Bike maintenance is a skill, and the more you involve yourself in cycling, the more you will learn. The difference between a well maintained bike and a poorly maintained bike is huge and very noticeable. The last thing you want on a group ride is creaks, noises, and dismal performance.
One thing you are really going to want to keep on top of is keeping your chain lubed. It may not sound like much, but it will make a huge difference to how your bike works and the longevity of your parts.
Why do you need to keep your chain lubed?
Chains are a vital part of the gearing on your bike. Without the chain, nothing connects together. If you don’t use chain lube, it makes your chain stiff, and it doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it should.
You can lose valuable wattage over this, which could be the difference between a race win or loss.
If you keep your bike chain lubed, you will find it will last much longer than if you don’t lube it. Like a car, they cannot run without oil, or they just bind up.
You also find without proper lubrication. It will also take its toll on other moving parts such as the chainrings and the cassette.
The sound of a chain without lubrication is just awful, and when you’re out riding, it is so distracting.
You’ll not want to go on that group ride with your chain sounding awful, or you will get noticed for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of lubrication isn’t about just keeping things running smoothly. It’s also about protection parts.
Some lubricants on the market have the ability to keep dust and dirt off your chain, and this is great for those messy off-road rides. Dirt and water are a chain’s worst enemy and can seriously rust the chain if left untreated or unprotected.
How often should I lube my chain?
When it comes to looking after your chain, keeping it lubed regularly is the key to keeping your bike working in tip-top condition. How often should you be doing it though?
Some cyclists say every ride, and others say once a week. What is the correct procedure? It actually comes down to a few different things, and we’re going to speak about this next.
Type of Lubrication
There are a few different types of bike lubrication on the market, and each works differently from one another. Some will need to apply more regularly than others.
Dry lube is made up of about 10% lubrication and 90% carrier fluid. It is designed to just be used in dry conditions only. It typically is much better at keeping dry dirt off your chain and does give your chain a beautiful shine compared to other lubricants on the market.
The drawback is because it is only 10% lubrication, you have the issue that when it gets any water on it, it comes off very easily, and you will require to reapply it. This could be something as little as a few puddle splashes. The time to apply this is when every few rides or when your chain starts to get noisy.
Wet Lube has a much higher consistency of lubrication than dry lube but majorly differs depending on the brand you choose. Wet lube is not just designed for wet conditions but all conditions. Unlike dry lube, wet lube lasts much longer.
Wet lube is great because it lasts for ages, but the issue is it can attract dirt so easily, and when that dirt builds up, it is an issue. Typically you can get away with only applying it every couple of hundred miles, but if you want the best performance, you need to keep cleaning off the old oil when it gets dirty and applying new which can be often.
Another great lubricant hitting the market recently is wax. It’s basically a melted-down candle and has become popular because it keeps your chain clean, smooth, and working effectively. It can be used in all conditions and has a low rolling resistance.
The chain wax should last about 300 miles, but it depends on the conditions it is used in. You will need to reapply it when you’re chain gets noisy, or it gets too dirty.
The next thing to consider is the terrain you will be riding on. If your road riding and conditions are good, then you will find you won’t need to reapply much, but if you are on muddy trails, then you will find yourself applying it very often.
How it’s applied
Applying chain lube correctly makes a huge difference. If you put too much on then it will take too much mud in, if you put too little it will come off easily. Adding the right amount, a drop on each link is perfect, then clean off any excess.
When it comes to needing to know when to apply lube, there are too many variables to give even an estimate. I personally would aim to do it after you clean the dirt off your chain or when the drivetrain gets noisy.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.