38

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?

10 Answers 10

34

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.

Hints:

  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.

Tips:

  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. – heltonbiker Mar 1 '12 at 1:08
  • 3
    @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 Jan 17 '18 at 23:04
7

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.

5

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

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 Aug 26 '10 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 Aug 27 '10 at 9:04
  • 3
    +1 for an interesting suggestion and good equipment links however I think that this is excessive. – sixtyfootersdude Aug 30 '10 at 1:57
  • 2
    Note that many of the powerlink-type gizomos aren't reusable! – Duncan McGregor Jan 19 '11 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. – James Schek Nov 26 '11 at 7:41
4

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.

4

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 Apr 26 '17 at 20:06
1

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. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 1 at 3:56
0

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.

-1

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. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 31 '18 at 2:51
  • 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? – biketoeverything.com Jan 1 at 3:45
  • My experience suggests that chain life would be cut in half, or worse, if you apply this minimal maintenance "strategy". – Daniel R Hicks Jan 1 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. – cmaster Jan 1 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. – David Richerby Jun 23 at 14:00
-3

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'

  • 2
    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 Oct 21 '16 at 22:34
  • 1
    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. – cmaster Jan 1 at 13:12
-6

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

  • 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 Sep 16 '16 at 10:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.