Gordon Yeager runs a boutique bicycle mechanic service in the San Diego area. He has 18 years experience in the bicycle industry including neutral support for USA Cycling and Mavic SSC. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his friends and family, and riding his bike as much as he can. Follow him at www.twitter.com/velohangar and www.velohangar.com, and find his gear reviews and tips in his monthly column here.
Up this month is not so much a review, but a tutorial on that core tenet of bike maintenance: lubing your chain. Not all chain lubes are created equal, nor do they work on all components. I’ve had loads of clients walk into the shop this month asking about lubes and what they should use. “Does it really matter what I use?” “What’s the difference between wax and low viscosity?” “Can I just spray on any old lube in my toolbox?” And the list goes on.
Chain lube preference is dependant on the climate you live in and how clean you want your bike. If you use that blue and yellow can in your toolbox and don’t wipe off the excess, your bike will get messy. If you live in a wet climate and are using a low viscosity oil, you will be reapplying chain lube very frequently. It’s not mandatory that you use a certain brand or type of lube on your chain but, it helps to know what is recommended. It’s also important to find out what your mechanic is using on your chain. Try to stay with the same type for compatibility.
Having a lube personal preference is fine by me. In fact I condone it. You know your riding conditions, ride characteristics and maintenance better than anyone. Are you the type of rider that just goes out and gets it done? Do you only oil your chain when it sticks or squeaks? Do you live in a wet climate? These are all good things to know.
So who are the usual suspects on my workbench? Squirt (wax-based dry lube), Pedro’s GO! (low-viscosity wet lube), and Dumonde Tech G-10 Bio-Green (vegetable based, wet lube). I’m located in San Diego County where we get very little rain over the year—the quintessential dry climate. Even though it’s dry here, if you ride anywhere near the coast you will pick up sand on your drivetrain. Can’t avoid it. No matter what you use, chain wipe down is a must.
I use Squirt on most mountain bikes and road/tri bikes where I know the rider won’t be keeping the chain clean or re-lubing frequently. The application is pretty straight forward. You need to make sure the chain is completely clean and dry. Then, drip Squirt on the chain while backpedaling. Allow the lube to dry for five minutes then re-apply. Once the initial coat is dry the lube should last a couple weeks. You only have to drip a little more on every couple weeks. Fantastic stuff. It really does reduce chainsuck, and the scent isn’t horrible (the taste is though, not recommended.) It creates a waxy candy coating to your chain. Good stuff. Be warned though—there are loads of wax-based lubes out on the market, but I haven’t found one that rivals Squirt yet.
Pedro’s GO! lube is a vegetable-based synthetic low-viscosity lube. I use it mostly on road and tri bikes, when I know the rider is going to take the time to keep their chain wiped down. Being a low-viscosity lube it soaks into the chain link and protects the metal. Application is simple: drip the lube onto each link and wipe off excess. Easy. It’s a safe bet that if your chain starts making noise it just needs a few more drips. Always wipe off the excess or your chain and frame will become a mess. It smells like vegetable oil, not horrible either. I wouldn’t cook with this stuff though, so don’t ingest. I like to use biodegradable oils when I can.
I’ve been using Dumonde Tech’s G-10 Bio lube since it was first introduced a few years back. Not the easiest to find, but great stuff. Dumonde has been producing oils and lubes for motorcycles since 1985. The big drawback for me was that their earlier lubes, “Original Formula” and “Lite,” had a scent that could peel paint. To my surprise, Dumonde Tech G-10 smelled like fruit cake. When you work with chemicals all day the fumes start fighting each other. G-10 will win that battle every time. Hands down the quietest lube in the Hangar. Silences even the loudest chains out there. It’s a touch thicker than the GO! lube so I tend to use it on bikes that see daily abuse. Commuters, athletes in training, anyone that uses their bike more than four days a week will love Dumonde’s G-10 Bio.
I you have any questions on lubes or anything else service-oriented please email me. Next month I’ll review an item’s durability and strength from a mechanic’s viewpoint as usual.