Whether you are an experienced long-distance biker or a beginner who just wants to ride around your neighborhood, you need to take good care of your bike.
Proper care and maintenance will ensure your bike will remain in tip-top shape for years to come, and you can enjoy your riding experience to the fullest.
One of the most critical bicycle elements to care for is the drive chain – it is the part that is worn out the most during each ride. It is exposed to damaging external elements and attracts dirt, grime, mud, salt, and moisture due to its proximity to the ground.
Clearly, it is important to know how often to lube bike chains.
The drive chain is also in constant motion, which leads to friction and wear. Lubing the drive chain will reduce the damage caused by regular use and ensure it will remain in good shape for many rides to come.
Let’s take a closer look at why lubing a bike chain is important and how often to lube bike chains.
Why Is Lubing Bike Chain Important?
A bike chain is made up of hundreds of links, plates, pins, and rollers. Lubing a bike chain frequently ensures that its various joints remain durable and can withstand wear whenever they are in motion.
Lubing also reduces friction between chain links, enabling the drive train to operate more smoothly.
Additionally, dirt accumulating on your drive chain is bad news. It is one of the most common reasons a bike doesn’t reach its full potential, especially during a long ride.
The bike chain also regularly rubs against other drive train parts, especially during a bumpy ride. It creates tension and increases the friction in the mechanism.
A dirty drive chain further increases the wear on the cogs and their other components, thereby reducing the bike’s efficiency.
Lubricating your bike chain regularly will keep it in excellent condition and help it function properly. It will extend the life of the chain and reduce wear and tear in the other parts of the drivetrain, such as the derailleurs, rear-wheel gear assembly, and crankset.
In short, maintaining your drive chain allows you to maximize its performance, and you will enjoy a smooth biking experience every time!
Dangers of Not Lubing Your Bike Chain
Lubing your bike chain regularly is key to the best riding experience. It helps your bike chain operate optimally and deliver superior performance.
If you don’t lube your bike chain, it will quickly accumulate rust, and the chain seals will begin to dry and crack due to corrosion.
This will, in turn, cause grease to escape. Grease is part of the bike manufacturing process, and it is meant to lubricate the chain and other exterior elements.
If you don’t lube the bike chain, dirt and debris will penetrate the seals and degrade the factory-installed grease. This will reduce the lubrication in the mechanism – the chain links will stop pivoting properly as they move over the sprocket.
Additionally, a bike chain that lacks lubrication makes an irritating, grinding noise when it comes in contact with the sprocket teeth. This noise only gets louder as you bike faster, disturbing you and everyone nearby.
An unlubed bike chain may get loose on long rides, resulting in slack in the chain, which will also negatively affect the riding experience. A loose, elongated bike chain will cause wear on the sprocket teeth and cause the chain to snap and jump.
Due to constant friction and lack of lubrication, the bike chain may even fully wear off the chainrings and slip. This will cause premature wear and failure of the bike chain and prevent you from changing gears while riding.
It can, in turn, lead to loss of control and result in a road accident, thereby endangering your life and that of others.
How Often To Lube Bike Chain
How often you need to lube your bike chain depends on several factors: how often you ride, the riding conditions, the type of chain and chain lube, and so on.
Let us delve into the nitty-gritty below:
If you ride every day, you should lube the bike chain at least once a month or after every 150 to 200 miles. You may also choose to lube it before every ride, especially if you frequently go on long rides on rugged terrain.
On the other hand, if you ride once a week or less often, your bike chain can do with less lubing.
Riding in wet conditions can lead to salt, mud, dirt, and water seeping into the drivetrain. This will make it necessary to clean and lube the chain after each excursion to prevent damage and poor performance.
When you ride on warm and dry spring or summer days, your bike chain can do with much less lubrication and care than wet winters.
Some bikes, especially dirt bikes, are fitted with O-ring and X-ring bike chains. These chain types are best for riding in wet and muddy conditions as they prevent dirt and other abrasives from entering the chain’s pivot points and damaging the metal inside.
They create a seal that keeps the lube in the pins and the dirt and grimes out.
However, the rollers on these rings still need lubing along with the side plates and other parts to prevent rust and corrosion.
Chain Lube Type
Different weather conditions require different types of chain lube. Wet weather calls for a wet lube as it better resists rain, snow, and slush. This type of lube does not need to be reapplied too often.
Dry lube works well in dry weather and attracts less dirt and grime than wet lube. However, it needs to be reapplied every 100 miles, as it is not as resistant and long-lasting as wet lube.
If you plan to use dry lube in wet weather so that the chain attracts less dirt, remember that you’ll need to lube it after every ride as the rain or slush will easily wash it off.
On the other hand, if you use wet lube in dry weather conditions, it will last longer, and you will have to lube your chain less often. But it will attract more dirt and will require more cleaning than usual.
So make a note of that while using different lubes for different types of weather.
Also, if you use chain wax instead of regular chain lube, it will attract much less dirt, and you won’t have to reapply for a long time. But this option is far more time-consuming and is not practical for those who ride their bikes regularly.
As a rule of thumb, whenever you clean and wash your bike, you should apply lube to the chain. This will prevent cleaning products and water from entering and damaging its interior.
If your chain is dry and makes a grinding or squeaking noise while riding, it’s definitely time to lube it up. You can easily use a chain lube spray or even gear oil to do so.
Can You Over Lube?
When lubing your bike chain, remember this tip: less is more. You only need a little lubricant for the chain. Over lubing, it can reverse the effects of the lube as the chain will end up attracting more dust and dirt.
This will result in buildup on your bike chain and wear it out more quickly than even a dry drivetrain.
If you apply too much lube to the bike chain, simply wipe off the excess with a rag, and you should be fine.
Other Bike Chain Maintenance Tips
Lubing is a crucial element of bike chain maintenance. Once you’ve taken care of this aspect, there’s not much else to do to maintain your bike chain aside from cleaning it regularly.
Always clean your bike before lubing it to allow the lubricant to go inside the chain where it’s needed. Or else the dirt and grime accumulated in the chain will block the lube.
When you lube the bike chain, make sure to include the sprocket. This helps reduce the friction between these parts and increases the chain’s lifespan.
Use a bike chain degreaser and a chain cleaner tool to degrease and clean your bike chain. If you don’t have a designated chain cleaner tool, use a brush instead. You can use soapy water to wash the chain and rinse it to remove excess degreaser.
How often you should lube your bike chain depends on riding frequency, terrain, chain type, and more. Keep these elements in mind when deciding when to bring out the lube to maintain your bike chain and help it last longer.
Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic