I ride less than 200 miles a week, and I'm at about the 200 mile mark on my new road bike. Most of my riding is done on the road in an urban city, so there is a lot of odd, unnatural debris. My LBS told me to lube my chain every 150 miles, but I've read conflicting opinions.

How often should I be lubing my chain?


12 Answers 12


Lubricate when needed. I don't think it's possible to put a mile marker on when to lube. I think most people add chain lube too often. Too much can cause debris to build up on the chain. Too little lube can cause unnecessary friction; but you'll know pretty quickly by the looks (and possibly sound) of it if you have too little lube.


  1. Wipe your chain off before you add more lube.[*]
  2. Is the color black?
  3. Is it greasy?
  4. Wipe all that schmutz off until it's looking dry.
  5. Add lube while rotating cranks.


  1. Lube the night before you ride: this gives the lube a chance to 'spread'.
  2. Wipe the excess off immediately before you ride - but not until dry as above.

^ [*]. Wiping off the chain is best done in a work stand or while the bike is in a position where you can rotate the crankarm such that you can hold a rag to the chain while the chain is moving.

  • 4
    Wiping is not always best thing to do, because you can unintentinally take dirt from outside (where it is harmless) to the inside. The chain might look clean, but a lot of dirt would be inside. Best thing to do, IMO, is to remove it, submerge in some solvent (I use kerosene), and shake vigorously. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 1:08
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    @heltonbiker some chain manufacturers recommended against solvent baths as this strips out all the factory lube which is typically a much higher quality than what you add with a drip on lube. I did some longevity testing and found solvent bath and relubed chains had a noticeable shorter life compared to wipe-lube-wipe.
    – Rider_X
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 23:04

Definitely lube the bike after cleaning the drivetrain, or after riding in the rain. In terms of adding lube in between cleanings, every week or two should be fine, more often if the drivetrain is getting noisy. Just a few drops of lube should be enough, unless you ride on very dirty roads.

  • Wow! 2022 was a fairly bike-free year for me, I rode 387 km on the entire year! So every week or two, meaning 7 - 15 km. I didn't know I have to lubricate my chain so often. Usually I lubricate every 800 km. (The point of this comment is to show that no calendar based lubrication schedule works, you have to lubricate based on kilometers ridden -- or waiting until there's a minor bit of squeaking and lubricating them which is what I do and I get 800 km out of a lubrication run.)
    – juhist
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 12:22

I would say that it is best to clean and lube your chain after every ride. The better you maintain your chain the longer it will last.

To clean your chain you can either use a chain cleaning tool, I use this one from Park Tool which is excellent:

Park Tool Chain Cleaning Tool
(source: parktool.com)

The alternative is to put a SRAM powerlink in your chain: SRAM powerlink

and remove your chain and clean it in with a solvent like paraffin (kerosene to Americans)

The choice of lubricant is also debatable, speak to someone at your LBS and get their recommendations for your riding conditions.

  • 8
    So I can minute bike ride to the local shops then spend 30 minutes cleaning the chain?
    – Ian
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 18:13
  • 2
    I agree if you have been out in the mud, or a long trip on dust roads. If you like me are commuting to work each day on dry asphalt I think cleaning it each day is a bit of overkill. Thanks for the powerlink tips.
    – Rickard Lindroth
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 9:04
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    +1 for an interesting suggestion and good equipment links however I think that this is excessive. Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 1:57
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    Note that many of the powerlink-type gizomos aren't reusable! Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 12:48
  • 3
    SRAM 10 speed chains user a "PowerLock", not a "PowerLink" which are not reusable. KMC makes a reusable link that is compatible with SRAM 10 speed chains. Commented Nov 26, 2011 at 7:41

Every 150 miles sounds like an awful lot, but then I guess I don't cycle as much as you. "Little & Often" is the best advice I've heard.


I ride 250KM a week and I give it a squirt just before my long ride on the weekends. You can't really damage it by over lubing the chain. Sure if you store it inside too much lube can make the chain drip. If you do it just before a ride then no dripping in the house.

  • Can't specifically damage it, but if you oil a chain etc just before you ride- it will attract more dirt, which will cause more damage. So, I'd suggest oiling after a ride, rather before.
    – AliGibbs
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 20:06

I only lube after I clean the chain. I ride around 100 miles per week on average. My bike has been holding up well over the years. I clean and lube once every 2-3 weeks.

  • Cleaning/lubing every 200-300 miles is a reasonable approach. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 3:56
  • I think 200-300 maybe pushing it for wet lubes. By that point there probably are dried caked on bits of dirt that could do things like cause chain suck, etc. Commented Dec 19, 2020 at 18:47

Usually 100 - 150 miles is ideal on a road bike that has not seen rain or bad weather. Also, the kind of lube you use makes a difference. For example, WD40 Wet Bike Lube for me worked, but would only get me about 120 max before I felt it was best to clean the drive train (e.g. caked on dry black chunks on the drive components vs. just liquid black dirt emulsified within the grease).

Finish Line Ceramic gets me closer to 150-175 miles between services. I have tried exotic dry lubes and avoid them because one splash from a puddle can render them useless and waxes seem like overkill plus cause other issues later on in terms of contamination.

If you do get caught in the rain using a wet lube, I would recommend drying the chain with a rag and adding more lube to the chain (1 drop per link) and then shifting through all the gears. This will drive water out away from the drive components.

Below is a short video of the drive services I do ever 100-150 miles. I put it together cause a lot of people wonder what they should do to maintain their expensive bikes. Furthermore, even if you take it to a bike shop I find they usually will do a minimal cleaning (i.e. slap on the chain tool with degreaser, dry the chain, lube it, and shift through the gears vs. cleaning things like the cassette, derailleur, and chain rings where a lot of dirt gets trapped).

The steps I use when cleaning components are summarized as:

  1. Shift Into the Big Chain Ring and Small Gear in the back
  2. Degrease - Chain clean tools made by Park or Finish Line make things easier here.
  3. Water Rinse Chain - Chain clean tools made by Park or Finish Line make things easier here.
  4. Wipe Chain With Rag
  5. Clean Drive Components (i.e. Cassette, Chain Ring, and Derailleur)
  6. Clean Cassette (See Above) - Something like a rag wrapped around something thin and solid like a CD works well for me and is inexpensive. A example is shown here in this clip:
  7. Wipe Chain With Rag
  8. Lube Chain - Only 1 small drop of lube per link. Find the masterlink/quicklink on the chain and use that as a reference to make sure you only lube a link 1 time. Less is more here as unnecessary lube just flings off the chain onto your wheel or braking surfaces and attracts more dust. Some people like to wipe their chain after lubing it, but I have had good luck just sparingly applying the lube to begin with so that after the next step there is not much need to wipe any excess. However, again each person may have their own opinion or preference on the matter. I have had good experience with WD40 Wet Lube (Not regular WD40) and Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube. I am sure each person will have their own preferences like people do when it comes to motor oil.
  9. Shift through all gears and chainrings to spread the lube around.

You can spend more time cleaning components, by removing the wheel & cassette, but usually what is shown outlined above is sufficient to keep things clean for most people.

Hopefully that helps.

  • Very thorough answer, thanks! This is very close to the steps I’ve been following, but I’ve probably been going 200 miles between cleanings and relubings. I also use an air compressor to dry my drivetrain/chain immediately after washing, and then I let it air dry a few more hours before lubricating. One thing I noticed recently: In spite of my paranoia, there’s a tiny bit of rust forming on the inside of the links (this is a relative new Dura-Ace chain), which really surprised me, since I’m so careful about drying everything. Any ideas what might be causing the rust with this care routine?
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 3:36

I have a couple of different lubes. One is for dry weather and is prone to washing off if it gets too much rain or puddle water on it, it's easy to tell when that needs replacing because you can hear it squeak. The other one is a wet lube which I tend to use from autumn to spring but it's a lot stickier and even with a good wipe down after applying, it will collect dust, dirt and grime.

If I notice too much build-up it's time to clean and re-lube. I will often clean with a rag, spray with GT-85 to displace water for a bit and then wipe down before applying lube as per the other posters' recommendations. Leave for 2-5mins before wiping off the excess.


Put simply, lubricate when needed as @42-17 said. I ride until I hear the chain squeal, which I sometimes don't notice as it slowly gets louder over time.

When commuting in nice dry California weather, I can go months and hundreds of miles without needing any lube. On the other hand I've lubed one day and had the chain start squealing a few days later if I was in a dusty or wet environment (or I didn't lube it up right).

I use my bike for commuting, so I don't do any unnecessary maintenance that takes a lot of time for little reward. In this context that means no need to lube too often or do a complicated chain wash. If you're a racer maybe you'll have different needs.

  • If your advice is followed the chain and cogs will wear out much sooner than they would with a well-lubed chain. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 2:51
  • 1
    True, but does that mean they wear out after 5 years instead of 6 years? or do they wear out at 5 years instead of 10 years? Of course they will wear out sooner, but is it really going to be a noticeable amount? Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 3:45
  • My experience suggests that chain life would be cut in half, or worse, if you apply this minimal maintenance "strategy". Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 3:55
  • While I usually don't lube more often than every few thousands of kilometers / a few times a year, I'd say you've waited too long if the chain starts squealing. Once the rollers looks perfectly dry and shiny, it's time for a few drops of oil. Of course, I use car oil, so I can actually see the effect of lubing, it's harder to see if you use a perfectly clear oil. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 13:03
  • So, basically, your advice is to consistently wait until your chain is telling you it should have been lubed days ago, and then lube it. That's pretty terrible advice. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 14:00

How often should I be lubing my chain?

There are two reasonable chain care strategies, depending on the type and price of the chain.

The first strategy was reasonable long time ago when chains were expensive, labor was cheap and chains had bushings and non-punched removable pins. Those bushings made a properly cared-for chain last for a long time. This strategy works as follows:

  1. Wait until there's a bit of squeaking from the chain
  2. Remove the chain from the bicycle, pushing a pin halfway with a chain tool
  3. Clean the chain in a bath of degreaser carefully
  4. Dry the chain
  5. Oil the chain
  6. Remove excess oil
  7. Put the chain back to the bicycle, driving the pin back with a chain tool

What made the strategy reasonable was the high expense of bushing-type chains, cheap labor and the ability to reuse the same pin when putting back the chain. This careful cleaning meant you get as much miles out of the expensive chain as you can.

In practice, you can't reasonably clean the chain on the bicycle. You must remove the chain. There are several on-the-bike chain cleaning machines but all they do is making a huge mess where you clean the chain, so they cannot be considered "reasonable".

However, today chains are cheap, they are of the bushingless design that doesn't allow them to last long no matter how well you care of your chain, and labor is expensive. Furthermore, the pins of chains are punched, meaning you cannot reconnect a chain with the same pin, you must buy an expensive reinforced replacement pin.

Because of these reasons, the current reasonable chain care strategy is:

  1. Wait until the chain squeaks
  2. Clean away the surface dirt from the dry chain
  3. Oil the chain on the bicycle
  4. Remove excess oil

There is no reasonable chain care strategy that is based on oiling every N miles whatever the value of N is. You must never oil a chain that doesn't squeak. The reason is that an oily chain has surface dirt. You cannot remove the surface dirt without fully removing all dirt AND all oil from the chain with degreaser. The only ways to do this are chain cleaning devices (making a huge mess) or removing the chain from the bicycle (requires purchasing a new reinforced connecting pin). So if you want to oil a chain that doesn't squeak, be ready to reserve an hour for the job. Given the cheap price of today's chains, this doesn't make sense.

Most people who oil a chain based on miles omit the all-important cleaning step, doing only a 3-minute oiling job. All this does is allowing the oil to carry the surface dirt inside the chain, where it will form a grinding paste that wears away your chain in no time. Accelerated chain wear also means accelerated sprocket wear. So the repeated quick oiling soon becomes very expensive.


This comment will cause a stir. I'm not a mechanic or one to fiddle with my bikes, I just ride. Before mtb'ing I raced enduro motorbikes. I was told only ever to use WD40 as a chain lube, so after every race I'd blast the bike with a high power jet wash, spray with WD40 to displace and then spray again before my next ride. Nearly every weekend I rode in wet boggy Wales with nothing other than WD40 as a lube. Never snapped a chain once. But now having read all of the debates about this product, for my mtb I use it to dispel only then I lube with currently a dry lube as I'm in Morocco. Final motto. 'Never doubt the name on the tin but doubt the comments you read'

  • 3
    Welcome to Bicycles @TheGoat. We recommend that new members take the tour to make best use of the site, and since you're answering see How to Answer also. The site is different to how you're using it: it's not a chat / discussion site :-) But you are right in your implicit point that chain lube can be a contentious topic for some cyclists.
    – andy256
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 22:34
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    Unfortunately, there are two severe issues with this answer: 1) Blasting a bike with a high power jet wash is dangerous advice: This may easily force water where it does not belong, inducing corrosion. 2) Snapping is not a problem with bicycle chains. An under-lubed chain will wear quicker, it will reduce efficiency, and it will damage chain-ring(s) and sprocket(s), but it won't snap. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 13:12

I have done thousands of miles on chains that I just cleaned with a liberal squirt of WD40 every 300-400 miles.

  • 1
    Downvote because you clarified if you've used WD's bike chain specific lube, or the generic $3 can of water displacer. Please use edit to expand your answer.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 10:29

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