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Almost Everything You Need to Know About Chain Lubes

Posted: Tuesday 26 Jun 2018. Category: Cycling

Back in the day, mineral oil was the only chain lube you could get your hands on. You applied it to your drivetrain, it went black and gunky – and that was that ... 

Until the lube revolution  

No one is quite sure when it all started, but at around the end of the 20th century, a few lubricant manufacturers stepped-up to the plate and introduced specifically designed wet and dry lubes for drivechains.

This was great news for cyclists everywhere; products were cleaner, and you could now actually choose a lube for either wet or dry conditions – things were definitely looking up.

As the years rolled by things got even better with manufacturers producing an ever-widening range of advanced chain lubricants. Drivetrains ran smoother than ever before.

However, trouble was brewing – and it came in the form of choice. With such a wide range of products available, many cyclists found themselves in bike shops staring at shelves full of different kinds of lubes. Chins were rubbed, heads were scratched and bottles were examined then carefully re-examined ... yes, that frequently asked question had come into being.

So, what is the best lube for my drivetrain?

Well, to try to answer that …

Dry lubes

First things first, dry lubes are self-drying lubricants that are specifically designed for riding in dry or dusty conditions.

How can a lubricant be dry? Well, dry lubes are basically made up from a lubricant element and a quick-drying carrier solvent. The lube is applied to your chain; the carrier solvent dries out, and you are left with a dry but lubricated chain.

So what types are of dry lube are there? Well, essentially three: Teflon, wax and ceramic. 

Teflon Dry Lube 

Teflon Dry Lube

Teflon (PTFE) based lubricants are probably the most commonly used in the dry lube category. To apply Teflon lubes, you simply put a drop on each roller of a pre-cleaned chain, leave it for a couple of hours to dry, give it a wipe over and you’re good to go.

Mileage varies from brand to brand, but you can definitely expect to get a long, smooth and grit free ride from one application. It’s fairly easy to clean off as well, making reapplication a pretty straightforward task.

Teflon is a great choice for UK summers, but as with all dry lubes, it will wash out in heavy rain.

Wax Dry Lube 

Wax Lube

Wax lubes are essentially blends of paraffin wax and various carrier solutions. They are applied in the same way as Teflon lubes – one drop on each roller of a clean, degreased chain, then a couple of hours to dry and a good wipe off. 

Although wax lubes are considered a cleaner option to Teflon, you can get waxy build-ups around your jockey wheels and chain rings if you keep reapplying without cleaning.

As with Teflon, mileage varies from brand to brand, but you can expect to get a smooth day-ride from one application. But like any dry lube, they will wash out in extremely wet conditions.

The dryer nature of wax lubes mean they're definitely seen as the go-for-kit in desert like conditions. That said, they're still a very popular choice for a UK summer lube.

Ceramic Dry Lube 

Ceramic Lube  

A bit pricier than standard wax or Teflon, ceramics are the latest generation of lubricants to hit the shelves. They are applied in the same way as wax or Teflon lubes but they do tend to take longer to dry – some brands recommending a minimum of 4 hours.

The good news though is ceramic lubes are being heralded as a longer-lasting option to either Teflon or wax, and more importantly for many riders, more resistant to wet conditions.

Ceramic lubes are seen as the middle ground between a dry lube and a wet lube. So, they could well be the future of British summer chain lubricants. We will see.

Wet Lubes

As you may have guessed, the ‘wet’ in wet lube stands for a non-drying lubricant. The general rule here being the wetter and stickier the lube, the more resistant it will be to extremely wet weather conditions.

The downside is they attract a lot of dust and grit in dry conditions, creating a black corrosive paste that is very difficult to clean. That said, it can still be used as a summer lube, but to keep your drivetrain running really smoothly, it will require cleaning after every ride. 

So, what types of wet lubes are there? Well two, synthetic and mineral.  

Synthetic lubes

Synthetic Lube

As the name suggests, synthetic lubes are made from organic oil formulas. There are a number of formulas available some with ceramic, Teflon and polymer additives.

Synthetic lubes often tend to be a bit stickier than petroleum based oils, but for extreme wet weather it’s exactly what you need. Downside though, is if left for a while they can leave a film on the chain which can be a bit difficult to remove. 

Mineral oil lubes

Mineral Oil


It may seem oldfashioned, but modern light mineral oil formulas are still popular with many riders. They are inexpensive, long-lasting and stay on your chain regardless of weather conditions. 

But like synthetic wet lubes, mineral oils will pick up lots of dust and grit in dry conditions, resulting in that rather nasty corrosive paste covering your drivetrain. Good news is, if you clean your drivetrain after every ride, you can stay on top of it ... but you will need a good supply of old rags.

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Posted by DL

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