Monday, August 07, 2006

Discussion: Chain Lube for Cross

Here's a subject that has been on my mind lately (as my CX bike sits in a hundred pieces on the floor of my garage in preparation for this fall).

What's the best chain lube for cross racing? Of course the answer depends a lot on the conditions, but here's few options I have heard of in the past.

Dry conditions

...i.e. dusty, sandy, like most of the NorCal season, or
zero on the Mud Index. With all the dust and sand, lubes tend to pick up a lot of grit, which is bad for the drivetrain, or it will just dry out completely. Either way your drivetrain friction goes way up.
  • ProLink - This is a "semi-wet" lube that isn't as sticky or drippy as more common lubes like Tri-Flow or Pedro's. I use this a lot on the road. For 'cross, this does all right, usually stays wet for most of the race, but generally needs a complete re-do by the end.

  • White Lightning - This is a dry wax lubricant popular among mountain bikers. The dryness should limit dirt build-up. In practice I found this to get just as dry and frictional as any other lube. Plus, a practical problem: in the winter when it's cold in the garage, the wax is too thick and coagulated to flow well ... big mess.

Wet conditions

...i.e. December and Natz, typically. Here you have the opposite problem: mud and water want to strip all the lube off your chain. Sometimes I'll finish a race, hose off the bike a little, and the chain will be bright and shiny as new. Not good!

  • White Lightning (again) ... a wax lube should shine in the wet since it repels water. But I still have the problem with applying it.

  • Lube + grease. This is an interesting one, I heard this from a team mechanic after a very rainy USPro championship in Philly. To keep lube together (for 5+ hours in that case) they would apply regular lube, then coat the whole chain with bearing grease. Not the cleanest setup but less likely to wear off.

  • Phil Wood Tenacious Oil. Similar to lube + grease, the idea is to use a very thick sticky oil that is less likely to wash off in the mud. Of course in gritty conditions (like Grade 8 or 9) this also picks up a lot of gunk.

Ok, now it's your turn ... fire up the comments section with your suggestions.

Also, for further discussion here's a Google search. Good luck!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer to run Boeshield for Cross around here during dry conditions and even some wet stuff. For really muddy/wet I use Finish Line Competition Lube which is just a heavy weight oil like Phil.

I stick with ProLink for Road only - doesn't seem to hold up enough for cross.

Whiteligtning works ok in the dry, but White Lightning Extreme is better, however I just use it for cables, pedals, and pivot points (and sticky locks at home)

3:26 PM  
Blogger funkdaddy said...

...this post sponsored by White Lightning...

I find that used 10W-30 motor oil works great in all conditions. This year I may convert to Bio and go for used vegetable oil instead.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to use CREW Pomade. I can wipe the chain with my fingers after the race, run them through my hair, and still look good for the podium picture.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

used to really like pedro's ice wax, lasts a few rides and keeps clean, but not good in muddy conditions.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well...lots of factors to consider. I don't think anyone has yet come up with the "holy grail" of lubes.

In my own experience I think how you apply the lube weighs heavily. I prefer wet lubes because of their durability. Lots of folks will say that wax types are the way to go but I would have to differ.

They do not adequately penetrate the parts of a chain: pins, bushing surfaces, or especially rollers. Sure your chain may appear to be cleaner at the end of a ride with wax but, the capillary action that is needed to keep the lube between the needed areas just isn’t there. This results in chain, cog, and roller ware.

Add to this other wild card factors such as climate, rider's range of RPM tempo plus ability to torque up hills, ability to anticipate and shift gears smoothly vs. riding a single speed, terrain (dry dusty to high clay mud to constant rain, deferred maintenance, yada yada yada. Sure you could conduct tests in a lab but, the above mentioned factors can vary so widely from rider to rider they may not mean a thing.

I've found that if you take the time to lube each roller, back spin the chain thoroughly, and really dry off the excess lube, and you will have the most favorable results: provided that you pay attention to the condition of your chain at least every couple of rides.

ADD TO THIS...the petroleum dilemma. Ahh, ethics. Of course we all ride bikes for different reasons. More and more people are becoming responsible citizens and not just consumers by reducing their dependence on gasoline and petroleum products in general. So why shouldn’t this relate to what we put not just in out tank but on our chain as well?

Why commute or recreate on what is otherwise considered “sustainable transportation” when you still must put a petroleum based product on your chain? Shameless Spam drum roll please…now at there is an alternative, BIO-LUBE! ( or see page 63 of the most recent issue (#122) of Dirt Rag Magazine). Remember people, Fight the power!

Anyway, that’s my $.02. Thanks for the forum!

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No lube is the best for all conditions. You know what they say, "Lube is for bitches."

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Veggie oil applied w/old toothbrush
to each side of the chains plates and pins. Back pedal a bit. Better to let it soak in overnite. Wipe off the chain plates and pins back pedaling a bit then coat the chain, using another old toothbrush, w/beeswax. It works on my road and cross bikes. In a pinch, I'll coat with lip balm. Saw it being done in B.C. I've been doing it this way for over 8 years. To each his/her own!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just tape a stick of butter to the chainstay, so the chain rides over it and re-lubes constantly. Now if I can just figure out how to keep all the rats out of my garage.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The King of lubes.

5:20 AM  

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