Comparing Bike Lubes

Oiling-a-rusty-chain-on-a-bike
This is the way you should apply your oil NOT with a spray can. Spray-on oils can get overspray all over your rear rim which causes brake failure. Photo courtesy http://www.123rf.com/

Wet roads are coming and when they’re covered with salt they are really harsh on chains and the rest of your bike.  One of the most common questions we get in the bike shop is what type of lube is best to use. The short answer is that dry lubes are for dry conditions and wet lubes are for wet conditions.

Dry lubricants go on wet but dry and leave lubricant where it’s needed.  The lubricant is resistant to dust or dirt and therefore works good in conditions when there is a lot of dust and dirt. Off-road riders will especially benefit from a dry lube when the ground is dry and dusty.  These types of lubes do not hold up to  wet conditions and will wash off with a rain.

We sell the following lubricants:

  • Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant – Teflon (PTFE) based, affordable and easy to use.
  • Finish Line Dry Bike Lube – Teflon based lube, all riding conditions.
  • ProLink Chain Lube – “Cleans and lubes as you ride!” Larry’s favorite!

Wet lubricants go on wet and stay wet after application. They are great for rainy and wet conditions and won’t wash away (as quickly) but attract dirt and debris and therefore should be avoided in dry, dusty conditions.

For the best results of any lubricant it is important to start with a clean chain. With any lube you should give it a minute to penetrate after application and then wipe off the excess so it doesn’t get all over the rim of your bike (which can cause your rear brakes to stop working), your pants, your carpeting, etc.  A dripping-wet chain also attracts more grime leading to a real nasty chain that wears out your whole drivetrain much faster than a clean one.

A lighter lube like the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant, is excellent for keeping other components of your bike lubricated and help prevent them from seizing up.  We recommend a drop of lube on the pivots or hinges of your derailleurs (the things that shift your gears) and your brake pivot bolts (NOT your brake pads!) to keep them moving smoothly.  Salt water can and will get inside your brake and shift cables and cause them to get  sticky or completely seize from rust and ice, so a little chain lube inside the cable housing will help keep them sliding smoothly.

Finally, chain lubes are excellent for bringing a rusty or sticky lock mechanism back to life.  It’ll also help keep it from freezing up by chasing out water.

Grease:

A word about this type of lubricant: it’s the heaviest form of lube used on bikes and cars, etc.  It’s the consistency of toothpaste and is something we only use when overhauling ball bearings in hubs, bottom-brackets, headsets, when assembling bikes and installing seat posts inside the frame, or installing pedals, or other bolts (like those that attach things to your bike) to prevent them from rusting in place.  Grease is NOT used on your chain or places that are exposed to the elements.

Stop by the shop any time and we’ll look your bike over for no charge and give you more specific recommendations and estimates for getting it back in good riding shape!

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Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (http://auttc.msu.edu); founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (https://msubikes.wordpress.com/volunteer-donate/msu-bac/); advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (http://groups.google.com/group/tcatc); board member of the Ride of Silence (http://www.rideofsilence.org); year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 30 yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

3 thoughts on “Comparing Bike Lubes”

  1. Have you tried NFS lube? Works best if you wipe the chain down after every ride, but it’s the best lube I’ve found. They’ll have a booth at NAHBS or you can order online. Silca also has it.

  2. Glad to see your recommendation of Pedro’s SynLube! Great product
    Have you tried any of their other products? Ice Wax (wax based lube) and Green Fizz (cleaner) are two of my favorites 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed the review. We use Pedro’s Orange Peelz for our main degreaser in the shop and need to reorder it for our retail customers. We don’t have a lot of space for these types of items so we need to keep our offerings limited to what we use.

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