chain wear tool (mine was only 8 Euros) as you know exactly when it’s time to get a new one instead of just bunging more lube on!

  9. Lep Recorn 06/04/2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I just spray everything, after cleaning and letting it dry, with teflon spray – GT80,
    seems to do the trick . . .

    • Dansk 10/04/2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Until it rains, then it gets washed off and leaves your chain exposed to the elements and rusting. GT-85 is great stuff for lubing cables and polishing the frame etc but not heavy-duty enough for lubing chains.

  10. jay 06/04/2012 at 1:47 pm #

    i do motorex for my bike.. a bit pricey but that what my bike deserves.. :-)

  11. Big Softy 06/04/2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Personally, I’ve been using WD40 for the last 20 years.
    And before anybody says anything, yes it is a lubricant.
    In fact, because it’s solvent based it works great as a cleaner and degreaser, and because of its initial low viscosity it has great penetrative properties.
    I’ve put in over 60,000 miles on my present steed with all the original drivetrain except for a new bottom bracket last year.

  12. Bike Route 10/04/2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Right, so you know why bike lube is important (saving money)

    Also, you’ll have to work a lot less to make the pedals go ’round if your chain is nicely lubricated! Less friction = less resistance.

  13. Claire F 13/04/2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Aha!
    You read my mind.
    Whenever Im in a bike shop and see these ‘lubes’ – wet and dry – you’re right – I’m too embarrassed to ask what they mean!
    So now I know. And I might buy a ‘wet lube’ – as Im not often in pina colada country. My bike needs a little tlc.
    Thankx for pix as well.

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