Best chain lubes for bikes

We get to grips with the slippery subject of choosing a chain lube for your bike and round up our pick of the best

Any friction or resistance within the chain can have an impact on how efficiently your power is used. In order to limit friction between the chain and the rest of the drivetrain, a lube needs to be applied.

Studies have shown that the type of lube itself makes little difference on the efficiency of a clean chain.

The real value of lubrication is to fill the gaps that would otherwise be filled by dirt and grime — things that do increase friction and decrease efficiency.

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So if the type of lube is unimportant for efficiency why is there so much choice? Alex Trimnell, Muc-Off’s CEO, has this advice: “Keeping your drivetrain clean and well-lubed is important for a smooth riding experience, but you need to make sure that you use the right lube for the conditions.”

But a quick glance in your local bike shop will reveal a huge range of lubes to choose from. Wet, dry, wax, ceramic are just a few of the different types on offer. So which lube should you choose?

Despite the seemingly endless differences, chain lube can be broken down into just two simple categories: wet and dry.

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Lube lowdown

Best chain lube

Simon Nash of Green Oil, which makes environmentally friendly lubes, explains: “Wet lube was the original lubricant of choice. Early brands used something like car engine oil. Its consistency trumped basic spray lubricants that were primarily designed to displace water.

“It worked and was durable. But many cyclists on the road racing scene took to waxing chains in a frying pan. Secret formulas mixed in the kitchen often led to chains being dipped in bespoke waxy lubricants overnight.

“Companies soon realised that instead of heating up wax to melt onto a chain, wax could be melted (or rather dissolved) in a solvent. When this is applied the solvent evaporates, leaving just the wax, or ‘dry’ lubricant.”

Going back to Trimnell’s advice, choosing the best lube solution comes down to the conditions you ride in.

Wet lubes are used in all weather conditions but really come to the fore when riding in autumn and winter as they are water resistant so won’t get washed off riding through puddles or in a rainstorm.

Most wet lubes will provide efficient lubrication for over 100 miles of riding with one application. If you ride in the winter months a wet lube will resist salt corrosion. Wet lubes are also really good at reducing drivetrain noise.

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The downside is that the sticky nature of wet oil can attract dirt that, if left to build up, can work as a grinding paste to rapidly wear out components. It also oxidises and if left to build up ends up as thick black gunk. Using wet lube properly requires regular degreasing and cleaning of your drivetrain.

In dry, spring and summer conditions you want to use a lighter lubricant, normally a wax-based ‘dry’ lube. Dry lubes are much cleaner to use and attract less dirt build-up even with repeated applications. This makes them much better in dry or dusty conditions, especially off-road or on gravel.

However, even a light rain shower will wash dry lube off the chain and it is less durable; an 80-mile ride in dry conditions can see lubrication drastically reduced.

As Nash also points out: “Value is an issue — in a bottle of wet lube, 100 percent of the formula will lubricate. In a dry lube, some of the formula is solvent, which is there just to aid application.”

Whichever lube you prefer to use, for the best results Trimnell suggests that you leave the lube on the chain overnight before riding for maximum benefit.


Now you know which to use, here’s how to use it

Choosing a bike lube is tricky as there are so many out there that all appear to offer the same qualities. To guide you, below we have rounded up some of our favorite wet and dry lubes.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay

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Best chain lube: Wet lube

Green Oil wet lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

Green oil’s wet lube is fully biodegradable and is made from 100% natural ingredients. To increase durability and the length of time between applications, this wet lube contains N-Toc, a special refined plant extract that has similar properties to teflon. Green Oil claims it lasts over 100 miles on the chain per application, depending on the conditions.

Buy now: Green Oil Wet Chain Lube at Tredz for £6.99

Buy now: Gree Oil Wet Chain Lube at Amazon for $14.99

Muc-Off wet lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

Muc-Off’s wet lube formula contains no harmful acids, CFCs or solvents, as well as being biodegradable. It features the company’s integral Extreme Pressure Additives coat for increased efficiency in the drive chain.

Buy now: Muc-Off wet lube 120ml bottle at Chain Reaction Cycles for £5.69

Buy now: Muc off wet lube 120ml bottle at Amazon USA for $11.99

Weldtite TF2 Extreme wet lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

The TF2 Extreme wet lube from Weldtite has water-resistant synthetic oils and special additives for reducing frictional losses.

Buy now: Weldtite TF2 Extreme wet lube 125ml bottle at Wiggle for £4.49

Buy now: Weldtite TF2 Extreme wet lube 125ml bottle at Chain Reaction Cycles for $5.99

Best chain lube: Dry lube

Finish Line Teflon Plus dry lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

Non-toxic and biodegradable, Finish Line’s dry lube is very effective at repelling dirt, making it a good choice for dry and dusty riding. Teflon is used in this dry lube to reduce friction and mechanical wear as it penetrates into all the nooks and crannies for complete protection.

Buy now: Finish Line Teflon Plus dry lube at Tweeks Cycles for £5.40

Buy now: Finishline Teflon Plus dry lube at REI for $9.00

Boeshield T-9 dry lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

Developed and licensed by the Boeing company, this aviation-grade lube combines the best points of both wet and dry lube. It leaves a waxy film after application that resists the dirt, but it won’t get washed off in the rain.

Buy now: Boeshield T-9 dry lube at Mudhugger for £14.99

Buy now: Boeshield T-9 dry lube at REI for $10

White Lightning Clean Ride dry lube

Best chain lubes for bikes

A clean chain is needed to use the wax-based White Lightning’s Clean Ride lube. It is self-cleaning as small particles of the outer wax film will flake off and take any dirt that is on your chain with it. As a result of this, the Clean Ride lube must be reapplied more frequently after dirtier rides but this is worth it for the smooth running bike you will enjoy riding.

Buy now: White Lightning Clean Ride dry lube 240ml bottle at Wiggle for £9.49

Buy now: White Lightning Clean Ride dry lube 240ml bottle at Amazon US for $15.49

Smoove lube

best chain lube

Developed to be used in the Absa Cape Epic MTB stage race that runs in South Africa, a race that is notoriously hard on drivetrain and suspension components, Smoove proved to be so long-lasting that it was dripped onto the chains of the majority of the top ten teams the year it was launched. It takes a little bit of chain prep before the first application, but when done correctly the wax based lube will last for an extraordinary number of miles.

Buy now: Smoove Universal Chain Lube at Amazon US for $14.95

Squirt chain lube

best bike chain lube

Read our full review here

We found this wax-based lube lasts much longer than other lubricants when applied to a clean dry chain. It is easy to apply and stands up well on dusty and muddy summer gravel rides.

Buy now: Squirt chain lube at Wiggle for £10

Our take

Regular, correct application of lube is an important process to ensure the smooth and efficient running of your bike.

The type of lube you choose to use comes down to several factors involving where and when you ride. If you are fastidious about cleaning your bike regularly, and often ride in inclement conditions, then wet lube is the right choice for you.

However, for the habitually lazy or fair-weather cyclist, a dry lube is always going to be the preferred option.

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What the experts think

My view: Andy Verrall former service course manager, One Pro Cycling

A wet lube from the team’s supplier, Juice Lubes, is my default choice year-round. I prefer to have a lube on the drivetrain to cover all weather.

The most important thing for me is daily cleaning of the drivetrain with degreaser, thoroughly drying it to remove all moisture before reapplying more lube.

This way the drivetrain is far more efficient and you gain extra life out of the whole system, along with no loss of power from the rider.

My view: Simon Nash, Green Oil founder

Every bike cupboard should have both a wet and dry lube. Dry lubes are for the driest conditions and cleanest chains.

Wet lubes can be used all year, offer better value and have the greatest longevity. Whether wet or dry, it’s often a question of how much time and effort you want to put in.

Either way, make sure you use a lubricant — your chain will thank you for it!

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