Ask a Mechanic: How to Properly Lube Your Chain

Jerald asks: “I have a new chain. What’s the best process for lubing, and which lube do you recommend?”

A properly lubed chain is essential to a quiet drivetrain and preventing premature component wear, so spending a little more on a high quality lube will end up saving you money in the long run. When it comes to chain lubes the options can be a bit overwhelming. You have wet lubes, dry lubes, teflon lubes, even plant based lubes. The chain lube that I’ve been using and have become a big fan of is the Dumonde tech Pro X series lubes. These lubes seem to offer the best of both worlds when it comes to having to choose between a wet and dry lube. They’re very clean and don’t attract dirt, like a quality dry lube, runs quietly, and is very protective of metal and more durable than most wet lubes on the market. I like using the lite formula on road bikes and the regular formula on mountain bikes.

No matter which lube you choose to use, proper application is essential to getting the best performance from your lube. The number one mistake people make when it comes to lubing a chain is over-application. If you are putting on a new chain or simply changing chain lubes, here is the best way to do it.

You’ll want to start with as clean a chain as possible, so remove the chain from the bike and soak it in a quality degreaser. Even if the chain is brand new it will still come with some form of lubrication, usually grease, which you may want to remove if you ride in dusty conditions, allowing you to use a more appropriate lube. After letting the chain soak in the degreaser for a while, remove it, and use a rag to clean the degreaser off the chain. Once you’ve done a good job of removing dirt and/or degreaser, dry the chain as much as you can and install or reinstall the chain on the bike.

Now we can apply lube to the chain. Each lube has an optimum application process, but since I use Dumonde Tech lubes I’ll use theirs. Apply a drop of lube to each roller and pin assembly. The drop should be just enough to cover the roller and pin assembly. You don’t need to lube the outside plates of the chain. I use either the master link or replacement pin as a starting and finishing point so I know when I’ve hit every link in the chain. Yes, this is a little time consuming and may seem like a pain, but it’s worth it. After applying the lube to the chain run the chain through a rag to wipe off the excess lube. I then like to run the bike through all it’s gears and then give the drivetrain one more wipe down. This helps the lube to penetrate and plate the metal parts of the drivetrain.

When re-applying, which only needs to be done roughly every 300-400 miles, or when the drivetrain gets louder, the chain doesn’t need to be completely stripped of the old lube. Just re-apply the same way you did before and wipe away the excess. Again, it’s important not to apply too much. Over-applying any chain lube will attract lots of dirt and create a mess of your drivetrain. It can also fling lube on other components, and if it happens to touch a disc brake rotor you’re not going to have a fun day on the bike.

Don’t be an uber luber!