Mountain Bike Chain Lube: Use the right stuff

Mountain bike chain lube keeps your drive train running smoothly and quietly. It will also move with less resistance, which will mean your pedaling is more efficient. The lube stops dirt and grit building up on your chain, which would speed up the wear of the chain and gears.

It is really important to keep your chain lubricated, to help keep your bike in full working order. Here is everything you need to know about mountain bike chain lube.

Different Types of Mountain Bike Chain Lube

mountain bike chain lube

There are a few different types of mountain bike chain lube, but the main ones, are wet and dry lube. Which one you choose is down to the conditions you are riding in.

Wet Lube

Wet mountain bike chain lube can be used in any condition, but is designed to be used when the conditions are a bit soggy. This is because it is water resistant, therefore, it won’t be washed off in the rain and when you splash through puddles. It stays wet on the chain, so dirt will stick to it. This means that you will need to clean your chain regularly to prevent the build up of dirt.

Dry Lube

Therefore, dry lube is obviously to be used in dry conditions. This stuff goes on your chain as a solvent that dries. You will notice that your chain will be dry to the touch, but it is lubricated. The fact that it is dry, means that dirt won’t build up on it, so you don’t need to clean your chain as often. However, you will need to apply dry lube more regularly.

Alternative Lubes

There are a couple more lubes you should know about, wax and ceramic. Wax lube is essentially a very dry lube, and is good at repelling dirt. It needs re-applying regularly as is wears out quickly, especially in muddy conditions. It is ideal if you are just using your bike for a short ride at the weekends. However, make sure you don’t go overboard and out too much on, as it can gunk up your chain.

Ceramic lube is expansive but it does last much longer.

Spray or Drip Lube

Chain specific spray lube is effective, however, you really don’t want to get this on anything else. When you spray lube on your chain, you run the risk if contaminating your brakes. If you do use this stuff, make sure your brakes are covered, or you use it when the chain is off your bike. Therefore, most riders use lube that drips out of a bottle, as it goes straight on to the chain without risk of contamination.

When to Apply Mountain Bike Chain Lube

mountain bike chain lube

Only lubricate a clean chain. Applying lube on to a coating of dirt is not a good idea, as dirt will build up even more. All this dirt will grind away at your gears and chain, wearing it out. As a bare minimum, clean your chain with a cloth and some degreaser

Additionally, never apply lube to a wet chain.

Ideally, you need to lubricate your chain after several rides in the summer and after every ride in the winter. When it is dry and dusty, you may notice your chain not running particularly smoothly. It may also struggle to change gear or squeak as you pedal. This is when it REALLY needs lubricating.

Products for Cleaning Your Chain


Before applying any mountain bike chain lube, your drive train needs and to be clean. This means your gears, chain and jockey wheels.

First, use a semi-stiff brush and a dry cloth to remove dried on and loose dirt. If you do this regularly, you won’t need to give it a deep clean too often. But, when you give it a proper clean, you should use a degreaser. This stuff breaks down old lube and dirt that coats your chain.

Degreaser is strong stuff, so you need to keep it away from other components of your bike. You don’t want it anywhere near your bearings, bottom bracket, wheel hubs and brakes. If you use degreaser, make sure you con’t spray it everywhere. Use a brush or cloth to make sure you only apply it to your drive train.

For cleaning the chain itself, I like to use a chain cleaning device. This clamps over your chain, and its brush and cleaning fluid cleans your chain as you rotate the pedals. This leaves you with a nice shiny chain and some dirty liquid that you dispose of responsibly.

What not to do

mountain bike chain lube

WD40 make chain specific lube, and it is really good. However, the multi-purpose WD40 spray is not advised. This is because it is too thin and won’t lubricate the chain properly. It also attracts lots of grime that will cause wear on the moving parts of your drive train.

Do not use any kind of grease on your chain. This is sticky stuff and will clog up your chain with dirt.

You can actually over lubricate your chain too. If you do this, it will turn black with all the muck it picks up on a ride.

The Best Mountain Bike Chain Lube

Dry Lube

Wet Lube

Now there is no excuse

You can now keep your bike running smoothly, quietley and reliably for a lot longer if you follow these tips. In short, all you need to do is clean and lube the moving parts of your drive train regularly. Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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