Should a chain be lubed each time after riding in the rain*?

What about a 100km mudride (occasional water up to the hubs)? Should I stop in the middle of the ride to re-lube the chain? If so, is it essential to wipe the chain? Note that wiping with a piece of paper will be much less effective than with the cleaning device at home, so some mud and sand will be pushed into the rollers by the oil.

Can dry chain be felt somehow, instead of relying on mileage and weather observations? How to do it?

* - many lubes are marketed as holding a film for months

  • 1
    I broke an (expensive) 10-speed chain only after about 4-5 rides of 100km, flat off-road but muddy, with cleaning with a rag and lubing with teflon chain-lube (then re-swiping) between rides. After I fixed the broken link, I went to a mechanic (without re-greasing in the meantime) and he said "quite normal, your chain is dry as hell". Then I noticed that when rotating the crankarms backwards, the chain kind of grinds against itself. This is the major motivation behind this question.
    – Vorac
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 11:25
  • 1
    In muddy conditions you should use a "wet" lube. And, to answer your question, you should lube a chain when it needs it. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 13:31
  • 1
    Thanks @DanielRHicks, really helpful :D. Fitting answer for Friday afternoon, though.
    – Vorac
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 13:35
  • 2
    I suspect that the chain breaking wasn't determined by its lubrication state.
    – Batman
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 14:59
  • 1
    I believe teflon lubes are "dry" lubes which tend to wash off easily with water, which might explain your situation.
    – Karthik T
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 14:03

5 Answers 5


I think it is a judgement call, but I don't think you can separate lubing from cleaning.

I will basically lube the chain every time after I've cleaned it. Mostly, cleaning will be simply wiping with a paper towel, occasionally it will be the other extreme - I take the chain and the cassette off the bike completely and bathe the lot in degreaser. But after each clean I apply lube.

To quantify, in your situation, I think if I were doing 100km muddy rides, I would clean the chain in between every ride. To lube during a ride.....well I can't see any point in doing that. You'd just be lubing dirt.

In my situation (and I'm a road rider) I will generally clean/lube every week or 10 days, or every 2-3 rides. I count this as standard maintenance, just like pumping the tyres. A "deep" clean, where I take everything off, will be maybe every 3 months or so. I use one of two lubes, depending on season/weather - a light, dry-weather lube (which would certainly be washed off in the rain) or a more sticky wet-weather lube.

As regards your last point, if you do start to "feel" something, then probably what you'd be feeling is damage that had already been done. I view lubing as preventative, so I'll lube on a time-driven basis rather than an event-driven basis.


If the conditions are wet I make sure to use a Wet lube designed for those conditions and follow the directions on the bottle. Typically wet conditions call for more lube since the water can destroy the chain.

You may not always need to reapply after every wet ride but you should be drying the bike off and giving everything a once over. You don't want to leave your bike sitting there wet in the corner like a step child. Gotta give that beast some love. Take care of it and it will take care of you.

That 100km mud ride sounds awesome! I would say to keep and eye and ear on things as the ride progresses. Here is a pretty good post about riding in muddy conditions. He seems like like Dumonde Tech Lube for those conditions

A dry chain can be heard pretty easily. It sounds like your bike is dying. If you are hearing excessive noise from your drivetrain then a dry chain may be culprit.

Good Luck!


This depends entirely on the lube. I use Finish Line Cross Country for all my bikes except the Velomobile, where I use a thinner lube because the chain is entirely inside the fairing. Normally, I'll just dry off the chain after riding in the rain or clean it with warm water if mud is involved and dry it afterwards. Before the next ride (best the evening before) I check whether the chain is dry. If my fingers get (a little!) oily, everything's fine, otherwise, I relube.

The relube intervals depend of course on riding frequency, but my commuting bike gets a relube every couple of weeks, even though I leave it outside while at work.


So many parameters to consider!
I lube the MTB chain before each ride, but I hose rinse the bike after each ride.
I lube the road bike after it collects enough dirt to be cleaned. About every other month

On the same topic, I would recommend to check your chain wear on a regular basis. I recently lost several cassette teeth to this

  • The latter, I am doing. One chain broke without being worn out, that's why I'm asking how to prevent that.
    – Vorac
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 13:57
  • I've never broken a chain in 40 years of riding, so I suspect that technique and aggressiveness is a factor. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 20:31
  • Snap your chain in one lesson : pedal hard uphill during the shifting. Works wonders, trust me :) Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 6:33

A little more experience with the bike and trails around, so let me comment on it.

It seems that passing through several ankle-deep bodies of water already robs the chain of all it's lube (I use "Finish line" "wet conditions" generously applied). That is, the chain has been submerged several times completely in water. Subsequently, the chain feels dry and grinds specifically.

Therefore, my advice would be to clean (a couple of wipes with a handkerchief) and lube (with at least a simple $1 oil from the hardware store) after the worst has passed. This means either after the wet section, or at least, before the asphalt ride home.

Bottom line, if you have more than a couple of kilometers to home, and the chain feels dry (it rubs and squeaks specifically), dismount and spend 2 minutes to prolong it's life and make your ride more pleasant.

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