What is the best bicycle bearing grease? In this post, a recommendation for bicycle bearings grease will be given. For detailed explanation of various types of greases, as well as recommendation of grease for extreme riding conditions, look at this (long) post: Bicycle bearing greases – explained
The mentioned (linked) post gives explanation why, by author’s experience and opinion, grease recommended in this post is the optimal choice (i.e. the best considering all the criteria, including the price).
1. What is the best bicycle bearing grease and how to choose it?
There is often a debate among the cyclists and mechanics about what grease is the best for bicycle bearings. Some swear by “old axle grease that my (grand)father used to use…” Others recommend silicone, teflon, graphite etc. greases. After a lot of reading, researching and experimenting, the conclusion is the following (this is autor’s personal opinion, based on knowledge and experience so far):
Ordinary lithium grease (i.e. lithium soap based grease).
Dirt intrusion is the nemesis of bicycle bearings. Even worse than water intrusion. That is why it’s important to clean and re-lube bearings regularly – once, or twice a year (depending on riding conditions and mileage). Grease quality is less important – bicycle bearings don’t take much load and with enough dirt inside, even the best grease is useless.
2. Which lithium grease to use?
Grease label usually says “Lithium grease”, with, or without “Multi-purpose”. There is often a number of NLGI grease hardness, for bicycles it should be “2”, sometimes noted as “NLGI 2“.
This should be enough not to make a mistake. If there’s also written “complex” besides the “Lithium” note, or letters “EP”, that, except for a higher price, will not do any harm (nor much good either, at least for bicycle bearing lubrication).
3. How to decipher labels of various standards on grease packages?
Following advice from the previous paragraph, one can’t go wrong. However, those who want to be absolutely sure (and have no problems with noting important marks before going shopping) can read the following (shortest possible) instructions for deciphering standards’ labels.
Grease label usually has (often on the back) ISO, DIN, or both standard labels. They note which specifications the grease meets. How to read them?
3.1. ISO label
For bicycle bearing grease, label should be like this (bold is necessary, the rest can be one of the explained options):
ISO 6743-9, L-XCCEA-2
- ISO 6743-9: this is the name of the standard by which the label is given. 6743-9 is standard for classification of grease characteristics.
- L is ISO label for all the lubricants, while X is the label for greases. If there are no “L-X” letters, the product probably isn’t a grease.
- Instead of each letter C, there can be B, D, E, F, or G. It doesn’t matter. They are sorted from slightly worse than C (B), over slightly better (D), to the best possible (G). These letters mark highest and lowest (respectively) working temperature of a grease. The “better” a mark, the lower is the lowest and the higher is the highest operating temperature. For bicycle bearing lubrication, even BB will do.
- Letter E marks corrosion and water washout resistance. Instead of E, there can be F, G, H, I, or J – sorted from slightly better (F), to the best possible (J). E is the minimum required (and perfectly fine) for bicycle bearing lubricants.
- Instead of the letter A, there can also be letter B. It is not preferable, but won’t do any harm in practice. B marks presence of EP additives. These additives help grease bear extreme pressures and are completely unnecessary for bicycle bearing lubrication.
- The last mark notes the grease’s hardness (“thickness”), by NLGI standard grade. NLGI 2 grade is optimal for bicycle bearings. The rest are either too soft, or too hard. That’s why it has to be number 2.
Full, and rather long explanation of ISO 6743-9 standard labels and their meanings.
3.2. DIN label
If there is no ISO label, look for a DIN label (bold is necessary):
DIN 51502, K2K-30
- DIN 51502 is the name of the standard that classifies grease characteristics. Instead of 51502 there can also be 51825.
- K means it’s a roller bearing grease. Only such greases should be considered.
- 2 is NLGI grade hardness. All other are either too soft, or too hard for the application.
- After the first letter “K”, and before the number “2”, there can be some of the following letters (all the letters mark that grease has synthetic oils in it, which doesn’t do any harm, except that such greases usually cost more): E, FK, HC, PH, PG, SI, or X.
- Same, after the first letter “K”, and before the number “2”, there can also be letters P, or F. They note additives to the grease. They don’t do any help, nor harm (except for raising the grease price).
- Mark after thickness grade number, in this example it is a letter K, notes resistance to corrosion and water washout and highest operating temperature. Acceptable labels are also: G, N, P, R, S, T and U.
- Finally, minimal operating temperature in degrees Celsius is noted. -30 represents -30 °C. Here -20 is also fine, unless riding in colder than -15 °C.
4. Short guide for grease shopping
Table 1 shows a list of required marks for ISO and DIN standards. Desirable values are listed from the minimum required (top), then respectively to the best possible (bottom).
- Marks in brackets “()” usually mark EP additives, that a bicycle bearing grease is better off without, but they do no harm.
- With DIN standard, marks with a gray background may not be present at all.
- Bolded marks are exceptionally good values (all below are even better), marked just for reference, because any of the listed are perfectly good for the application.
- For DIN standard, same mark defines both highest operating temperature and water resistance.
- For detailed explanation of marks, see Grease labeling according to standards.
Here are a few examples of perfectly “good labels” in both standards:
- ISO 6743-9, L-XBBEA2 – minimum required, NLGI 2 hardness, with decent water washout resistance and operating temperature range.
- ISO 6743-9, L-XDCIB2 – works in low temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius (“D”), has exceptional water washout resistance (“I”) and EP additives (“B”).
- DIN 51502, K2K-20 – NLGI 2 hardness, decent water washout resistance and maximum operating temperature (“K”), no noted EP additives, minimal operating temperature of -20 degrees Celsius (“-20”).
- DIN 51502, KP2N-30 – EP additives (“P”), NLGI 2 hardness, high operating temperature and excellent water washout resistance (“N”), minimal working temperature of -30 degrees Celsius (“-30”).
For coaster brake hubs (hub brakes) – good choice are greases that can withstand high temperatures (generated when braking). Lithium-complex soap based greases, or (if not sparing money, or they are already at hand) – lithium complex with molybdenum disulfide (MoS2).
6. Author’s recommendations
Author’s recommendation of greases from Amazon.com on-line shop is listed below (clicking on an image leads to the Amazon on-line shopping website). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Note: listed greases are the ones I could find that are of good quality and with a world-wide distribution. Feel free to look for cheaper, locally available options. My 1st choice is local, Serbian made FAM FORPLEX 2 grease.