Should I Have Wet or Dry Chain Lube? | Barton Haynes

Bart Haynes here in Sunny San Diego, here to talk about taking care of your bike in the off season as we wind down and approach fall. Many cyclists will not have the opportunity to ride regularly during the off season fall and winter months. By ride regularly, we are talking about:

Different Conditions, Different Chains

The steel used for bike chains is, of course, prone to rust and degradation – especially if you are riding off road with a hybrid bike or mountain bike. It doesn’t take much water (i.e. biking in Seattle fall/winter?) to rust a chain or drivetrain. Furthermore, resistance on your chain means resistance in your cycling – less power output. So the type of lube you use is important. 

Enter: different types of chains. 

You may or may not already know the type of chain that you lube up isn’t the only type of chain out there. Dry chains and the traditional lubed chains perform better in different conditions. Which means choosing the right lube depends on what kinds of conditions you are riding in.

Since you may not be familiar with a dry chain, let’s look at that first.

What is dry lube?

A dry chain is exactly what it sounds like: a chain without traditional, greasy, wet lube. Drain chain lube is coated with a different substance, usually materials that are similar to:

  • Wax
  • Graphite

Dry chain lube actually goes on as a liquid, but unlike traditional chain lubes that stay a liquid, the dry lube dries. If you’ve ever used graphite to help loosen a door lock, the effect is the same on your bike chain. 

What is wet lube?

Web lube is the lube you are already familiar with. The pros of this type of lube are that they can provide well over 100 miles of riding with one application

 The downside is that wet lube is “sticky” and will attract dirt and grime that, over time, can rapidly wear out components (chain, drivetrain) because the built up will act as a grinding paste. Regular lube maintenance (such as cleaning and reapplying every 3 weeks or 100 miles) will help a lot. 

Cycling Road 5

Why and when to use dry chain lube?

The general consensus is that dry chain lube is best used in the following conditions:

  • Dry
  • Dirty
  • Dusty
  • Short/moderate rides – century rides may require reapplication half way through the ride

Spring and summer conditions, or places that are hot year-round, are excellent candidates for dry lube. The wax-based dry lube are cleaner and attract less dirt build-up. 

The downside to dry chain lube is that it can easily be washed off from rain or moisture. Furthermore, it’s less durable – a century ride (106 miles) can drastically reduce this type of lubricant. 

Why and when to use wet chain lube?

Wet chain lube is best used under the following circumstances:

  • Wet conditions
  • Long rides

Autumn and winter, when there are puddles, dew on the ground, and rainstorms. 

Also, as said, wet chain lube will remain good for very long rides – it just requires proper cleaning to maintain your parts. Also, wet lube does not easily wash away, even under very wet conditions.