Best chain lubes for bikes 2024

We round up the best chain lube for your bike and get to grips with the slippery subject of choosing a wet or dry chain lube

A selection of the best chain lubes for bikes that we have tested
(Image credit: Future)

The best chain lube for your bike depends on the conditions you're riding in. Any friction or resistance within the chain can have an impact on how efficiently your power is used. 

In order to limit friction between the chain and the rest of the drivetrain and between the links of the chain as they rotate relative to one another as they pass over the chainring and sprocket and through the derailleur mechanism, a chain lube needs to be applied.

Choosing a bike lube is tricky as there are so many out there that all appear to offer the same qualities. To guide you, below we have rounded up some of our favourite wet and dry lubes. 

All of our chain lubes are tested in the real world, with each reviewer clocking up a number of miles during the review period. 

Additionally, some of the lubes featured here were also tested in conditions designed to simulate riding in the rain. Here our reviewer applied the lube and then proceeded to soak the chain using a hose. He then left it for 30 minutes before riding. 

Have a look too at our test of the best bike cleaning kits and, at the bottom of this page, our buyer's guide to chain lube.

The Quick List

Best longevity

Bottle of Muc off chain lube which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Muc-Off's Wet Lube is biodegradable and easy to apply

(Image credit: Future)
Best lube for longevity and environmentally friendliness

Specifications

Bottle size: 120ml
Best use: Wet conditions
Type: Wet lube

Reasons to buy

+
Long-lasting even in bad weather
+
Biodegradable
+
Easy to apply
+
Competitively priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Chain turns dirty after a while

Muc-Off's wet lube formula contains no harmful acids, CFCs or solvents, as well as being biodegradable. It features the company's integral Extreme Pressure Additives coat for increased efficiency in the drive chain.

On test, the lube kept our chain quiet and smooth, although it does attract a bit of dirt and grime. In wet conditions, both real and simulated, the chain remained rust-free. It's also long-lasting; we'd say that you should be able to ride 100 miles+ between applications.

Read more: Muc-Off Wet Lube full review

Best overall

Bottle of Smoove chain lube which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Smoove's chain lube is the 'best on test' thanks to its longevity

(Image credit: Future)
The best lube reviewed

Specifications

Bottle size: 125ml
Best use: Dry and dusty
Type: Wax-based lube

Reasons to buy

+
Very long lasting in extreme conditions
+
Promotes a quiet drivechain
+
Doesn't attract dirt

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs extra chain prep before applying

Developed to be used in the Absa Cape Epic MTB stage race that runs in South Africa, a race that is notoriously hard on drivetrain and suspension components, Smoove proved to be so long-lasting that it was dripped onto the chains of the majority of the top ten teams the year it was launched. It takes a little bit of chain prep before the first application, but when done correctly the wax-based lube will last for an extraordinary number of miles.

During testing, we found that the extra effort required in the application stage paid dividends when it was time to ride. After 150 miles in varied conditions, including some rain, the chain still ran smoothly and was noise-free. This means that despite Smoove Lube's higher price tag it still represents decent value for money due to the longevity of each application.

Read more: Smoove lube full review

Best lube for wet and dry conditions

Bottle of Fenwick's All Conditions which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Fenwicks All Conditions chain lube performs across wet and dry conditions

(Image credit: Future)
Best lube that performs in the wet and the dry

Specifications

Bottle size: 100ml
Best use: Wet and dry conditions
Type: Wet lube

Reasons to buy

+
Works well in both wet and dry conditions
+
Doesn't collect too much dirt
+
Easy to clean off
+
Good value
+
Biodegradable

Reasons to avoid

-
Might be slightly less long lasting than a thicker lube in bad weather

Fenwicks looks to marry the advantages of wet and dry lubes with its All Condition formulation. It's a bit lighter than many wet lubes, so it soaks into the chain quickly and doesn't become claggy or collect dirt, doesn't wash off in the rain, but is still easy to clean your chain. 

It's also biodegradable and comes in a bottle made from recycled plastic, so its environmental credentials are first rate too.

We tested the lube in a range of weather conditions. We were impressed with how little dirt the lube picked up, even after a gravel ride. It also handled the rain well, during both the simulated 'garden hose' test and out in the real world, leaving our chain rust-free and running smoothly, even after 100 winter miles.

Read more: Fenwicks All Condition lube full review

Best lube for dry and dusty conditions

Bottle of Finish Line Teflon Plus dry lube which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Finish Line's Dry Bike Lube sheds dirt efficiently 

(Image credit: Future)
Best lube for dry and dusty conditions

Specifications

Bottle size: 60ml
Best use: Dry and dusty conditions
Type: Dry lube

Reasons to buy

+
Sheds dirt efficiently 
+
Good value for money
+
Long-lasting in dry conditions

Reasons to avoid

-
Contains Teflon which isn't biodegradable
-
Wide bottle opening  means you can easily apply too much lube

Finish Line's dry lube is very effective at repelling dirt, making it a good choice for dry and dusty riding. Teflon is used in this dry lube to reduce friction and mechanical wear as it penetrates into all the nooks and crannies for complete protection. The downside to Teflon is that it's harmful to the environment, even though it's used here in very small doses.

In dry conditions, the lube worked well. Our chain stayed very clean, with the Teflon seeming to work just as well as it does in frying pans. Finish Line says that the 60ml bottle should be good for around 100 miles. We'd say this seems pretty accurate, though if used in wet conditions it will last less than this.

Read more: Finish Line Teflon Plus Dry Lube full review

Best lube for the environment

Bottle of Green oil wet chain lube which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Green Oil's Wet Chain Lube comes in a recycled plastic bottle

(Image credit: Future)
Best lube for the environment

Specifications

Bottle size: 100ml
Best use: Wet weather
Type: Wet lube

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable
+
Durable in all weathers
+
Doesn't attract too much dirt
+
Comes in a recycled bottle
+
Refills available from some bike shops

Reasons to avoid

-
There are wet lubes that will last longer (but are more expensive)

Green Oil's wet lube is fully biodegradable and is made from 100% natural ingredients. To increase durability and the length of time between applications, this wet lube contains N-Toc, a special refined plant extract that has similar properties to Teflon. Green Oil claims it lasts over 200 kilometres on the chain per application, depending on the conditions.

On review, we found that our chain remained rust-free after our 'garden hose test' that we used to replicate wet weather. A ride in the rain followed and the chain again showed no signs of rust or stiff links. We also liked that, unlike some wet lubes, Green Oil didn't attract too much dirt and grime that can really wear the drivetrain.

As for Green Oil's claims of over 200 miles or 124 miles between applications, we found that after 100 miles of riding our chain was still running smoothly.

Read more: Green Oil Wet Lube full review

Best lube for high performance use

Packaging of Squirt's Chain lube which is one of the best chain lubes for bikes

Squirt's waxy Chain Lube lasts longer than many oil based alternatives

(Image credit: Squirt)
Best lube for high performance use

Specifications

Bottle size: 120ml
Best use: Dry and dusty conditions
Type: Wax-based lube

Reasons to buy

+
Lower drivetrain resistance
+
Lasts longer than many oil based lubes
+
No build up of black grime

Reasons to avoid

-
Washes off easily
-
Chain plates can still rust
-
Requires chain prep before application

Squirt's Chain Lube is a wax and water-based lubricant that is noticeably drier and cleaner than most oil-based options. Ideally, it should be applied to a sparkling clean chain and then left for a while to penetrate fully before use, so no last-minute applications before diving out the door on a Sunday morning. 

When conditions are reasonably dry then it lasts very well and I have used it without issue on road, gravel and mountain bike drivetrains, but I confess that my chains do get very regularly cleaned. If you prefer to layer on lube after lube without recourse to a brush and cleaner, then perhaps look elsewhere.

As it isn't as sticky as oily lubes, dust doesn't get attracted to it which has to help chain and cassette longevity but very wet or gritty conditions can strip it off fairly quickly. If I know I am in for a long day in the saddle (or multiple days back to back) then I will use something heavier, but for everything else, I like Squirt a lot.

Read more: Squirt Chain Lube full review

Chain lube buyer's guide

Studies have shown that the type of lube itself makes little difference to the efficiency of a clean chain, although we've looked at whether swapping your chain lube can make you faster.

So if the type of lube is unimportant for efficiency why is there so much choice? Alex Trimnell, Muc-Off’s CEO, has this advice: “Keeping your drivetrain clean and well-lubed is important for a smooth riding experience, but you need to make sure that you use the right lube for the conditions.”

But a quick glance in your local bike shop will reveal a huge range of lubes to choose from. Wet, dry, wax, ceramic are just a few of the different types on offer. So which lube should you choose?

Despite the seemingly endless differences, chain lube can be broken down into just two simple categories: wet and dry.

How often do I need to apply chain lube?

How often you need to lube your chain depends on how frequently you ride your bike and the conditions in which you ride it.

If you need to clean your bike or your chain after a ride, you should end up by drying the chain and reapplying lube, to prevent your chain from rusting. Likewise a ride in wet conditions will usually require a reapplication to keep your chain sparkly.

In summer conditions, there can be benefits in applying a dry lube less frequently, as this will prevent the build-up of grime on your chain, which can speed up wear.

How do I apply chain lube?

You should normally apply lube to a clean, dry chain, so if your chain is dirty, clean it first, then apply a thin stream as you rotate the bike's cranks backwards. Keep rotating for a minute or two to distribute the lube over the chain.

Wipe off any excess with a rag to stop the lube from attracting dirt. 

Some brands recommend leaving the lube in place for a specific period of time before wiping off the excess, so read the manufacturer's instructions to make sure that you're doing it right.

What’s the difference between wax and oil lube?

Wax lubes are predominantly made of wax, although they'll have a carrier solvent to help the wax to penetrate into the chain. The wax forms a dry film which lubricates the chain and is less likely to attract grime. 

In contrast, oil-based lubes are made of oil. The oil penetrates into the chain links and does not dry. It may attract more grime than a wax-based lube though.

Why can’t I just use regular WD40?

WD40 or equivalent are effective at displacing moisture from your chain, so they can be useful to help stop it from rusting after you've cleaned it. But they won't help to reduce friction and wear in the drivetrain, they're easily washed off and they attract dirt. They're not as effective as a chain lube at reducing friction either.

As well as its well-known multipurpose spray, WD40 does make a specialist bicycle chain lube, which is formulated for the job.

Chain lube lowdown

Simon Nash of Green Oil, which makes environmentally friendly lubes, explains: “Wet lube was the original lubricant of choice. Early brands used something like car engine oil. Its consistency trumped basic spray lubricants that were primarily designed to displace water.

"It worked and was durable. But many cyclists on the road racing scene took to waxing chains in a frying pan. Secret formulas mixed in the kitchen often led to chains being dipped in bespoke waxy lubricants overnight.

"Companies soon realised that instead of heating up wax to melt onto a chain, wax could be melted (or rather dissolved) in a solvent. When this is applied the solvent evaporates, leaving just the wax, or ‘dry’ lubricant.”

Going back to Trimnell’s advice, choosing the best lube solution comes down to the conditions you ride in.

Wet lubes are used in all weather conditions but really come to the fore when riding in autumn and winter as they are water resistant so won’t get washed off riding through puddles or in a rainstorm.

Most wet lubes will provide efficient lubrication for over 100 miles of riding with one application. If you ride in the winter months a wet lube will resist salt corrosion. Wet lubes are also really good at reducing drivetrain noise.

The downside is that the sticky nature of wet oil can attract dirt that, if left to build up, can work as a grinding paste to rapidly wear out components. It also oxidises and if left to build up ends up as thick black gunk. Using wet lube properly requires regular degreasing and cleaning of your drivetrain.

In dry, spring and summer conditions you want to use a lighter lubricant, normally a wax-based ‘dry’ lube. Dry lubes are much cleaner to use and attract less dirt build-up even with repeated applications. This makes them much better in dry or dusty conditions, especially off-road or on gravel.

However, even a light rain shower will wash dry lube off the chain and it is less durable; an 80-mile ride in dry conditions can see lubrication drastically reduced.

As Nash also points out: “Value is an issue — in a bottle of wet lube, 100 percent of the formula will lubricate. In a dry lube, some of the formula is solvent, which is there just to aid application.”

Whichever lube you prefer to use, for the best results Trimnell suggests that you leave the lube on the chain overnight before riding for maximum benefit.

Now you know which to use, here's how to use it

What the experts think

My view: Andy Verrall former service course manager, One Pro Cycling

A wet lube from the team's supplier, Juice Lubes, is my default choice year-round. I prefer to have a lube on the drivetrain to cover all weather.

The most important thing for me is daily cleaning of the drivetrain with degreaser, thoroughly drying it to remove all moisture before reapplying more lube.

This way the drivetrain is far more efficient and you gain extra life out of the whole system, along with no loss of power from the rider.

My view: Simon Nash, Green Oil founder

Every bike cupboard should have both a wet and dry lube. Dry lubes are for the driest conditions and cleanest chains.

Wet lubes can be used all year, offer better value and have the greatest longevity. Whether wet or dry, it’s often a question of how much time and effort you want to put in.

Either way, make sure you use a lubricant — your chain will thank you for it!

How we test

All of the chain lubes featured have been tested in the real world. In general this means that the reviewers have used the products across a range of conditions to assess their performance, taking into consideration the different demands placed on wet and dry lubes as well as wax. We take note of a range of factors from ease of use  to longevity.

Additionally some of the lubes featured were also tested in conditions designed to simulate riding in the rain. After applying the lubes the reviewer soaked the chain with water from a garden hose, leaving it for 30 minutes before riding. 

Meet the tester

David Motton

David is a freelance journalist and presenter specialising in motoring and cycling. David's cycling reviews, features and news stories have been published in Cycling Plus, Pro Cycling, Bikeradar.com and in mainstream newspapers such as The Sunday Times and The Telegraph.

Summary

Regular, correct application of lube is an important process to ensure the smooth and efficient running of your bike.

The type of lube you choose to use comes down to several factors involving where and when you ride. If you are fastidious about cleaning your bike regularly, and often ride in inclement conditions, then wet lube is the right choice for you.

However, for the habitually lazy or fair-weather cyclist, a dry lube is going to be the preferred option.