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The best bicycle chain lubricant

Updated: 03/02/2021.

Often asked question (and debate) among cyclists, whether beginners, or experienced: “What is the best bicycle chain lube?”

  • Short answer: chainsaw bar oil, diluted with about 30 % of diesel (or odourless mineral spirits).
  • For those prepared to re-apply lube more often, even during one long ride, wax based lubricants are also an option.

Chan that is clean and lubricated lasts a lot longer.

There are already several posts on bikegremlin website explaining the topic, but the question is still often asked and debated, so this gives the shortest possible answer to the “eternal” best bicycle chain lubricant question.

If this question is posed to a large number of experienced cyclists, many of them will give a different answer… and they will all probably be right! How come? Because there is no “best” bicycle chain lubricant – only an optimal choice for given riding conditions, maintenance schedule and riding styles. This sounds more complicated than it is, so now it will be explained.

Post about various types of bicycle chain lubricants gives detailed explanation, but here it will just be noted that:

  • Lubes that resist washout by rain usually also attract a lot of dirt, and vice-versa – “clean” lubes are easily washed off by water.
  • For the above noted reason, lubricants that perform well in the rain are usually appalling for sand and dusty riding conditions.
  • Lubricants that are long lasting and don’t have to be re-applied every 50 kilometers usually attract a lot of dirt and make chain cleaning more difficult.
  • Lubes that perform wonderfully in the summer heat will not be as good in the freezing weather – and vice-versa.

In addition to that:

  • Single speed bicycles (with only one chainring at the front and back) can work fine with a very dirty chain – there are no tightly packed chainrings and there’s no derailleur shifting the chain from one chainring to the next.
  • Some cyclists hate cleaning the chain often. Some don’t like worrying about re-applying lube too often. Some value a clean chain very much. The types are not mutually exclusive, on top of that. 🙂

Is it now clearer why it is hard to give a universal answer to this question? Road bicycle ridden on pavement to relatively long rides will require different lubricant than an MTB that is ridden on dusty mountain roads, or through mud.

Decent, “universal” solution was given at the beginning of this post: diluted chainsaw bar oil. The thicker it is, the longer it will last and resist rain washout better, but attract more dirt – and, again, vice-versa for thinned down oil. Lubricants sold as “bicycle chain” ones, are often just an expensive package for the afore mentioned mix, or something similar.

For those willing to experiment and find an optimal lubricant for their riding style/environment, habits (how often they clean and lube the chain etc.) and preferences, it is worth looking into the following posts:

Clicking on an image below leads to the Amazon on-line shopping. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

For those insisting on clean chain, who don’t mind to re-lubricate often:

White Lighting - Clean Ride Wax based chain lubricant. Not very durable (in the rain), but very clean.
White Lighting – Clean Ride
Wax based chain lubricant. Not very durable (in the rain), but very clean. Apply first to a 100% clean and dry chain, then re-apply as needed.

Simple and cheap solution is chainsaw bar oil, from a local shop, or from Amazon (any will do, this is just an example):

Makita chain saw bar oil. Dilute with diesel if lower viscosity is needed.
Makita chain saw bar oil. Dilute with diesel if lower viscosity is needed.
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1 thought on “The best bicycle chain lubricant”

  1. Great site, when I am in trouble and don’t know what part to choose, I go to you, thanx.

    I am looking for chainsaw oil and I see a lot of ‘bio’ oils that are advertised as bio-degradable and based on plant oils.

    I suppose that for lubricating my bike chain I need to buy a mineral oil based chainsaw oil and not a ‘bio’ oil?


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