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How to lube your bike chain - advice from British cycling

Added 01 Sep 2014
How to lube your bike chain - advice from British cycling

The latest in our series of cycling advice in conjunction with British Cycling is all about lubing your bike chain.

Looking after your chain and the other transmission components that come with it - chain-rings, sprockets and jockey wheels - can be a contentious area within cycling with firmly held beliefs and long established ‘folklore' about the way it should be done.

Great Britain Cycling Team Mechanic, Mark Ingham, guides you through the essential but often neglected skill of cleaning and lubricating your bike chain.

Changing times
I'll try to be pragmatic with my advice and stick to what I believe to be good practice based on engineering principles and experience.

In an ideal world where we were only concerned with long transmission life we would completely contain the chain in an oil rich environment - with the dirt kept out. This approach was popular at one time with Sturmey Archer hub gears and a fully enveloping chain ‘bath'. These days most of us are more concerned with keeping the weight of our bike down and our expensive gear changing mechanisms on show - in order to keep it running efficiently and enhance its useful life. How do we do that? The answer is simple - keep it clean and lubricate it well. This sounds a simple process too but can be contradictory when the lube acts as a dirt-magnet...

A few tips...
1. Clean your chain often and well - I tend to leave the chain in situ on the bike and use plenty of good quality degreaser to get all the dirt and old oil off. Within the Great Britain team we have found a paint brush coupled with degreaser is the best combination.  We also use a cut off water bottle which can be placed in the seat tube bottle cage, this keeps the degreaser close at hand and also reduces the chance of it getting spilt. Clean the ‘rings, jockey wheels and sprockets too. Wash the degreaser off and dry the chain before lubricating.

2. Lubricate the chain with a good quality bike-specific lubricant. The Tribologists (people devoted full-time to the science of reducing friction) have developed oils and additives which when used properly will make your drive-train more efficient and last longer. For wet or dry conditions always use a ‘wet' lube. Wet lubes penetrate the chain and get to the crucial roller/pin interface and stay wet resisting rain and mud intrusion to the chain - but they do attract dust (so wipe off any excess). In hot, dry conditions this can lead to a ‘paste' developing which can increase friction and wear - hence the importance of step 1.

3. ‘Dry' lube reduces the attraction of dust by using a light solvent carrier to get the friction reducing additives into the chain - the carrier evaporating once it's done its job. But I'm told by Tribolology experts that the additives aren't as effective as wet lubrication so I tend to use wet lube all year round. In summer I spend a little more time wiping off the excess and a bit more care applying less in the first place.



Get the rest of Marks tips including an exclusive Q&A in The British Cycling Insight Zone. Plus much more cycling advice and know-how from British Cycling’s experts, to help you improve your riding. The Insight Zone is available at

British Cycling members have full access to the Insight Zone - become a member today and enjoy:
• Up to £10m third party liability insurance  
Peace of mind insurance to keep you covered every time you ride your bike
• Free legal support and advice
Access to our expert team who can help you in the event of an incident
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