Chain lube is a hotly contested topic, with brands making huge claims about efficiency and wear protection that near impossible to verify out in the real world — though there are a few independent testing organizations out there like our friends over at Zero Friction Cycling who are torture testing all of the best chain lube for bikes.
It’s well known that a dirty chain will cost you precious watts on the bike, but it will also cost you money in the long run because a dirty chain will wear faster, and shorten the life of cassettes and chainrings too.
There is an ever-growing range of bike chain lubrication; wet, dry, wax-based, ceramic, lubes infused with nanoparticles, and paraffin wax, to name a few. Each has its pros and cons, and finding the best chain lube for your bike will depend largely on where you live and what type of riding you do. If you live somewhere where they measure the annual rainfall in feet rather than inches, a super light dry chain lube that washes off if you ride through a puddle is going to be totally useless. Conversely, if you spend most of your time in the saddle exploring dry and dusty gravel roads, a sticky wet lube is going to make your chain a dirt magnet.
Read on for some of our favourite bike chain lubes, or head for the bottom for a rundown of the different types.
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Best bike chain lubes - our picks
The Energizer Bunny of chain lube
Type: Wax-based | Best use: All-rounder | Price (4oz): £14.99 / $14.95 / AU$25
Smoove Lube was initially formulated for the Absa Cape Epic MTB stage race in South Africa. This race where drivetrain and suspension components notoriously go to die and, according to the brand, the year that Smoove was launched, the majority of the top ten teams were dripping this lube onto their chains.
The lube is wax-based with ‘special additives’ that uses water to help it penetrate the pins and rollers. It does take a bit more chain prep compared to many other lubes, but when done correctly, Smoove is one of the longest-lasting we’ve ever used. It’s not an ultra slippery option, but it keeps going and going and going.
Rock N Roll Gold
Workhorse all-rounder chain lube
Type: Dry | Best use: Dry weather | Price: £8.99 (4oz) / $23 (16oz) / AU$37.95 (16oz)
Rock N Roll has three bike chain lubes in its range. Extreme, which is the wet lube, Absolute Dry, which is…well...dry, and Gold, which falls roughly in the middle. According to Rock ‘n’ Roll, this formulation has a gel membrane suspended in the fluid, which quickly penetrates the chain and sticks into the articulating parts of the chain to keep it spinning smoothly.
The Gold Lube works well both on and off-road, keeping your chain quiet and smooth despite dust and grit. It's good value, too; Rock N Roll sells it in a 16 oz / 480ml bottle that costs less than what many brands charge for an 8oz / 240ml bottle.
Silca Super Secret Chain Lube
It’s like hot wax but in an easy to apply drip bottle
Type: Wax-based | Best use: All-rounder | Price (4oz): £32 / $25 / AU$54.95
It’s been well established that waxing a chain is one of the fastest and most durable lubricants available, but it’s also a royal pain in the butt compared to dripping lube on your chain. Not only do you need to melt the wax in a crockpot and let the chain bathe fully in a wax bath, but it also needs to be completely sterile before application, which probably means you'll need an ultrasonic chain cleaner too.
Josh Poertner from Silca had long been a chain waxer but realized the drawbacks, so he sought to develop a drip lube that worked as well as hot waxing. Borrowing a bit of technology from the world of Indy Car, Poertner discovered micro-scale wax powders that could last and lube like melted wax but could be emulsified in a liquid — the result is the Super Secret chain lube.
Green Oil Wet Lube
Chain lube that’s good for your chain and the environment
Type: Wet | Best use: Wet weather | Price (3.4oz): £64.95 / $75 / AU$90
Most chain lube smells like something you’d use to strip paint off a car. While the mixture may not be caustic, many contain chemicals that are terrible for the environment. However, with UK-based Green Oil, the chain lube is PTFE free and made from plant-based materials — even the bottle is made from recycled plastic.
Better still, unlike those all-natural deodorants, it actually works! The Wet Lube is of medium viscosity and doesn’t collect road grit like glue, but hangs on through torrential downpours and will even survive a hose bath or two. The key is in the N-Toc, which is a plant extract that functions virtually the same PTFE, one of the particles which make chain lubes so slippery.
Finish Line Wet
Easy to apply and will survive a flood
Type: Wet | Best use: Wet weather | Price (4oz): £9.95 / $8.99 / AU$15
Finishline Wet verges on the viscosity of grease and is our go-to lube if conditions are set to be truly biblical. It’s been around since 1994, and since then, the formula of synthetic oils, water-repelling polymers, and ‘advanced anti-wear additives’ has remained mostly unchanged, but this stalwart chain lube has remained popular because of its staying power.
With is syrupy nature, it does attract a quite a bit of contamination, so when it comes time to handle the chain for cleaning or changing a flat — a few squares of paper towel in your pocket is a must. Still, if you’re headed on a long journey, with inclement weather looming, there are not many lubes which can hang as well as Finish Line Wet.
CeramicSpeed UFO Ceramic lube
The fastest drip chain lube money can buy
Type: Wax-based | Best use: Race only | Price (6oz): £64.95 / $75 / AU$90
According to CeramicSpeed, its UFO Chain Coating is the world’s fastest chain lube, and this is backed not only by Friction Facts (which is owned by CS) but also independent outfits Zero Friction Cycling and Road Energy. It is also one of the more expensive chain lubes on the market, so should probably be reserved for race day use only.
The ‘Drip Chain Coating’ is a mix of waxes, trace oils, and something called ‘friction modifiers’ that are applied to the chain as a liquid that cures into a dry coating (similar to powdery UFO chains) that is said not only reduces friction but also fends off contamination. According to CeramicSpeed, it will only last about 200km / 124miles, and to get the full slippery advantage, all contaminants, other lubes, or factory grease should be cleaned away before application.
Tru Tension All Weather
High money to watts and durability ratio
Type: Wax-based | Best use: All-rounder | Price (1.7oz): £10 / $12.50 / AU$20
Tru Tension all-weather is a wax-based bike chain lube which is infused with tungsten and has proved one of the fastest spinning and longest wearing lubes on the market.
According to Tru Tension, Tungsten as a friction modifier is faster than ceramics, Teflon and PTFE, a claim which is backed by third-party testing. The wax-based formula is water-resistant, cures completely dry, and doesn’t require quite as much effort or heavy solvents to strip it from a chain like other wax-based lubes.
Wax chains take a bit of extra work, but are well worth the effort
Type: Wax | Best use: All-rounder | Price (1lb): £22.99 / $20 / AU$44.90
When it comes to drivetrain efficiency and wear, wax emulsion is king. The trouble is it takes a while, and you’ll need more than just a chain cleaner, drip bottle, and a rag to make it happen. When a chain is waxed, all the moving parts are articulating on a wax pillow, meaning there is no metal on metal grinding to wear things away. Also, because it is solid, not an oily sticky liquid, dirt, and other contaminations don’t have anything to stick to.
Molten Speedwax uses refined paraffin, Dupont PTFE, and small micron Molybdenum disulfide to keep your chain running smooth. Sold by the pound, each bag will treat at least eight chains, which will keep your drivetrain spinning smoothly for thousands of miles, and likely extend the life of the rest of your drivetrain too.
Squirt chain lube
High-performance, wax-based lube
Type: Wax | Best use: Dry, all-rounder | Price (4oz): £9.49 / $14 / AU$18
Like Smoove, Squirt chain lube also hails from South Africa - home of the world's toughest mountain bike stage races. As a waxed-based lube, it excels in dry, dusty conditions with applications lasting as long as four to six hours when racing. While it does require an application before every ride, Squirt excels when it comes to keeping your drivetrain clean - no dirt build-up here.
If applied correctly it will minimise drivetrain noise, increase performance and extend the life of your chainset. In terms of its Achilles heel - well, Squirt doesn't do very well in wet and cold conditions. Thankfully, Squirt has recently launched a new variant for low-temperature riding called SLT. SLT has a modified congealing point that makes it ideal for optimal performance in temperatures below zero.
Unprecedented longevity, but at a crazy high price
Type: Wax | Best use: All-rounder | Price (4.7oz): £114.99
AbsoluteBlack claims its Graphenlube is the gold standard, calling it the ‘world’s fastest and longest-lasting’ bike chain lube. It is a hydrocarbon (wax) based lube, which, as the name suggests, contains graphene, which according to AbsoluteBlack, exhibits extraordinary durability and low friction over a long period of time in both wet and dry conditions.
It claims to save five watts of power for up to 900km, and in dry conditions, the Graphenlube is claimed to last up to 1,800km on a single application, a claim that has been independently verified as truthful.
It sounds like one of the best all-rounder bike chain lubes available, and the price reflects that, costing almost 10 times as much as Finish Line Wet.
What to know about bike chain lube
Finding the right chain lube can feel a bit like trying to find the best saddle for you; the lube that will perform the best for you will depend largely on where you ride, how much you ride, and how often you clean and or re-lube. But, whatever you do decide on, please, for the love of all bikes, drivetrains, and the sanity of your local mechanic, do not use olive oil or baby oil!
Here is a rundown of the different types of chain lube:
1. Dry lube
As the name suggests, dry lube us designed to be used in dry conditions. These are very thin and are made from a mix of oils and some sort of transport fluid, which is designed to help the lubricant penetrate the pins and rollers and then evaporate. They typically run pretty clean, and if regularly reapplied, can offer decent performance, though a splash from a puddle can leave you with a squeaky arthritic chain.
But the mix of oils to transportation fluid usually tilts heavily towards the latter, meaning the majority of what’s inside the bottle vaporizes and isn’t lubricating your chain.
2. Wet lube
Wet lubes are for riding in wet weather, and can be more akin to syrup and grease than oil. These will be long-lasting and stand up well to torrential downpours but also attract dirt like a dollop of honey in a sandstorm. Rider beware, wet lube can also be extremely messy not only during the application process, but also should your chain come into contact with your hands, or the back of your leg.
3. Wax-based and wax emulsion
Waxed based lubes are becoming extremely popular because they work well in both wet and dry conditions and for on and off-road applications. Wax lubes are made up of refined paraffin particles which are emulsified in a carrier fluid; the liquid helps the particles get where the need to be and dries, leaving just the wax inside. Because the wax cures to a plastic state, it doesn’t attract much grit and can also support additives like Teflon or PTFE.
The downside to wax lubes is they take a bit of elbow grease to apply and maintain. Before the initial application, you’ll need to make sure any factory grease or old lube has been removed. You’ll also need to make sure you leave the wax enough time to set before you ride.
Wax emulsion, on the other hand, involves dropping your chain into a crockpot filled with melted wax. The heat causes the molecules in the chain to expand, and the voids are filled with the liquefied wax. When everything dries, every moving part is lubricated by wax, and because it’s solid, dirt just doesn’t stick to it.
If you’d like to go this route, coming in with a completely clean chain is critical, so this is where you’d need an ultrasonic parts cleaner. Once waxed, chains, chainrings, and cassettes only require hot water to be cleaned, no need for solvents or degreaser.
4. Ceramic and microparticle lube
There is a growing crop of ceramic and microparticle infused lubes that make lofty claims about reducing friction and wear, and often come with the price tags to match.
The friction and longevity figures associated with these chain lubes often sound fantastical, that is precisely what they seem to be, with independent testing showing mixed results. Given how much these can cost, we’d recommend against them.
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