OK, so maybe not the ultimate debate, but still pretty important. I’ve noticed a trend in recent years on big group rides that people on 5000 dollar spotless bikes often have completely clean shiny drivetrains, I’ve also noticed these drivetrains squeak. Is a clean drive train important? Not really, but it looks nice. Is a friction free drive train important, sort of, and it sounds a lot nicer too.
Just a quick primer on chain lube. It comes in two main variety, dry and wet. Dry is usually wax based and as the name implies it dissipates leaving a coating on the chain. Wet is like a typical lubricant in that its oil based and stays wet and sticky. Dry conditions favor a dry lube and wet conditions a wet lube. I’ve even heard of mechanics putting pure grease on chains in extremely wet conditions. Whatever lube you use, the most important thing is to read the directions and apply it correctly, often times you should wipe away almost all lube on the surface of the chain.
Over the years I’ve experimented with several lubes, I gathered up all the different ones I could find in the shop and thought I’d give them a brief review.
Expensive lube that seems to be a combination of wax and oil like lubricant. It acted very much like a mixture of both types. It was very clean and yet lasted a long time. I used on both mountain and road, it didn’t pick up grime and the drivetrain stayed clean. Didn’t need as frequent re lubrication as others, but not as smooth running as others due to its very light nature. An excellent chain lube.
A bio degradable synthetic lubricant that is very much oil based. I used this primarily on mountain bikes where I could it collected dirt very badly in dry and wet conditions. It wasn’t any better on road bikes where I expect my lubes to stay cleaner. This was a cheap lube and it acted like it. It may be biodegradeable, which is nice, but its not worth the hassle. I had to soak chain after every ride if I wanted it to be anywhere near clean. You might as well use 10W30
I picked thus up pretty cheap at a bike shop and found that it wasn’t much better than the Pedro’s Synlube. It is a bit thinner and doesn’t seem to leave as much residue, but it still collects dirt. If you ride in very clean conditions it will last for a while but you’re still going to get a dirty drive train.
This is an expensive wax based lubricant. I’ve used it primarily for mountain bikes with very good results. I would highly recommend this stuff in dry conditions as it runs very smooth and stays very dry. It has kept my drive train extremely clean. It’s the first wax based lube that I’ve run on a mountain bike that stays on even in wet. Some of our rides are very dry and dusty with frequent wet creek crossings. These rides kill lubes and drive trains, even with Rock and Roll Extreme I’m starting to hear a bit of drive train noise at the end of a 3-5 hour mountain bike ride in extreme conditions. My only gripe is that I have experienced some rust on my chain using this lube, only very minor. Like any wax based lubricant I’ve used you have to reapply before every ride.
This is an expensive oil based lube that is very thin and very dry. I’ve mainly used it as a road lube where i feel it really excels. Like most higher quality dry lubes you need a very clean chain for this stuff to work right. It runs very smooth, stays very clean, and as long as you stay out of water it will last for several rides. It won’t take much water for this stuff to run off. I highly recommend this lube for a road bike.
This is a cult lube, I’d heard it whispered in back alleys and dark rooms, but I’d never actually seen it until a few months ago at East Ridge Bikes in Tennessee. It’s a very thick oily lubricant that is supposed to contain “advanced polymers” that will bind to your chain and keep it ULTRA SMOOTH! My experience with it was that everything it came in contact with bound to my chain and at the end of one ride it was an ULTRA MESS of black tar and that was on a dry road bike ride on clean roads. I was seriously disappointed, but after reading reviews it sounds like I put it on to thick and didn’t wipe it enough, other reviewers say it’s an advanced lube for people who care enough to actually maintain their bikes. Like most cult items everyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t know what they are talking about. I can’t recommend this stuff, I’d say you’re better off with Tri-flow its not as messy and much cheaper.
This is your basic wax based lube. I bought this stuff at Wal-Mart for like 7 bucks. I’ve been using it on my road bike with surprisingly good results. I had tried wax lubes in the past with poor results. The big problem I had was that I would lube the chain and shortly into the ride it would be squeaky and rough. I wasn’t getting the chain clean enough. Really with lube, but especially with a wax lube, you have to put the lube on a very clean chain. I’ve been re lubing my chain every few rides and its been pretty smooth. It’s nowhere near as smooth as any wet based lube, or some of the more advanced waxes. It seemed like a good deal until I realized the bottle was half the size of my other lubes and you really need to soak the chain with it so you go thorough it fast. I won’t buy this one again.
Wow that was alot of lubes, while I liked some better then others, they all did the basic job of making my chain not squeak. There are lots of other lubes out there I haven’t tried yet and I look forward to maybe one day finding one that runs smooth, stays clean, lasts long, and won’t wash off. To the future.