The Basics: How To Lube Your Bike Chain

The Basics: How To Lube Your Bike Chain

Not lubing your bike chain is a bit like not putting oil in your car. Not a great idea. Not only does it prevents rust, but it also makes the components last longer and make each pedal stroke more efficient! 

These beginner's and pro tips will make your commuting rides, as well as bike trips more enjoyable!

After reading this blog you’ll know how to:

  1. Get started and the material you need;
  2. Choose your lubricant;
  3. Know when its time to lubricate your chain;
  4. Clean your chain;
  5. Lubricate it;
  6. Make your chain last longer.

Let's get started!

The Material Needed

Here is the list of what you'll need.

  • - Lubricant;
  • - Degreaser;
  • - Rags (your old t-shirt that you haven't worn since high school);
  • - Toothbrush or/and a bicycle brush;
  • - Gloves (not mandatory but it's pretty nice not to have dirt under the nails afterward);
  • - An old towel (if you do it indoors).
material lube bike chain arkel

What Type Of Lube And Degreaser To Choose?

Lube:

It's super simple, there are 2 main types of lube: wet and dry.

Wet: it is used when riding in humid conditions, when it rains, or in winter. It is thicker, and lasts longer but accumulates dust more easily.

Dry: it is used when riding in dry conditions such as summer. It is less thick, penetrates tight places more easily, and dust adheres less but it lasts shorter.

For increased performance, some use an even finer lubricant between the meshes to embed the tight spots better before putting on the Dry or Wet lubricant.

*When temperatures drop below 0 degrees wet lubricant works very well.

**Lubricants in the spray are not recommended.

Degreaser:

There are several options on the market, make sure to use one that is designed for bikes: effective enough to degrease but not too strong to damage parts.

The Mint'N Dry brand for example is very easy to use as it does not require rinsing, and its ingredients are plant-based and biodegradable. In addition, it is made in Canada and you can also buy it in bulk to reduce its ecological footprint.

*Dish soap is not recommended because it is not strong enough.

When And How Often Should You Lube Your Chain?

If your chain is new and/or it feels a little oily to the touch, it’s all good!

If not, here are the signs to look out for:

  • - You hear a scratching sound while pedaling (scrunch type) or a high-pitched squeak (squick type);
  • - You see the rust starting to appear on the chain;
  • - There is an accumulation of dirt, and dust on the chain;
  • - It is no longer greasy to the touch.
how to clean bike chain 3
how to clean bike chain 1
how to clean bike chain 2

Frequency

It depends on your usage: the number of km/miles you ride, the weather conditions and the type of road you ride on, etc. So, in winter, on rainy days, after riding on a gravel road, or after a long bike ride, you have to lubricate your chain.

In general, if you ride your bike 3-4 times a week, you should lubricate your chain once a week in winter, and once every 2 weeks in summer. After every long ride or rainy day.

Before or after a bike ride?

It's good to do it afterward, it gives the lube time to penetrate and your bike will be ready to go the next day!

When storing your bike

If you store your bike for the winter, it will be important to lubricate the chain well beforehand, especially if it will be stored in a damp place.

Step 1: Get Settle Before Starting

  • - Have all the equipment to hand.
  • - If you have a leave-in degreaser, you can do everything indoors.
  • - Lay a towel on the floor so it doesn't get dirty.
  • - Put the bike upside down: seat and handlebars on the floor

Step 2: Clean The Chain

There's no point in adding lubricant to a dirty chain, it will simply add another coat of mud. That's why you have to clean it first!

1. Spray the chain gently and place a cloth behind it to contain the jet or spray the cloth and then spread it over the chain.

*Be careful not to put degreasers on other parts.

The degreaser must not infiltrate in some parts, there are joints in the derailleurs which must remain well lubricated.

In addition, degreasers can be corrosive to tires.

Where apply the degreaser?

It's very simple, on the chain and on the derailleur's rollers (the small cogwheels).

2. Wait 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Clean between the meshes with a toothbrush or a bicycle brush.

4. Wipe with a clean cloth if you use a leave-in degreaser or rinse with a hot water boiler or a hose if you do not use a leave-in degreaser

Step 3 : Lube The Chain

1. Lubricate the links one by one with a cloth underneath to collect the excess.

2. Wipe off excess lube.

*Be careful not to put too much, it will only accumulate dust and sand quicker and form a chain muddy again.

**Sprayed oils are not recommended.

Before / After

how to clean bike chain 2

Finally, Make The Chain Last Longer

Normally, you can change the chain 3 times before replacing the cassette.

Its durability will vary depending on your use: if you ride uphill often, how you maintain it, and mileage. Although you can:

1. Clean and lubricate the chain often.

2. Do not set the rear and front gears to opposites. Either put the highest gear on the chainring (large cogs at the front near the pedals) and the lowest gear on the rear sprockets (small cogs at the back). The chain will stretch faster.

A very special thank you to Denise Belzile's valuable tips, a pioneer woman in bicycle mechanics!

The End