How To Lube a Bike Chain

Man lubricating a bike chain

Your bike’s chain is the component that most deserves to be properly maintained. It is clearly the element that is under the most stress. As a consumable, you must give it the best conditions of operation. It will give you back, that’s for sure!

Sometimes customers come to the shop complaining that their chain gets dirty too quickly. I explain to them that once cleaned, if the chain is not lubricated properly, it can get dirty the first time it is used.

To avoid having the feeling of cleaning it too often, I will give you my tips and techniques to properly lubricate your bike chain.

Lubricating a bicycle chain: why you shouldn’t say “grease”

First of all, let’s agree on the terms. A chain should be lubricated and not greased. Grease is good for lubricating tractors, for bicycles we look for the finest oil to avoid accumulating dirt.

But what type of lubricant to choose?

Types of chain oils and lubes – What to choose?

There are several types of chain lube, not to mention 5-in-1, 10-in-1 and 100-in-1.

I strongly recommend the use of products that have their own specific purpose. Could you clean AND lubricate at the same time? Nah, BS.

First of all, always use products designed for cycling, not olive oil or any other dubious alternative…

Indeed, bike chain lubricants have been developed to meet the constraints that the chain undergoes: friction, tension or weather. The only exception would be Vaseline oil or gun oil which is particularly thin.

Understand that the difference between oils is based on their quality and use.

An inexpensive lube will tend to be less refined, accumulate dirt faster and therefore get dirty faster.

The best quality lubes will be composed of specific additives allowing them to meet the constraints given to them. Teflon or ceramic for the highest quality.

To summarize, there are lubes for all uses, oils for wet conditions and oils for dry conditions.

I don’t recommend using spray lubricant, as the risk is to spray fat on the other components, especially the brakes…

Finally, there is also chain wax, which for some appears to be the most efficient lubricant. I’m not one of them, its application requires a time of catching before use and would work only for a single ride.

When to lubricate a bike chain?

It is obvious that you should oil your chain after each cleaning. Similarly, if you wipe it down after each ride, you can afford to put a drop of oil. However, be careful not to lubricate a dirty chain, as this will only make it worse. In principle, it is recommended that you only lubricate clean chains.

The frequency of lubrication depends on the weather and the terrain, it is difficult to give a periodicity.

Let’s assume that a chain should be cleaned every 4-5 rides, let’s say the same for lubrication.

How to properly lubricate a bicycle chain

Let’s start with a clean chain, which – by the way – should never be left dry. Lubrication is only done on the chain links, not on the derailleurs, chainrings and cassette.

A mand doing a quick cleaning of his bike chain before lubricating it
Do a quick cleaning before lubricating
  • Place the chain on the large chainring and the small sprocket.
  • Put a few drops on the lower part of the chain (between the derailleur and the chainring).
  • Make several turns of the cranks counterclockwise.

It is not necessary to put too much, it could run and have a messy effect. In this case, lightly wipe off the excess lube.


What is the purpose of lubricating a chain?

Lubricating your chain is essential to ensure its proper functioning. First, to ensure proper gear shifting. Secondly, to slow down chain wear and protect it from rust.

How often should a bike chain be lubricated?

In principle, chain lubrication should only be done when the chain is clean, to limit the accumulation of dirt. Therefore, given the recommendations for chain cleaning, which are every 4 or 5 rides. The same frequency can be applied to its lubrication.

What can I use to lubricate a bicycle chain?

To oil your chain, it is essential to use products dedicated to the bicycle. There are all kinds of products available, but the choice is generally between wet lube and dry lube. The only exception is Vaseline or gun oil, which is particularly thin.

Is it possible to use WD-40 on a bike chain?

Yes, as WD-40 is a brand, it offers a range dedicated to bicycles. Be careful to respect the recommendations for use. But remember that the famous WD-40 degreaser should not be used for the maintenance of your bike.


You now have the methods and information to properly lubricate your chain yourself. Remember to use appropriate products depending on whether you plan to ride in muddy or dusty conditions.

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