best chain lube

All About The Best Chain Lube For Touring Bikes

Chain lube is the key to having an efficient, fast-shifting, long-lasting drivetrain. Companies around the world spend millions researching the best chain lube formulations that help increase efficiency, attract less grit and last a really long time.

While some people swear black and blue that ‘x’ chain lube is the best, you can afford to be less picky. All chain lubes work well, but the advantage of the formulated lubes is that they’ll do it better.

Let’s take a look at the different types of lube, how it works, how to apply it and the best chain lube products.

How Does Chain Lube Work?

best chain lube

Chain lube is applied externally but is actually only necessary internally on the chain pins, rollers and surfaces between the inner/outer chain plates. As it needs to penetrate the chain, the lube should be thin enough to access the small chain components but then thick enough to last a decent amount of time. This is why many thicker automotive lubricants are not the most suitable option for your bike.

The most important thing about lube is really just making sure you’ve got an adequate amount on your chain at all times. This will allow your drivetrain to last longer and be more efficient. It’s worth noting that chain lube is not necessary on any other drivetrain parts (cassette, chainrings, derailleur etc). I guess it’s called chain lube for a reason.

Types of Bicycle Chain Lube

best chain lube
Dry, wet and wax lubricants.

There are two main types of chain lube; wet and dry, and both can be optimised to work well in different conditions. In general, a wet lube is better for the muddy/wetter stuff and a dry lube is better for dry conditions. It can be said that you’ll need to strike a balance between lube longevity and how much of a mess the lube makes on your drivetrain!

Dry Chain Lube
Thin-bodied dry lubes attract very little dust and grit but will need to be applied regularly. Given how clean dry lubes leave your chain, I’ve found that they’re useful for cleaning your chain too. Just apply a coat of lube liberally, spin the cranks backwards a few times and wipe off the excess. Dry lube (plus a regular wipe-off with an old sock) is my preferred setup for bicycle touring.

Wet Chain Lube
Gluggy wet lubes attach a film that stays on your chain, attracting grit and making your drivetrain look rather nasty. But despite the poor way I’m selling it, wet lube is awesome because it can last upwards of 1500km (1000mi) in the rain, mud… whatever you like. I recommend using a degreaser between applications to ensure that you’ve removed all grime the wet lube has collected on your drivetrain.

Wax Chain Lube
Wax chain lubes dry onto your chain, attracting very little grime and grit, and will even shed excess dirty wax during use. These lubes are often known to be the fastest too, decreasing friction across your drivetrain by a minute amount. The major downsides; they need to be applied more regularly than other lubes, they’re not great in wet conditions, and you’ll want to de-grease the wax off your chain every now and then too.

Which Lube Type is Best For You?

best chain lube
Using an old sock to clean my chain with a generous application of lube.

It’s all about matching your chain lube to your use.

Wet lubes are fantastic for long mileage, especially in adverse weather conditions. They are also great for people who are less likely to remember to lube their chain regularly. Dry lubes, on the other hand, are suited to people who prefer a clean drivetrain and are happy to maintain it regularly.

How To Apply Chain Lube

best chain lube
Wet chain lube lasts a long time but is very messy. This is my drivetrain after just 150km (100mi) in dry conditions!

It’s best to start with a clean, dry chain surface. I prefer to use a citrus-based degreaser for this process. You might need to find kerosene or mineral spirits if you’re on a bike tour somewhere.

– Shift into the big ring at the front, and the small cog on the back.
– Apply a generous layer of lube on your chain.
– Spin your drivetrain backwards for about 30 seconds.
– Wipe off the excess lube because you only need the lube between the chain links.
– Let it sit overnight in order for the lube to penetrate the inner chain pins and rollers (if you can).

The Best Chain Lube Brands

best chain lube

The Best Chain Lube – Dry
– I like Prolink as it often lasts long enough for two long road rides, or a day in the dirt. Cleaning it off is exceptionally easy.
Boeshield T-9 is another thin lube, but with the added benefit of a bit of wax.
Rock “N” Roll The Gold is another very popular lube with a touch of wax that tests well.

The Best Chain Lube – Wet
– I like the Finishline Wet lube. It’s my go-to anytime it rains or I’m encountering mud.
– One lube that gets raving reviews is the Chain-L product. Some users claim 1500km (1000mi) between applications.
Rock “N” Roll Extreme has a pretty loyal following for its longevity and tests well in terms of efficiency.

The Best Chain Lube – Wax
– I like the Squirt product. It is 100% biodegradable, it sheds over time, and it’s known to be the fastest lube available.
Pedros Ice Wax 2.0 has very similar properties to Squirt.

  1. Thanks Alee. A clear and concise review of a topic usually clouded in half-baked bias and straight out BS.

  2. For the distance any lubrication is good as long as its on the chain, even olive oil if nothing else.

  3. Thanks. I think you missed most of the the main point, and most important: How to clean the chain thoroughly before you apply the lubricant. I usually use kerosene or diesel, and a brush, which is a really messy job. And the rubber of the rear tyre does not like the chemicals either. The used solvents are hard to get rid of in a sensible way, too. I am always surprised by the amount of work required to clean the chain. And even when i assume it is clean I can still hear sand and other small particles grinding away inside the links. Lately, I have used a high pressure steamer. That seems to work well, but be careful so that you do not expose other parts than the chain. Reason being that high pressure water/steam is likely to remove grease from crank, hubs, pedals, shifters etc.

  4. I use a paraffin. I think this is an ideal and cheapest way to make your chain do the best. Even if a little rain. But it is better to use ordinary paraffin, which I buy in the pharmacy. Look here for details of boiling chain in paraffin : https://youtu.be/GUabC7mY2O0

  5. And one more vote for Rohloff. I’ve found it a bit unfair and pity that this lube wasn’t even mentioned in your rank. By the way I’ve switched from “green” (wet) Finishline to Rohloff after I’ve found it’s superb.

    Another point which I’d like to rise up is fast and easy way to clean your chain if (underlined “if”) you’re frequent bicycle user which tent to care a lot about a chain and your bicycle exercises take place not so far from home. I mean ultrasonic cleaner. These days ultrasonic devices are damn cheap and… they work. As cleaning liquid personally I use petroleum ether (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_ether) which works great also as a fuel for my portable oven (by the way Primus Gravity II MR). Short review of this method is available at my blog: http://mslonik.pl/rowery/technika/czyszczenie-roweru-i-czesci-rowerowych/1037-myjka-ultradzwiekowa-a-lancuch-rowerowy (please don’t afraid of Polish – in top right corner of a page you may find raw of flags – just pick up the English one and the rest is Google translator related magic). Regards!

  6. Nothing sounds like a nice new clean bike chain. The only time I prefer a gear cluster over my Rohloff Speedhub. But even when meshing with a single rear cog it sounds beautiful when everything is clean. Getting it clean isn’t the problem, keeping it clean is. There is no magic single lube that works in every environment. It rains in Arizona, not a lot, but it rains, and sometimes it stops raining in the Pacific NW. Wet lube, dry lube, wax, this manufacturer, that manufacturer, they are all tools to be used at the appropriate time and place. Cleaning a chain IS of utmost import when preparing it to be lubed. Not just cleaning the chain itself but everything the chain touches too. A friend of mine swears that the dishwasher is the best way to clean a used chain, but only when his wife is out of the house, or town. Submerging a new or properly cleaned serviceable used chain in paraffin works great for me but takes prep and time and can be messy. I don’t think it possible to clean a chain on the bike without getting chemicals and lube where you don’t want them. Remove the chain, clean it, or throw it away, dip the new chain in melted paraffin, mount it and enjoy the day. Chain maintenance is messy and takes time and I always think back to what a bike shop owner told me a long time ago, “Bike chains are cheap.” That may not always be the case, especially if you are into colored and/or exotic metal chains, but for most of us $20 isn’t a lot to replace a chain showing the slightest wear. I was going to say don’t throw something away just because it’s dirty, but there was this one pair of socks….. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f69a107b8022b39040e403f84b1af83028745d9c6f7d8813d4d35de1a289a37b.jpg

  7. Thank you for your very helpful, no BS review of all things chain lube. Just what I needed to read.

  8. What about gravel conditions, what would you recommend? Most my time is on dusty or gravel trails.

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