Friday Group Ride #72

The world can be an abrasive place. Whole religions have sprung up and survived on the premise that treading a spiritual path can help you reduce the friction of everyday living on your tiny, tortured soul. But what about your bike chain?

This week’s Group Ride examines your lube preferences. Regale us not with lurid tales of the viscous liquids you ply in your inter/intrapersonal relationships. That’s another site. What we’re interested in here is how you keep metal from abrading metal, how you keep things smooth and rolling on your bicycle.

For my part, I have experimented with many different products and applications without feeling as though I have fully conquered the challenge of optimal lubrication. The Pedro’s line, which includes Ice Wax™, Road Rage™, ProJ™ and SymLube™ , gives us an oily palette of strangely named substances with which to face various temperature and road/trail conditions. This is likely more thought than I can reasonably be expected to put into greasing a chain.

I like a lube you can put on your chain, wipe the excess and then go ride your bike. I don’t want to think about viscosity.

To that end, I have been using T-9 for some time now. A cross mechanic told me he used it on all his bikes, and that it was the best. It is not, as far as I can tell, the best. There is also a French oil that comes in an elegant little bottle that some bike shop friends swear by, but it’s expensive and they claim they have to use it after almost every ride, so I don’t bother because I’m just not that fastidious in my maintenance routines.

So here it is, you masters of velo living, what’s on your chain? How do you apply? How often? And why?

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39 comments

  1. grayson

    Since moving to chicago a few years ago I bought a bottle of white lightning wet-ride since I rode year round and hadn’t used it all up by the time I moved away, now I use it in LA and it still works great.

  2. Rich

    I’m a big fan of Morgan Blue. It’s the little known lube that sponsors most of the peloton. They have a lube for every weather, every bike. So however you like to apply your lube there will be a one to suit. Normally the amount of kilometres on the back of the bottle which it recommends before a new application is spot on, except if it’s been a wet ride then ignore it. Wash, degrease and lube. I’ve used lots over the years and this is the one brand on my shelf these days.

  3. Oakmad

    +1 for DuMonde Tech – the Mrs loves the smell of the stuff
    I’ve also been happy with Rock N Roll Gold in the past, though its a messy application.

    1. Padraig

      Thanks everyone; this reminded me that a review bike I have needs the chain lubed.

      I only run really light lubes; Prolink and T-9 are the ones I’ve been using for years. Anything heavier picks up sand, of which there is plenty—even when you’re not on the bike path here in the South Bay—and sand is a real drivetrain killer.

      Is the Dumonde Tech light? I might have to give it a try.

  4. Rick

    Slick Willy,

    Hard to find now. Lube is local to the Boston area. The owner concocted a formula and made the lube too good, where one bottle literally lasts for years, goes on quick, is clean, dries fast and goes a very long way before the chain ever needs another application

  5. Touriste-Routier

    Chain-L from November – April (see Chris’ comments above) and Rock n’ Roll lube for the rest of the year. Application frequency depends on how much rain and mud I am going through at any given time.

  6. David Hendry

    After trying several special bike chain lubes some with exhorbitant prices I have gone back to what I started with. 3 in one oil used as needed and wiped off after each application. I have yet to wear out chain before it has stretched to the point of needing replacement. No rust and a minimum of dirt pick up. But then I’m just a slow recreational rider and probably the high price spreads are really really worth the added cost. Surely the manufacturers wouldn’t just be taking advantage of the cyclists they exist to serve.

  7. josh kadis

    I use whatever has the simplest instructions – apply and wipe. Anything beyond that (drying time, multiple applications, etc.) is bound to exceed the limits of my attention span.

  8. grolby

    This will be shocking, but I basically stick to good ol’ Tri-Flow. Yeah, it’s messy, but the stuff works, and lasts a long time.

    If this seems strange to you, here’s an important bit of context: I’m really, really skeptical that picking up sand and grit is a big problem with a lube like Tri-Flow. The lubricant tends to wash that stuff out of the rollers and links, leaving it on the outside, where it makes a nasty mess, but isn’t doing much harm to the chain’s innards. The sound of silence when you spin the pedals on a bike with a chain given a light lubrication of Tri-Flow that’s had time to settle in and flow into all of the nooks and crannies is all the evidence you need; I’ve never known chains to sound worse than after a thorough cleaning, when all the lube has washed out and the little bits of grit, inevitably, are washed in and grind, grind, grind away at that chain until the reapplication of lube has carried it out again. So, these days, I use Tri-Flow, or other wet lubes (Pedro’s SynLube is actually pretty good, Prolink as well, albeit stinky), I wipe the outside of the chain down when it gets dirty, and try to avoid touching it with my leg.

    As for White Lightning, don’t even get me started on that stuff! Tried it several times, I have always been appalled at the results. It might be better than nothing, but I’ve never heard the silent sound of an abrasion-free chain when I’ve used it. If your chain is making noise, it isn’t properly lubricated!

  9. grolby

    Josh Kadis – yes, agreed. On top of that, any bottle of lube whose list of instructions includes directions to first strip your chain of the factory lube is not to be trusted. Whoever sells that will probably be offering you low, low prices for a bridge next.

  10. Andrew Coe

    Dumonde Tech Lite is lighter than the plain Dumonde Tech (the original, I believe). Their rep gave me a free bottle of the Lite when I first worked at a shop and i’ve never gone back to anything else. Very clean. A little short lasting in the wet, but any light lube is.

  11. Alex

    Purple Extreme is the best chain lube I’ve ever used. I’ve been through nearly all of them, including all pictured and mentioned in the above comments.

    Chain-L is good, but it makes for a dirty chain very quickly. It’s basically just motor oil, really.
    Dumond Tech is nice, but damn expensive, and for the price it isn’t phenomenal.
    Pedro’s variety works well, but as mentioned in the post the continual changing of lube-per-conditions works if you’re a pro-team mechanic. Which I am not.
    Motrex Dry Lube works well… but only for Dry conditions. If you’re in a region where there will be a lot of wet riding, the Wet Lub is absolutely fantastic. It’s more of a gel than a lube. Regardless, the Dry variety never really ‘settles’ into the chain and slowly drips off the chain while the bike sits idle in your home or garage, which can be frustrating if you have a nice floor.

    Purple Extreme. Period.

  12. Doug P

    Grolby-ditto here…I don’t think cleaning off ALL the lube is a good idea-ever. A quiet chain is a happy chain! A few years ago I bought a 1/2 gallon can of Tri-Flow. I use it to fill my collection of emptied and saved lube bottles every few months. I lube almost every ride, and wipe clean. There is a cleaner built in to the lube which evaporates off after wiping clean the chain. I also like Finish Line ‘Wet’ lube.I don’t like ‘dry’ lube, because I can’t tell if the chain is lubed, and I have had bad luck with the chain running REALLY dry.

  13. brucew

    Another Dumonde Tech user here.

    I don’t argue with my bikes. And the bikes? They like the blue stuff.

    I used to use ProLink or Tri-Flow in the dry and Pedro’s Syn Lube in the wet. Now it’s all blue stuff, all the time.

  14. Rod Diaz

    Dumonde. They have several versions (lighter, biodegradable, etc). The one I use smells great – like bananas. Has worked very well on KCNC chains used on mongrel-drivetrain bikes (Rotor rings, SRAM cogs; Truvativ crankset + sShimano, etc).

    I am very diligent, though. Wipe and reapply no less than once/week.

  15. lqdedison

    I have a strong preference for T-9.

    I apply using the little spout that comes on the bottle to each roller on the chain after a ride. It works best if it can dry for a couple of hours so applying after a ride works because then you don’t have to worry about that so important drying time. I only put a new application on the chain when it begins to make noise. I ride a few times during the week anywhere from 50-90 km and the chain will become noisy again in about three rides. So I reapply every third ride, usually. I’ve been using the same bottle for 3 years and it’s still about 1/3 full.

    Why do I use T-9? it simply keeps my bike quiet like nothing I’ve ever tried before. Out of the many reasons I ride, relaxation is at the very top of that list and nothing breaks that zen like mind state like a noisy bike. With T-9 applied to my chain I can ride for hour after hour through blissful thoughtlessness. Even in the rain. At most all I will hear is that comforting noise of rubber meeting road and the wind rushing by my face as I pedal away into serenity.

  16. Souleur

    great recommendations!

    as i will have to try a couple of those.
    lubes are like great coffee, many flavors, not all liked though.

    Rock-n-Roll Gold has serve me the best in all conditions. and I like it because it is a chain cleaner/preserver as well.

    but…willing to try others as there seems never to be a ‘perfect’ lube

  17. Pascal

    For MTB, I use chainsaw chain oil which for which a litre can be had at the price of a small bottle of Pedro’s. I am still working on my first bottle after 7 years. For road, I soak my chain in molten parrafin mixed with a bit of said chainsaw oil twice a year and add a bit of whatever dryish road lube (Prolink etc) from time to time. Cheap and cheerful and my chains seem happy.
    The wax sticks a bit to the cassette and rings at first, but the drivetrain stays quiet, dirt doesn’t stick and the shifting is unaffected.

  18. James

    Motorex wet lube for bicycles during the rainy season and Pedros liquid waxy lube in the dry season, here in Portland. The Motorex works great in the rain though, like all heavy lubes, it does have a propensity to adhere road material to the chain and derailleur wheels. But the chain stays well lubed!

  19. Bikelink

    Dumonde. Have never used anything that makes the chain so SILENT. Apply every week or two, wipe off excess and outside grime couple times a week. Tried the light version (supposed to be for road vs regular for mountain bikes) but didn’t quiet drive train as much. People who use it for the first time are sometimes shocked by how quiet it made their bike.

    1. Padraig

      Obviously, I need to pick up some of this Dumonde Tech. The last time I felt this OTB Bill Clinton was in office. Wow.

      Josh: I’m so with you. If the lube comes with directions, it’s not for me. Oh, and thanks for both reading and weighing in.

  20. Ray

    “There is probably more voodoo about chain lubrication than there is about any other subject regarding bicycle mechanics”

    Barnetts Manual, 4th Ed, Chap 26.

  21. Derek Blagg

    Another Dumonde Tech user here.

    I prefer the Original Blue which is heaver than the Yellow Light. The blue runs much smoother and quieter. Although does pick up more debris. My process is to wipe the chain clean with a rag. Put the smallest drop I can on each roller link. Ride for a few days and repeat. I could get a lot more time between re-applications, but I prefer a clean drive train and a totally silent one.

    Padraig- Neither of the Dumonde lubes are as light as Pro Gold.

  22. TandemGeek

    At the risk of inciting a bike-geek riot, and having messed around with all of the various lubes that were in vogue from time-to-time, I still find that for our mostly fair-weather riding here around Atlanta, Georgia, I can still get away with… wait for it: a hot-melt paraffin wax bath.

    The wax bath sitting in my Fry Daddy includes paraffin wax, mineral oil, vaseline, and bees wax.

    Yeah, I’m aware of all the pitfalls, but it’s become something of a religion for my congregation of one. The mud bike and mountain bikes still get treated with “real” wet or dry lubes, which include ProLink, Pedros IceWax, T-9, Tri-Flow, etc., so I’m only have nuts.

  23. Mse

    I usually use T9, but for the last month I have been using plain mineral oil once a week(no joke). I have been very pleased with the results. Very silent and does not attract dirt or grit. An added benefit is it is very inexpensive.

  24. Scott G.

    Genco Olive Oil on the chain, with Two Buck Chuck as my chain cleaner.
    The other bits get Boeshield.

  25. Bearded Wonder

    Awesome post–I love all the “homemade” solutions! Chain saw oil, mineral oil!? Awesome!

    I use Dumonde Tech Light on my road bike and the full power blue stuff on my MTB, and I stock up every time I am in the US (or have friends buy it for me when they are there) as you can’t get it in the UK. I love the banana smell you get from the Light version. Every time I apply the stuff it reminds me of my racing days.

    Surprisingly, I have also found Pedro’s Go! biodegradable chain lube to work well on my single speed in a commuting environment. The bottle says it’s best for “clean conditions”, which I can assure my London commute is not, but it seems to work really well and holds up really well in the rain.

  26. Alex

    I´ve tried most kinds and brands of oil, both for on and off road. I´m a confessed oil-crazy and I buy/try everything new I come across. T9, Dumonde and Prolink are my all-time faves for regular (everyday) use. I keep some in stock all the time. And something tougher for heavy off-road use and/or wet road riding, like Pedro´s Syn for instance. But that´s rare.

    I´m currently using SQUIRT, and I can say I´ve been liking it a lot. Seems to fill most of my demands for a good oil (easy to apply, dries quicly, stays long and easy to wipe/wash off). A friend of mine gave me to test and I´m liking it a lot. It´s white and waxy, more viscous than WL but lasts much, much longer and stays cleaner too!

    As for “mode d´emploi”, I prefer one-drop-per-link unless rain, mud or something demands otherwise.

  27. mark

    David Hendry: your chain doesn’t stretch, it elongates as the spacing between rollers and pins increases from wear. A so-called stretched chain is a worn out chain.

    Alex: glad you like purple extreme. I have a bottle in my car that you are welcome to if you want it. To me it seems more like anti-lube.

    Derek Blagg: your lube choice and application method indicate that you have as sound judgment and as high intelligence as can be found in the cycling universe. Given the numbers advocating Dumonde Tech, it appears that you are in good company on this blog.

  28. Jim

    Whatever’s handy. I’m a strong clyde and chains & cassettes don’t last long enough under me to matter. Given my druthers, Phil’s Tenacious for most conditions on the road bike – I suspect it’s chainsaw blade oil or motorcycle oil, since it seems to have an anti-fling agent in it. Finish Line stuff is okay – the regular for most conditions, the Wet for snow / mud rides, and I’ve been getting fond of White Lighting w/t wax for MTB, since it’s been dry and dusty lately. I finish a 3 hour ride in the dust and only the chain stays clean! I bet that wax is going to be a bee-otch to get off the chain when the weather turns…

  29. slappy

    bacon grease, just drop your chain in after the bacon comes out, dump the excess on the neighbors garden and put the chain back on

  30. vtrich

    +1 PurpleExtreme. Like pretty much everyone else,..I’ve used a bunch over the years,…T-9 most recently. But PurpleExtreme, for me, has been excellent. Last a pretty long time, is very thin so I don’t get a heavy build up. Great stuff.

  31. Mark

    r/e triflow and other teflon in suspension lubes.
    Note that they come in opaque bottles. for experiment take a bottle shake it really really well for a long time and transfer the lube into a transparent or translucent bottle then wait a couple weeks. Most of the teflon will settle out to the bottom leaving the thin solvent medium on top. Over time the teflon will knit to itself in the bottom of the bottle and be almost impossible to get back into suspension. If you don’t shake and use often then what you’re doing isn’t so much lubing the chain as cleaning it.
    ..then running it mostly bare.
    but don’t take my word. try it.

    There’s still room in my world for ‘dry’ conditions lubes but knowing how they behave might change where, when, how often you use them.

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