How To Use Bike Chain Lube To Keep Your Parts Moving

Your guide to exactly where and how to lube your bike parts.

Natascha Grief |

For some, bike lubricant is an unglamorous necessity. But for obsessives, it transcends the utilitarian function of keeping moving parts moving and becomes the bike-maintenance equivalent of wine: Lube snobs, like fine wine connoisseurs, value quality over quantity. Either way, the fact remains that without the proper lube applied to the right places, your ride will come to a screeching halt. Here’s how to lube your bike’s moving parts.


Without Lube: A dry chain will let out an ear-piercing squeal and won’t shift smoothly. Eventually, it will rust, and it could snap midride.

Lube It: Soak a clean rag with degreaser. With your bike in a work stand, grasp the chain with the rag as you backpedal to remove grime from the rollers and side plates. Repeat until the chain is clean. Then, dry the chain using a clean rag and the same technique you used to clean it.

To apply lube, deposit a drop on the top of each link as you slowly backpedal for a few revolutions, so the lube has a chance to work its way in. Wipe off excess lube – if you don’t, it can attract more dirt to your chain. Use a light, waterproof lube such as Boeshield T-9 Waterproof Lubrication.

Never Use: Motor oil – it contains acids and particles of metal that can compromise a chain’s strength and cause it to wear more quickly.

RELATED: 6 Things You Might Not Know About Your Bike Chain

Clipless Pedals

Without Lube:
Engagement and disengagement won’t be as smooth as it should be, and pedals may become impossible to remove from your bike.

Lube Them: If your clipless pedal system has a visible spring (the area where your cleats engage into the pedal), apply a drop of lube every few rides to keep it rust-free and working well. Spread a coat of grease on pedal threads every time you install pedals so they’ll budge the next time you go to remove them.

Never use: Grease on the pedal springs. You’ll gum up the mechanism.


Without Lube: Cables won’t glide through housings as smoothly, which negatively affects shifting performance, and they’ll be more prone to rusting in wet conditions.

Lube Them: Shift the rear derailleur to the easiest gear/largest cog (front derailleur to the hardest gear/big chainring). Then, without pedaling, click your shifter to upshift to the hardest gear/smallest cog (or the small chainring in front). This will result in a nice amount of cable slack, and on some bikes, allow you to slip the housing out of the slotted cable stops and coat the cables thoroughly.

Apply a few drops of lube to your fingertips and slide them along the length of the cable until it’s covered in a thin film. Wipe dirt from your cables, paying special attention to where they run through the cable guide underneath the bottom bracket. Use the same lube and method of application on your brake cables.

Never Use: WD-40 – it’s a solvent, not a lubricant. If your cables and housings are so gummed up that you need a solvent, you’re better off replacing them than performing makeshift maintenance on them.

Pivot Points

Without Lube: The points on which the individual parts of your brakes and derailleurs pivot will not move as smoothly and will invite rust.

Lube Them: Drip T9 onto each pivot point (rear derailleur; front derailleur; rear brake; front brake) every few months (more if you ride in wet conditions) to keep them protected and working well. Wipe off excess lube so it doesn’t attract dirt.

Never Use: Lubricant on brake pads, rotors, or rims. If you do, you’ll have a hard time slowing or stopping. If you accidentally get lube on disc brake rotors or pads, you’ll need to get new pads to be safe.

Derailleur Pulleys

Without Lube: Not only will you go crazy trying to track down the cause of that annoying squeak (commonly caused by neglected derailleur pulleys), but also the pulleys won’t rotate freely.

Lube Them: Wipe off any built-up grime on your derailleur pulleys with a clean rag and degreaser. Then apply a small drop of lube to the bearings at the center of the pulley. Backpedal a few revolutions, then use a clean rag to wipe off any lube that didn’t work its way into the bearings. It can get messy, so use sparingly.

Never Use: Grease – it’s way too heavy for this application, and it will gunk up pulley bearings and attract crud.

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