How to Lubricate Your Bike

Keep your bike in great condition by lubricating it properly. This is especially important in the winter when you bike gets wet frequently and the roads get even dirtier than normal. The question often asked is how frequently should someone apply lubricant to their bike. It is a tough question to answer because it varies depending on how often you use your bike and in what kind of conditions you are cycling in.

Chain lube

The chain is the part that requires most frequent lubrication. If it is a long ride in the rain then the chain should be lubricated afterwards. In the summer months the chain needs less frequent lubrication. Twice a month should cover it if you ride daily. The other parts of your bike do not need to be lubricated as often as your chain. As a general rule, when the bike starts to become noisy it is worth applying some lubricant to see if it solves the problem. Also, if you touch the chain and it feels dry, then it may benefit from a small amount of lubricant. To complete this repair you’ll need bike lubricant, grease and a cloth.

You can’t lubricate a bike unless it’s clean. The reason for this is that lubricant attracts more dirt, which causes wear of components and is tough to clean off. The first step, therefore, is to clean your bike. This is best done with an official bike cleaning product as then it won’t mess with any lubes you want to stay on the bike.

Cleaning bike

The two biggest mistakes people make when lubricating their bikes is they apply too much and they use WD-40. The truth is your bike needs less lube than you would think and WD-40 is not suitable on fast moving parts. I highly recommend getting bike specific lubricating products. These are designed to extend the life of your bike. As a rule of thumb, you should apply lube where there are moving parts.

Spin the chain and drop a small amount of chain lube as it spins round. Make sure you work the lube round by shifting into all the gears so it spreads. Leave it to dry for 5 minutes and then spin the chain through a dry cloth to wipe off any excess. The chain should feel very slightly moist to touch.

Lubing chain

Also apply lube to the brake arms and levers. Avoid getting any lube on brake pads and wheel rims as this can drastically reduce stopping power. Squeeze the brake lever to work in some of the lube.

Brake lube

Brake and shift cables also need lubricating occasionally. Use grease to lubricate cables. Simply release the cable from its housing and then work in a little bit of grease with your fingers around the cable. Move the part you have just added lube to around a bit so that it can spread. Remember, you only need small amounts.

Cabling

Lube the pivots on your rear derailleur. Also apply a small amount of lube to the jockey wheel, though this is unlikely to need much as it picks up most of it from the chain as it spins round. The front derailleur mechanism needs lubricating on all the pivot points. It is also a good idea to very lightly grease the chain cage.

Derailleur lubeFront derailleur

This will feel a bit counter-productive, but once you have finished adding lube to all the different parts allow them to dry. Then using a dry cloth, wipe off any excess. Any lube that is needed will have sunk in, whereas the excess will simply gather dirt. The components should have only a very thin coating and should feel slightly moist to touch. This prevents your bike from gathering dirt while you ride.

Wipe off excess

Generally such an extensive process doesn’t need to be undertaken every weekend, although in the winter I do my chain every few weeks or after a heavy rain. It might be worth doing the full lubrication every couple of months if you ride regularly through the winter. The main thing is to not ignore any clicking or grinding noises. Often times they will go away with a little lubrication, but if they don’t, perform a full safety check and consider getting your bike checked out.

Take these instructions with you

Bike doctor appWe built the Bike Doctor App for iPhone and iPad after looking for a more comprehensive bike maintenance manual. The app has since been downloaded over 20,000 times and frequently gets 5* reviews from happy users. If you are looking for a convenient maintenance guide on the move and you’d like to learn more about looking after your bike, then search for Bike Doctor in the App Store.

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4 Responses to How to Lubricate Your Bike

  1. Mark 06/11/2015 at 10:19 am #

    You should always degrease your chain, cassette and chain rings first before re-lubricating, otherwise you’re not removing any of the dirt that is causing the issue.

    • Vincent 11/11/2015 at 10:44 am #

      +1. Just soak the chain in dishwashing liquid soap and warm water before cleaning it with an old toothbrush. It’s a lot easier if the chain has a quick link.

      While it’s soaking, use the same soap + toothbrush to clean the cassette and chainring.

      Emily > The truth is your bike needs less lube than you would think and WD-40 is not suitable on fast moving parts.

      The truth is that WD is not a lubricant, as it stands for “Water Displacement”.

      E > I highly recommend getting bike specific lubricating products. These are designed to extend the life of your bike. As a rule of thumb, you should apply lube where there are moving parts.

      The rule of thumb is that moving parts should be…
      – oiled if exposed to the outside: Chain, derailleur, etc.
      – greased otherwise (bottom bracket, pedals, etc.)

      E > Spin the chain and drop a small amount of chain lube as it spins round. Make sure you work the lube round by shifting into all the gears so it spreads

      Totally useless: There’s no reason to spread oil on the sprockets or the chainring(s). Oil should simply be put on the links on the chain.

  2. Kie 08/11/2015 at 11:16 am #

    I think you understated the WD40 bit, WD40 is for removing oil rust dirt etc, it is for cleaning, not oiling, it’ll leave parts dry.

    DO NOT USE WD40 TO OIL YOUR BIKE bad bad bad.

  3. Phil 11/11/2015 at 10:41 am #

    WD40 is a great chain cleaner, but must be cleaned off the chain as much as possible before oiling- Finish Line Wet is the best.

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