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BICYCLE LUBRICANT 101

  • Bicycle Maintenance
Bicycle Lubricant 101

The variety of lubricants available in the market can be confusing when the time comes to buy one. Lubricant is vital for bicycle maintenance and it helps keep things moving smoothly, while prolonging the lifespan of parts and can significantly improve your on-saddle experience when applied correctly. Essentially, there are three types of lubricants for bicycles, they are:

  • Chain Lubricants (Dry/Wet)
  • Grease
  • All Purpose Lubricants
  • CHAIN LUBRICANTS (DRY/WET)

    Dry and Wet are universal terms indicative of the conditions the lubricant is meant to withstand. Most chain lubricant manufacturers offer these two variants as a minimum. As a very simple rule of thumb, use Dry lube in dry riding conditions and Wet lube in wet and muddy riding conditions.

    Dry Lubricants

    These go onto the chain wet, but then dry to a waxy finish. Typically, Dry lube takes a couple hours to dry, so plan accordingly. A positive aspect of dry lube is that it tends to not collect a lot of dirt, and hence this makes it perfect for cycling in dry conditions. On the downside, dry lubes wash off very easily and require re-application - especially if ridden in wet conditions.

    Wet lubricants

    Wet lubes are thicker and stick to the chain to form a protective layer that remains wet to the touch until rubbed away. They are ideal for wet riding conditions, as they offer a highly increased resistance to rain and are harder to wash away. The downside is that they collect dirt and grime easily and hence the chain will require regular cleaning to wipe away the dirt and prevent it from chunking up and damaging the componentry.

    Using Other ‘Non-Specific’ Lubes - A word of Caution!

    A classic faux-pas when it comes to lubricants is to use a lightweight household oil such as WD40, which is designed for low use parts. Whilst this will grease the chain in the short term, it is not meant for outside use and will very quickly wash away. The other extreme is motor oil. This is generally too thick for use on a bike chain and will not penetrate the smaller parts of a bike. It is also very sticky and will pick up dirt from the road very easily.

    Bicycle Lubricant 101-1
    Bicycle Lubricant 101-2

    GREASE

    Grease is a heavier, waterproof lubrication, and is typically used in places on the bicycle that aren’t taken apart often. Grease has two primary functions which are: To keep key components moving free from water entering and to help places of static ‘metal to metal connection’ from seizing up i.e. bolt threads, saddle posts etc.

    ALL-PURPOSE LUBRICANTS

    All-purpose lubricants are regular day-to-day lubricants that are meant to be used regularly to keep your bicycle moving smoothly. It is best to invest in something that has a waterproof element and is suited to outdoor use. All-purpose lubricants that come in spray cans make application easier. All-purpose lubricants have a wide range of uses including helping stop a squeaking pedal, getting the brake cables to shift smoother etc.

    Bicycle Lubricant 101-3
    Conclusion

    Regardless of the type of lubricant used make sure to clear off any excess lube from the bicycle, as it can easily run down onto brake pads or other areas of the bike where it is not required. While it is not necessary to use lube before every ride, make sure to give your bicycle a once-over every now and then and apply lube as and when necessary. As you begin to gain experience on the saddle, you will be able to tell when you need to re-apply lube to your bicycle parts. However, till then - as a rule of thumb, try to lubricate your bicycle once a month at a minimum. And make sure that your chain is clean before you apply lube to it.

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