Lubricating your bike chain is a necessary part of maintenance. Chain lubrication maintains proper shifting performance by smoothing the chain’s engagement with cassette sprockets and chainrings. Furthermore, it reduces friction and wears on the drivetrain, and prevents corrosion.
The under-lubricated chains increase friction by allowing too much metal contact, overlubricated chains attract dirt and grit, which increase friction and drivetrain wear. But can we use oil or grease on bike chains?
Oils or Grease on Bike Chain?
Why you should not use Grease on Bike Chains?
Using grease on a motorcycle chain may seem like a good idea, as it can help to lubricate and protect the chain. However, there are several reasons why it is not recommended to use grease on bike chains:
- Attracts dirt and debris: Grease is thicker than oil and can attract dirt and debris, which can cause the chain to wear out faster.
- Can cause damage to O-rings and X-rings: Many modern motorcycle chains are equipped with O-rings or X-rings, which help to seal in the lubricant and keep the chain from becoming dry. Grease can cause damage to these seals and cause them to fail, resulting in a dry chain.
- Can cause slippage: Grease can cause slippage between the chain and sprocket, which can lead to poor performance and increased wear on both the chain and sprocket.
- Can make chain too stiff: Grease can make the chain too stiff and can cause it to bind, resulting in increased wear and poor performance.
- Can make chain hard to clean: Grease can be hard to clean, and can make it difficult to remove all the dirt and debris that can accumulate on the chain.
The Best Type of Grease to use on your Bike Chain?
Every product was carefully curated by an Esquire editor. We may earn a commission from these links.
Is Grease useful for other Parts?
Pedal springs should not be greased. The mechanism will become clogged.
The WD-40 you use is not a lubricant, but a solvent. Cables and housings that are gummed up to the point that a solvent is needed should be replaced rather than performing makeshift maintenance.
Brake pads, rotors, and rims should never be lubricated. You’ll have difficulty slowing down or stopping if you do. The pads of disc brakes need to be replaced if lube is accidentally smeared on them.
Grease should never be used in excess. You might experience Seatpost slippage if you weigh your Seatpost.
It’s never a good idea to use grease in this application because it’s too heavy and will gunk up pulley bearings and attract dirt.
The Bottom Line of using Grease on your Bike Chain?
Here is the thing with grease: it does not penetrate as well as oil, so it can actually act as a barrier, keeping out the lubricating oil you are trying to apply.
This can cause an accumulation of grit and grime, which will shorten the life of your chain. If you do choose to use grease, make sure to clean and degrease your chain thoroughly before applying any fresh lubricant.
Related Article: Can We Use Engine Oil for Chain Lube (2023 – 2024)? Expert Opinion!
Use Purpose-made Bike Chains Lube
Specifically formulated bike chain lube prevents gunk, rust, and corrosion while ensuring your chain moves smoothly over the gears.
There are many different types of chain lubes, including wet lubes, dry lubes, ceramic lubes and wax lubes. Each has its own pros and cons, and intended use, which we’ll come on to.
Most lubes contain synthetic oils, along with friction-reducing additives such as PTFE (Teflon) and carrier fluids that evaporate after application.
The key with bicycle chain lubrication is to get it in the internals of the chain (among the rollers and pins). Before lubricating, you also need to clean it as thoroughly as possible, to remove contaminants.
Obviously, that’s the dream mix no one can truly achieve. There is no dust or dirt attraction with wax-based lubes, but they do not last very long. In addition to penetrating deep into the chain, grease-based lubes attract dirt.
I don’t think anything is better than the purpose-made bike chain lubes available, but some of the options will do the job. Remember, the best lubricants will not only protect and enhance the chains but also be appropriate for the weather. It should be easily applied and easy to clean up.
Dry lube is a type of lubricant that is specifically designed for use on motorcycle chains. Unlike traditional lubricants that use oil as a base, dry lubes use a wax or silicone-based formula. Dry lubes are designed to provide excellent protection for motorcycle chains in dry or dusty conditions.
Dry lubes are not recommended for use in wet or muddy conditions, as they can wash off easily and leave the chain unprotected. Additionally, you should clean your chain before applying the dry lube, as any dirt or debris can affect the lubrication performance.
It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for lubricating your motorcycle chain, in order to ensure that the lubricant is compatible with your chain’s construction and that you apply the right amount, to the right place.
In wet conditions, wet lubes are generally composed of synthetic oils with higher viscosities, as well as additives such as PTFE.
A lubricant with this type of viscosity gives you more lubricant per milliliter, and it should last longer and is less likely to get washed off your chain if you encounter water.
As a result of these properties, it can also attract dirt and grime (especially when applied excessively), and because of its extra viscosity, it has lower outright efficiency than thinner lubes.
The best way to apply this type of lube is to apply it sparingly to each link and wipe away any excess.
For maximum benefit and to maintain peak performance and optimize drivetrain life, you should clean your drivetrain regularly, possibly even after every ride. Once a wet lube becomes contaminated it can begin to cause drivetrain wear.
The use of paraffin wax lubricants has grown significantly in recent years, as independent testing has proven that they are highly efficient, long-lasting, and resistant to contaminants.
PTFE and carrier fluid are usually added to wax-based lubricants, along with highly-refined paraffin wax particles.
Wax’s good performance comes from the fact that it settles on the chain, forming a hard, almost dry layer of lubrication.
It prevents friction-increasing contaminants from sticking to the chain and coating drivetrain parts or getting into the chain’s internals.
Prior to the initial application, wax lubricants must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent the wax from sticking to metal and drying incorrectly.
To remove all grease and oil from a brand-new chain, you have to completely strip it. It is also important to leave enough time for the wax to completely dry and harden on the chain before riding (ideally overnight). To prevent corrosion, you will also need to clean, dry, and lubricate the chain after riding in wet conditions.
In recent years, ceramic lubes have begun to appear, promising increased performance alongside higher prices. While their benefits may be greater than those offered by other types of lubricants, they may not always be clear as to what they contain.
Ceramic lubes from Muc-Off, which make both wet and dry lubes, contain tiny ceramic particles, which reduce friction over synthetic oils found in standard lubricants.
Although these lubes are more expensive, they claim to increase drivetrain longevity, saving you money in the long run.
Aerosol lubricants are also available, but they are difficult to apply precisely, so they aren’t recommended for lubricating chains.
As a result, you are much more likely to get lubricant on your brake pads or rotors than you are with drip lubes, and you don’t want that to happen.
What type of Oil should you use on a Bike Chain?
Bike chain lube alternatives lack in most of these aspects and will prove expensive and inadequate in the long run, but as a short-term fix, they do the job.
The main benefit of using an alternative to a purpose-made bike chain lube is accessibility. Most of them are common household products, so you can easily find one and be tempted to use them on your chain. For a purpose-made bike chain oil, you obviously need to find one and order it.
Bike oil is not ideal but performs better than grease. It also aids in reducing friction and gives protection against damage but protection against friction is not long-lasting. If you end up using bike oil and chain lube, use it in small quantities. Don’t be tempted to absolutely coat your chain in it.
WD-40 is a versatile product that can be used for everything from lubricating your chain to cleaning your bike frame. So next time you’re in the middle of a bike repair, don’t forget to reach for the WD-40.
In my opinion, neither grease nor bike oil is better than proper bike chain lubricant, but they do have their uses.
Many people use motor oil on their bikes, but its acidity actually wears down the components of the bike. In a similar way, petroleum jelly may seem like it would work well, but it is not durable enough to offer any real benefit.
Chainsaw oil is used to lubricate chainsaws, which requires the oil to be thick and sticky. Applying chainsaw oil on your bike chains should keep them lubed in the heaviest rainstorms. It’s not recommended for any other weather conditions. The thick oil creates too much of a hassle for frequent use. It can easily collect dust and debris, making it a challenge to keep your chain and gears clean.
Bike lubricants such as silicone spray work well. Many household items can be sealed or lubricated with them. It is also easy to apply, as it comes in a spray can. However, it won’t last long. You may need to reapply the silicone spray after each ride.
In wet conditions, petroleum jelly will disappear very quickly when your bike goes through the motions.
Using clipper oil, you can lubricate the blades of your hair clippers. It is easily washable, just like silicone spray. In spite of this, it can protect every area of the bike chain against corrosion.
Other household products, such as cooking oil, might be tempting, but it’s not suitable for mechanical parts. The chemical composition changes over time, it contains too much acidity, and it doesn’t last long. A good bike chain lubricant contains graphite, which is not present in cooking oils. Because of this, cooking oils degrade easily and provide short-term benefits. You may encounter more friction in your chain when you cook with oils.
There will be no difference in the challenges facing olive oil and coconut oil as they both fall into the same bracket. In wet and windy conditions, olive oil still degrades quickly and washes away.
A bike chain lube alternative that is heavier, like bike oil or grease, will provide more protection than alternatives such as cooking oil, which degrades too quickly. However, you should be careful not to use too much and end up gunking your chain up.
The Negative Aspects of Bike Chain Lube Alternatives such as Oils?
you can tell from the above-mentioned, there are a few negatives with regard to utilizing bicycle chain lube choices. Purpose-made bike chain lubricant is made to deal with the elements. That incorporates taking care of different kinds of climate, pressure, and other outside factors.
It’s exceptionally difficult to tell what sort of lube will work best in wet circumstances, as well as dry circumstances, which adds a risk factor for the alternatives.
It is possible that some will draw in additional residue, causing more friction and grinding, and resulting in increased wear and tear. There are some that will just wash off right away. There will be some that degrade rapidly. There will be some that degrade the chain lube made by the first producer. Furthermore, bicycle chains are not explicitly designed to prevent rust, which is one of the main causes of damage.
Accessible although, but these options aren’t really less expensive. Cooking oils and oil will cost around the equivalent of a purpose-made bicycle chain lube. You’ll likewise have to utilize them more routinely as they degrade quicker than a purpose-made bicycle chain lube, which overall adds to the cost.
How to Apply Lube to your Bike Chain?
Bike chains need to be properly lubricated to function correctly and mesh with the derailleurs and sprockets.
First of all, soak a clean rag with a degreaser. With your bike in a work stand, grasp the chain with the rag as you backpedal to remove grime from the rollers and side plates. Repeat until the chain is clean. Then, dry the chain using a clean rag and the same technique you used to clean it. To apply bike chain lube, deposit a drop on the top of each link as you slowly backpedal for a few revolutions, so the lube has a chance to work its way in. Wipe off any excess lube.
1. What kind of oil do you use on a bike chain?
You should use a lubricant that is light and waterproof, such as Boeshield T-9 Waterproof Lubricant. Consider Pedro’s Chainj if you’re in wet weather. A chain’s strength can be compromised by motor oil’s acids and metal particles, causing it to wear out faster.
2. Can you use any oil on a bike chain?
Regardless of the type of lubricant you use, some lube works more effectively than others. Furthermore, most lubricants are designed for closed systems, not for use in bicycle drivetrains exposed to environmental elements and dirt.
3. Can baby oil be used as chain lube?
Oils derived from petroleum jelly and mineral oil, such as baby oil, are not recommended as lubricants.
4. Should I lube my chain after every ride?
Make sure your chain is properly lubricated and cleaned after every ride if it’s wet, snowy, salty, or if there is more dirt and sand on the road. Dry or Teflon-based lube will not attract as much abrasive dirt and sand as oil-based lube when riding in dusty, sandy conditions.
5. Should you degrease your chain after every ride?
A properly lubricated chain is just as important as a clean chain. Every ride should be followed by a thorough cleaning of the chain. Even a quick wipe with a clean rag can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time to perform this task.
There is a wide variety of lube options to choose from. There are many alternatives to bike lube that will yield excellent results, including some established brands.
Oil or Grease on bike chains is also used by some people for lubricating their bike chains. Unfortunately, while it does provide some protection, it lacks some of the fundamental qualities of a high-quality bike lube.
Grease also comes in different types, some of which should not be used on bikes, for example, automotive grease. Grease can gunk up your bike’s components and actually cause friction to increase. On the other hand, oil degrade quickly and wash away when wet and windy.