How To Lube Bike Chains In 4 Easy Steps: Essential Guide [With Video Guide]

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There’s nothing worse than a noisy bike when you’re trying to ride.

One of the common culprits of noise is a chain without lubrication, so it’s no surprise that a common request we have from new cyclists is a guide on how to lube bike chains.

Lubing your bike chain properly comes with a huge amount of benefits, and it’s a skill every cyclist needs to learn. Interestingly, from one cyclist to another, they will teach you a different method, and it can get confusing which is the best and most effective way.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is Bike Chain Lube?
  • What Are The Different Types Of Chain Lube?
  • What Are The Benefits Of Lubricating Your Bike Chain?
  • How To Lube Bike Chains In 4 Easy Steps
  • How Often To Lube Bike Chains
  • Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Lube a Bike Chain

Let’s dive in!

How To Lube Bike Chains: Title Image

What Is Bike Chain Lube?

A chain is a part of the bike which has a lot of movement. It needs to navigate around the drivetrain bending back and forth at high speeds and under heavy loads while still being lightweight and functional.

To ensure your chain works properly, like any mechanical part, it must be well-lubricated. Good lubrication gives the chain movement and is designed to protect it from rust and from getting dirt from getting clogged up inside. 

When you plan to go out for a ride, it’s vital to ensure your chain is well-lubricated and you use the correct lubrication. Lube can make a huge difference to your riding and your wallet when it comes to maintaining your bike. 

Close-up of the drivetrain of a silver bike.

What Are The Different Types Of Chain Lube?

What many cyclists don’t know is there are many types of lube you can buy for your bike. Here are the main types you will find and the advantages and disadvantages.

Dry Lube

Dry lube is excellent when it comes to riding in good, dry conditions.

It’s designed for sunny days, and you can use it both on and off-road. It’s quick and easy to apply and does a great job keeping dirt off your chain. The only drawback is it washes off with water and doesn’t last a huge amount of time.

Dry Lube: The Pros

  • Cheap to buy
  • Easy to apply
  • Great at keeping dirt off the chain

Dry Lube: The Cons

  • Washes off with water
  • It doesn’t last as long as other lubes
Wet lube bottle, with a bike in the background.

Wet Lube

Wet lube is excellent for wet and muddy conditions.

It’s perfect if you do a lot of winter riding or generally are looking for a lube that is a little lower maintenance and performs well.

Unfortunately, wet lube attracts dirt easily, and removing and replacing it is a messy job that should be done often.

Wet Lube: The Pros

  • Great for wet and dry weather
  • It lasts a long time and doesn’t wash off with water
  • Great for performance

Wet Lube: The Cons

  • Attracts dirt easily 
  • Messy to remove and reapply

Chain Waxing

Chain waxing is what it says on the tin: the process of covering your chain in wax.

It offers incredible protection and lasts for a long time while keeping your chain spotless. Alongside all this, the performance is incredible. It is done in a slow cooker, and the process can take a couple of hours.


  • Great for wet and dry weather
  • It lasts a long time 
  • Excellent performance
  • It doesn’t attract dirt


  • It can take hours to apply

Want to know more? Check out our Complete Guide To Waxing A Bike Chain here!

The three above are the most common types of bike chain lubrication and what we recommend, but you will find many more types on the market, such as ceramic wet and dry lubes and “all-weather” lubricants and oils.

It’s worth having a look around and seeing what works best for you.

Close-up of a bike's cassette.

What Are The Benefits Of Lubricating Your Bike Chain?

Lubricating your bike chain is essential to having a bike that works properly. It also comes with a lot of other benefits. Here’s what you need to know. 

#1. Better Performance

Having a lubricated chain will ensure you get much better performance.

The more free the links are to move, the better they can run through the bike’s drivetrain, reducing friction. You can save a lot of Watts with a clean and lubricated chain!

#2. Prolongs the Life Of Your Drivetrain

Having a well-lubricated chain can prolong the life of your chain and other components in the drivetrain.

The smoother the chain works and the more efficiently it can run, the less wear it will take over time, giving you more and more miles.

#3. Prevents Rust

Rust is a chemical reaction when water reacts with oxygen on the surface of iron (contained in steel components) to create iron oxide.

The lubricant on the chain stops the oxygen and moisture from getting in, preventing this reaction. 

#4. Keeps It Clean

Lubricating your chain through either waxing or using a dry lubricant creates a barrier that stops dirt from getting stuck to the chain and caught between the links. This helps the bike look clean and also helps performance.

#5. It Makes Your Bike Quieter

A smoother chain is a quieter chain. Typically one of the most common noises from a bike is chain creak and squeak, generally coming from an unlubricated chain. 

What Equipment Do You Need To Lubricate A Bike Chain?

Bike lube, degreaser, and two rags sit on a black floor mat.

If you want to lubricate a bike chain properly, you will need more than you might think. Here’s what we recommend you have.

  • Degreaser 
  • Dry Rag (x2)
  • Lubricant 

You will also benefit from having the bike in a stand as well as it’ll make the job easier, but if you don’t have one you’ll still be able to lube your bike chain!

How To Lube Bike Chains In 4 Easy Steps

Now for the main event, how to lube a bike chain!

Step #1. Preparation

A silver bike sits in a maintenance stand against a brick wall.

The first step is to get prepared.

You are going to want to find a nice place to work and have everything you need close, and where you won’t be in the way of anyone or get anything too dirty.

Work somewhere you can make a mess, either outdoors or in a garage or shed.

Step #2. Clean And Degrease

Using a rag to remove grease from a bike chain.

The second step is to get all the old dirt and lubrication off the chain that might already be on there.

It’s important not to keep putting new lube on top of the old lube, or you’ll be sealing old dirt in. It’s going to cause more friction, look messier, and it’s going to wear your chain down quicker.

For a light clean, spray some degreaser onto the rag first. Run the chain through the rag to get as much dirt and grease off as possible. You will see after a few rotations, the rag will change color, and you will see the dirt freeing. 

Keep repeating this process until the chain is nice and shiny and the dirt, grime, and any old lubrication have come off. Then, use a dry rag to ensure no degreaser has been left on the chain and it is nice and dry.

If you’ve got time, this is a good opportunity to give the bike a proper deep clean on your bike chain. Check out our In-Depth Guide To Cleaning A Bike Chain here!

If your cassette is very dirty you might want to remove the wheel and degrease the cassette with a rag. The chainrings can be also rubbed too if required. Removing any dirt and lube around the drivetrain is important. 

Step #3. Apply Lubrication 

Applying lubricant to the bike chain.

Now it’s time to apply the lubricant itself.

Less is more when it comes to your chain. The key is to get it smooth and protected with the least amount of lube possible, as excess lube will just attract dirt and grime, turning the lube into a gunky, abrasive paste.

There are two ways to go about applying bike chain lube.

You can either carefully put a single drop on each link, or you can turn the pedals to run the chain through quickly while applying the lube.

Once you have a bit on each link, keep turning the pedals to run the chain through the drivetrain to let the lubrication seep deep into each link.

Step #4. Clean The Excess

Wiping excess lubricant off the bike chain after application.

It’s important to clean off the excess to ensure we haven’t got more lube than we need on the chain.

To do this, we take the second rag without any degreaser on and run the chain through it. 

When doing this, you want to only lightly run it through and keep the pressure on the sides of the chain, not on the links themselves, as that’s where you want the lubrication. Once you have run the chain through a couple of times, you should be good.

And with that, you now know how to lube bike chains!

How Often To Lube Bike Chains

How often to lube bike chains depends on lots of things, such as the lube you’re using, the conditions you’re riding in, and also the terrain you’re riding on.

If the chain is making noise or looks dry, then it more than likely needs lubrication.

As a rough guide, we find dry lube in good weather conditions needs replacing roughly every 100 miles. With wet lube, you will find it will last roughly 200 miles in good dry conditions.

So many factors can hugely adjust this timeframe, so it’s best to check regularly to stay on top of it. 

You will also want to ensure that if your chain is lubricated that it isn’t too dirty. When a lubricated chain gets dirty, it wears down quickly as all the small grains of dirt get stuck between the links and wear it down.

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Lube a Bike Chain

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

Found this “Lubing Bike Chains” guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

2 thoughts on “How To Lube Bike Chains In 4 Easy Steps: Essential Guide [With Video Guide]”

  1. Interesting article with which I don’t entirely agree, waxing chains (the most practical) shouldn’t be as difficult as you describe, or at least it didn’t use to be when you could buy a tin of ‘link life’ (a tin would lube a chain for years); not available now. I use a toothbrush an CV joint cup grease .

    • Thanks for the response! As for waxing chains, I think it really depends what approach you take. If using a wax-based drip lube, then the process isn’t so different from using a regular bike chain lube. If opting for immersive waxing, the process is more involved.

      Perhaps saying the process is “more hassle” would be more accurate than “more difficult”, as there’s no technically challenging part of it, but it does require much more time and has many more steps than standard chain lubing, and also requires extra equipment such as a slow-cooker.

      I never came across “Link Life”, but it sounds like it would’ve been a life-saver – it’s a shame it’s no longer on sale!


      BikeTips Editor


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