Dry Pavement, Sloppy Slush and A Muddy Trail: Which Chain Lube Works Best?

February 18, 2016

14681_824120950998623_5531880712172245275_nIt’s that time of the year when road rides alternate between dry pavement and sloppy slush.  And, with the warmer temperatures gracing the Front Range, riding trails is a treat but there is the complication of dealing with mud, slush and a mixture of dry trail. What does this mean to cyclists?  Choose your chain lube wisely!

Picking the right chain lubricant can be one of the more frustrating things you’ll do as a cyclist. There’s a million different types to pick: wet lubes, dry lubes, waxes, spray ons, drop ons, biolubes, and others.  Scratching your head, you might think, can’t just one chain lube do the trick? Well, when you consider that different chain lubricants are designed for different environments, the answer is a maybe.  Think of it this way, what may protect a chain or drivetrain component in one climate may actually do harm in another.  There’s an assortment of manufactures from Pedro’s, Finish Line, Pro Gold, Bike Medicine, Squirt, and White Lightning, how do you choose?   Start with the basics in understanding bike chain lubricants.  

Wet Lubes – A wet lube is thick enough to stay on the chain, thin enough to penetrate all of the small moving parts, and will remain wet (to the feel) till it is cleaned off or washes away. This lube cleans, lubricates and protects the chain from corrosion. The best time to use this type of lube is in wet or muddy conditions and areas where there is not a lot of dust.  The down side to using a wet lube is that because they stay wet on the chain they collect a lot of dirt and debris.

Dry Lubes – A dry lube, on the other hand, is a lube that has an alcohol base and dries on the chain leaving a waxy film that protects and lubricates the chain. Most dry lubes take about 3-4 hours to dry and should be applied with enough time to dry before the ride. The major advantage to a dry lube is that it does not collect much, if any dirt. The down side is dry lubes wear off quickly, especially in wet or muddy conditions.

Wax Lubes – Wax lubes are essentially very dry lubes and, as the name suggests, are very waxy. In addition to lubricating your drivetrain, wax lubes also help keep your chain clean. Part of the reason it is so clean, however, is the number of applications that are required. Wax lube will either need to be washed off or it will have the ability to flake away on its own. This kind of lube does not last long when used in wet or muddy conditions, but it also leaves the least amount of messy residue – which is nice for your surrounding bike parts

Bike maintenance isn’t always fun to do, but obviously necessary.  So, what about which bike lubricant to use in different conditions?  Basically, wet lubes are ideal for rainy, wet conditions.  Dry lubrication is perfect for dry conditions.  In varying conditions, many cyclist prefer dry lube over wet, despite the fact that it requires more application and drying time.

An interesting little-known fact about chain lubricants, is that at Peaks Cycles Bicycle Shop, we have the largest assortment of chain lubricants available.  Stop by the shop in Golden, Colorado to check out our display and while you’re at it, be sure to view our 2016 cycling apparel and accessories.  Nothing pairs better with chain lube than new bike parts or cycling apparel, right?