Bicycles are popular recreational vehicles. While most do not have combustion or electric motor, they require oil and other maintenance fluids. For example, a bike’s chain needs lubrication to help keep the unit in good condition. Oil is important for a bike chain because it reduces friction and helps preserve the part.
Bike riders should know that they generate a lot of friction when pedaling their bikes. This friction naturally wears out the chain over time. When a bike’s chain is regularly oiled, the chain part won’t wear down as fast. The following information will describe the different types of oil that bicyclers can use to reduce the wear and tear on their chains.
What Oil Can You Use on a Bike Chain?
Different types of oils can be used on a chain. The 10 oil and lubricants listed below will describe them and their effectiveness as a lubricating agent.
1. Light oils
Light oils can be used to lubricate a chain. They are light and usually easy to apply to the unit. Most light oils are sprayed onto a chain. However, light oils do have some negative points. Lights oils tend to wash off as a cyclist ride through the water. The oil also degrades quickly due to friction. Light oils can be practically used for this purpose, but they must be frequently applied to a chain to be effective.
Grease can be used as an emergency lube for a bike’s chain. However, if given a choice, a cyclist should use grease as a last resort. Also, if a person does decide to use grease on their chain, they should only use it in small amounts. The problem with grease is that it builds up on the chain and impacts other parts of the cycle. Grease also helps build up friction because when it dries out (or wears off), the metal on the chain also tends to dry out.
3. Dry Chain Lube
Dry chain lube is unique. This substance is wet when it’s applied to a chain. When the substance dries, it forms a barrier against dust and dirt. This type of lube is best suited for bike riders who traverse dusty ground or places with a lot of dirt. Dry chain lube does work to reduce friction and is best suited only for the specific environments mentioned in the previous sentence.
4. Thick greases
Strange as this might sound, some people put thick grease products such as lard or calcium grease onto their bike chains. Again, if you don’t have a suitable bicycle chain grease, these products can act as a temporary or emergency fix. Just don’t forget that thick grease doesn’t wear off the chain easily. It not only builds up on the chain and clogs the unit, but it can also make a bike inoperable if a cyclist uses too much over time.
5. Wax-Based Lubricants
Wax-based lubes are practical for dry environments. This type of oil works like the dry oil lube. However, this lube doesn’t come in a liquid form. Its natural form is wax. A user will apply it by hand or with a cloth directly to a chain. Once they thinly coat their chain with this substance, it will form a barrier against dust and dirt. Wax-based lubricants might not be a person’s first choice as a bike lube. This lube can also be hard to apply to a chain.
6. Bike Oil
Bike oils are best suited for a chain. The ingredient for this substance includes a base oil plus additives. The base oil will vary by brand and type of bike oil. The bike’s oil can be synthetic, biological, or mineral. This substance is specifically designed for a bike’s chain. Bike oil is applied easily to the unit, and it reduces friction. It’s not built up on the chain, and it ensures that the chain lasts a long time before it wears out. This, by far, is the best substance to use on a bike’s chain.
7. Spray Lubricants
Spray lubricants are like light oil lubes. They are easy to apply, but the substance wears out quickly. Truthfully, many spray lubricants tend to dissipate within a matter of moments. Spray lubricants can be used as a temporary solution for bike chains. However, they should not be used as a long-term solution to keep a bike oiled and ready to go.
8. Ceramic Chain Lube
Ceramic lube for bicycle chains is an oil with ceramic parts. This type of lube can only be applied to dried and degreased chains. Otherwise, the ceramic lubricant will be ineffective. One of the best benefits of this substance is that it works quite well with reducing friction and giving a person a smooth ride while pedaling.
9. Green Bicycle Oil
Green oil bicycle lubes are made from plants instead of animal-based or synthetic ingredients. Green-type bike oil does provide a protective barrier for a bike’s chain. They are also great for lubricating the unit while lowering friction. However, they might not be as good as regular bicycle oil.
10. Wet Chain Lube
Wet chain lube doesn’t dry out quickly after it has been applied. It is used on bikes where people ride through wet environments. This type of lubricant repels water and reduces moisture. This is a great substance for reducing rust and keeping a chain from warping.
Q1: Can you use any oil on a bike chain?
Technically, you can put any grease or oil onto a bike’s chain if you don’t have anything else available or if you have an emergency. Still, you should not regularly use certain greases and oils for your bike’s chain because you will destroy this part relatively quickly once you do.
Q2: What kind of oil to put on a bike chain?
The best oil type for a bike chain is bike chain oil. This product was made exclusively for bike chains. If you run out of oil or none is available in your area, you can use other lubricants such as grease or light oils. Still, you only want to use these alternate substances as a temporary fix.
Q3: Can you use coconut oil on my bike chain?
Yes, but only in a jam or for an emergency. I know that answer is redundant, but it’s important that this point is being repeated. Coconut oil is not designed to reduce friction or protect a chain from rust and elements. You will easily wear out your chain if you constantly use too much of this substance.
Q4: Can I use olive oil on a bike chain?
Yes, but only as a quick lube. Please don’t make it a point to constantly use olive oil on your bike. This stuff was designed for food and not metal parts.
Q5: Does vegetable oil work on the bike chain?
Yes, you can use this substance to quickly lube your chain. However, it would help if you stuck with the regular bike oil and did not rely on this food-grade substance to maintain your bike.
Q5: Can I use engine oil as chain lube?
Motor oil would be a great product on a bike’s chain. What you need to know is that motor oil is a mixed bag when it comes to lubricating a bike’s chain. Motor oil does reduce friction and protects a chain. It was designed to do this inside of auto engines. However, this substance is not meant for bike chains. You can use this stuff but do it sparingly.
Avoid These Types of Bike Lubes
1. Motor Oil
Motor oil is a great lube for bikes. But I mentioned that you should only use this product sparingly on your chain. The reason why is that motor oil is acidic. It will eat away at the chain while protecting it. In addition, motor oil has been harshly designed to withstand heat, act as a cooling agent, and reduce friction.
Motor oil has been specifically made for the heavy machinery of a motor vehicle. However, a mere bike chain will eventually be eaten up by the acid contained within this substance. People can ingest small amounts of motor oil and be fine. However, this fluid will quickly damage a chain in a short amount of time.
2. Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly can be used to lightly coat a bike’s chain. However, a cyclist should not apply a bunch of this stuff onto their bike. Petroleum jelly is thick grease. It will gunk up on a chain. In the long run, it will clog a chain and surrounding parts. Once this happens, the chain will increase its friction output, making it more difficult for riders to pedal their unit.
3. Cooking Oils
I stated that you could use cooking oil to oil your change. That statement is true. You have to do so sparingly and not make it a habit. Cooking oils are not designed to eliminate friction or to protect a chain. You can slightly lubricate your chain with them, but this substance won’t last. Avoid cooking oils for your chain unless you don’t have a choice.
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What could other types of lubricants be used for a bike’s chain?
There are many different types of lubricants. Some of them have alcohol, and some of them are considered penetrating lubricants. Unfortunately, this lube is not good for a bike’s chain. Remember, a bike’s chain is just a low-tech engine part. Most bikes are not motorized, and the person provides the power to make them go.
So, the bike’s parts are not designed for heavy wear and tear against friction and heat. That’s another consideration when you’re lubing up a bike. Friction generates heat, and heat wears down on parts. One of the reasons why cars have so many fluids in them is to keep friction from building up to a point where it melts the parts together. A bike’s chain is too small to build up that friction and heat.
A bike’s motor still produces enough heat to wear out a chain. Remember, a bike’s chain will last between 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Most people don’t ride that much on their bikes, so their units will last for at least a few years. However, frequent riders will have to change their bike’s chain very often. Why? They are producing more heat and friction on their bike’s chain by riding so much.
Frequently adding bike oil to a chain will allow them to get more use out of their bike over time. This is important for riders to understand. If they don’t maintain their bikes, they will wear them out within months even if they don’t ride them for 2 or 3 thousand miles.
I will conclude this information about bike chain oil by telling you to purchase a good bike oil brand. Again, you don’t necessarily need this substance to keep your chain lubricated. Don’t do alternative substances regularly. You can purchase a good bike lube from a local retail outlet where this product is sold or purchase it online.
Make sure to keep our bike lubed and in good condition. Develop a maintenance schedule. You can use some of the oils (and even greases) on this list to quickly lube up your chain. Don’t forget that lubrication is necessary for your chain. It will provide low friction and protect against heat. Make sure to use the best lubrication product for your chain.
Last Updated: July 12, 2022