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I was in a bike shop recently asking for dry lube, and the sales guy told me that the wet/dry distinction is just one that Finishline uses for their product lines, not an actual distinction between chain lubes in general.

However, other bike store folks have told me that there is a difference, and that wet lube can be applied less frequently, but will tend to collect grit and sand more, while dry lube is less adhesive to that stuff, but must be reapplied more often.

Are any of these right or close to right?

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marked as duplicate by Daniel R Hicks, Batman, mattnz, Mσᶎ, Gary.Ray Aug 26 at 13:40

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3 Answers 3

Wet and Dry lube are pretty much universal terms, they're not constrained to one manufacturer.

Wet lube is suitable for wet conditions, dry lube is suitable for dry conditions.

Wet lube is quite sticky. It will stick to your mech and is less likely to get washed off by rain. The downside, because it is sticky, it can pick up crap from the road, as those guys said.

Dry lube is a much lighter lube. It should keep your mech quite clean, the downside is that because it is that much lighter, it'll get washed off in wet conditions.

As regards use, it really depends on where you live and your climate. Where I am (UK) I tend to use dry lube in the summer and wet lube in the winter. If I think I can get away with it, I'll lean toward dry lube (although I won't put dry lube on top of wet lube, I'm more likely to clean the chain first).

Incidentally if you look at a given manufacturer, they will likely have both wet and dry products, possibly others too. All are optimised for certain conditions. For example, the manufacturer White Lightning makes four lubes (described here). I use Epic (which is a dry-ish lube) and Wet.

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It needs to be emphasized that there are "intermediate" lubes that fall in the middle between "wet" and "dry". Read the descriptions at the bike shop and pick what sounds best for you. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 26 at 0:22
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I think it should also be emphasised that despite what many say will happen, hell will not freeze over if you use the wrong one. –  mattnz Aug 26 at 4:08

Different lubes will have different characteristics with respect to durability - some will do better in wet or muddy environments while others may do better in dry or dusty environments.

First, note that chain maintenance is a matter of religious belief.

The other bike store people are correct in this case - dry lube is designed for bikes which operate in dry conditions (so they dry to something thin and waxy to prevent dust collection - normally these are something like wax or teflon or something suspended in alcohol or something that evaporates out), but does not work as well as their wet lube (which is just some grease/oil) in wet conditions. The key thing is to lubricate well, and remove excess lubricant to minimize grime. Generally, companies which produce more than one lubricant will market them based on their intended operating conditions (whether they work better than the others in a given operating condition has to be determined experimentally). You can look at the back of the bottles to see what the manufacturer suggests.

The longevity of any lubricant is highly dependent on operating conditions, and the longevity of a chain is a function of how clean it is as well as how lubricated it is. You may want to experiment with different lubes as to what works well for your riding conditions as well as invest in a chain cleaner such as the Park Tool GC2. Generally though, wet lubes last longer than dry lubes but do attract dirt more easily.

Also, its Finishline presumably rather than Frontline (which makes flea+heartworm medicine for dogs).

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Well I swear by Frontline and I tell you what, I've never yet found a flea on my bike –  PeteH Aug 25 at 20:15
    
Hahaha yes, I was skeptical that that was the right name. Thanks for the clarification :) –  synful Aug 25 at 21:00

Warning: no cycling topic sparks such heated debate as chain maintenance.

Wet lubes go on wet and stay wet. Basically oils, with various additives, ranging from thin & lightweight to thicker & heavier. Apply to chain, wipe off excess, wipe chain after each ride.

Dry lubes go on wet, then the carrier dries leaving a dry chain. These come in various formulas, many are wax based. Apply to clean chain, let dry. Most dry lubes require more frequent application than wet lubes and should be reapplied after a rainy ride.

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