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What are the qualities of bicycle bearing grease that make it suitable for that use?

(The reason I ask is that I need to get some and I'd rather get the non-bike equivalent grease at the auto parts store a mile down the road than at the bike store 15 miles away.)

(I'm assuming the same grease can be used for bottom bracket and hub bearings -- true?)

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    Bicycle grease (if the manufacturer is being honest) is selected to have better water-shedding and dirt-shedding properties than your average "axle grease". While good automotive grease may be nearly equivalent, you use so little of the stuff that it's false economy to not drop a few bucks on a tube of Park or Phil grease. Do stay away from "disk brake grease" (unless you happen to have disk brakes, that is), as it is designed to withstand high temps, and that results in trade-offs in other areas. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '16 at 12:40
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    Marine-grade or tractor-grade grease seems to work fine for normal bike bearings. Flash race bikes probably have specific requirements, but bikes are not running fast enough to need high-temperature greases. The water resistance is a useful feature though. – Criggie Oct 3 '16 at 19:00
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    Like @Criggie said, I use Marine grease like the kind you use on boat trailer bearings. It does the trick and is water proof which is what you want. Depending on how much you value your bike shoulder determine if you try your luck with generic grease or the known working grease from your bike shop. – npsantini Oct 5 '16 at 1:43
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It's a surprisingly tricky conversation. All the differences at play are so close to totally negligible, it can be easy to tally them up differently. It mostly just doesn't matter as long as it's some type of conventional bearing grease.

In terms of how well a bearing system full of a given grease is going to function, if the bike is ever going to get ridden in wet conditions, then waterproofness and washout resistance are the most important variables by far. If the bike isn't ever going to be ridden in wet conditions, then it doesn't matter at all unless you want to try to save watts with your grease. If you do then my money is on Dura-Ace grease as being the best you can get, but it's a black hole of a debate topic.

For shop use, I have come to view grease compatibility as being the most important differentiator, because it seems like getting it wrong there is the main way your choice of grease can actually have meaningful negative consequences. I'm a fan of White Lightning Crystal as general purpose grease because it's biodegradable, non-toxic and non-staining, but the problem is that aluminum based greases like it score badly on the compatibility chart, meaning arbitrarily squirting it into other people's greasy things you're adding grease to is probably a bad idea.

Hub main bearings, bottom brackets, headsets, and pedals generally all take the same grease. Cup and cone type freehub or freewheel mechanisms generally need either heavy oil or light viscosity grease.

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All of the bearings take the same thing (except for freewheel/cassette, which doesn't need grease).

You can use generic (for metal) grease. Just make sure it's thick. Bicycle-specific stuff is likely to be no better and more expensive.

Obviously, if you have ceramic bearings or other fancy stuff, you should get bicycle-specific grease.

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