How to lube your bicycle chain properly

OLI MiddleditchMechanic, Evo Cycles Palmerston North

chain lubrication

Chain lubes can vary a great amount in application styles and uses, but the most common style and easiest to use is found in a bottle that can be dripped onto a chain. These are much better than a spray style lube as this stuff will go everywhere and will coat your cassette in a sticky dirt-attracting mess, and go all over your clean brake rotor, contaminating it and making it squeaky or squealy, making it underperform and need to be replaced along with your pads. Here in our workshop, we use MucOff wet or dry lube, depending on the season. It is important to select the right lube for the right conditions as they have different properties and characteristics.

The first step is to give your drivetrain a thorough clean, using either a chain cleaning device with some specific degreaser or brushes. If you have no degreaser then warm dish soap/car washing solution will do with a bit of elbow grease. Whenever cleaning your chain, I recommend that you cover your brake rotor with a clean bit of cardboard or a plastic bag as you don’t want any bits of sprayed-off grease getting on it.

Then once your chain and cassette are completely dry, pedal the bike backwards and place the nozzle of the lube bottle on top, gently squeeze to feed it out onto the chain and do one full lap. You should aim to do one full rotation of the chain as too much lube can be bad. Once you have done your full lap, stop applying the lube but pedal backwards for another 10 seconds or so just to make sure it’s evenly spread across the chain.

Now let the lube sit for about 5 minutes so that it can work its way into the chain. Once it has been on the chain for a while, wipe the excess off. Just use something like a dirty rag, paper towel or wedding dress… anything that can absorb a little bit of liquid. Chain lube wants to be inside the moving parts of a chain as when it’s on the outside it simply attracts dust and dirt, which is the same reason you wouldn’t want it on your cassette. Dirt and grime can act like sandpaper and dramatically decrease your chain’s lifespan.

One final good idea is to get your chain wear checked regularly every 2-3 months. You can either purchase a chain checker for about 10-20 dollars or swing by your local Evo shop and ask the team nicely if they can quickly check your chain. If it’s at 0.5% wear then it’s recommended that you replace the chain soon, and at 0.75% wear, you should immediately replace it. Any more will wear your cassette and chainrings to the point where they won’t work with a new chain. Speak to your local Evo shop and they can go into more detail about chain checkers and your specific and individual drivetrains.

Oli Middleditch’s Mechanic’s Corner is proudly supported by Evo Cycles, Palmerston North