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How Often Should You Lube Your Bike Chain?

how often should you lube your bike chain
Written by Cobie Brown
Last Update: August 16, 2023

This question is usually asked by those who do not understand why they lubricate their bike chains and how these lubricants work. You can’t treat chain lubrication the same as changing the oil in your car because bike chains are directly exposed to different weather conditions.

A well-lubricated bike chain shouldn’t have any excess lube on it, and you only need to lube the part you can’t see, which is under the rollers and between the plates. You should choose a lubricant that will stick to these parts for a long time without running off, which rules out wet or dry lubricants, unless you want to clean your chain after every ride or shorten its lifespan.

Wax lubricants are the best because they stick to the metal and don’t pick up dirt, leaving your chain dry to the touch and making it last longer. If you touch your properly lubed and wiped chain, you shouldn’t get any black residue on your fingers. It’s that simple!

How Often Should You Lube Your Bike Chain?

How often to lube your bike chains depends on a few factors –

1. How Often You Ride

If you ride very often, almost every day, then it’s best to lube the bike chain at least once a week. And, in case of long rides, the chain should be cleaned and lubed after every ride, especially if you’ve been in off-roads.

2. Terrain Condition

Bike chains can get damaged easily if they come in contact with water. If you’re riding in wet weather, wet lubing daily will help ensure that the chain is in its best condition.

However, there are some lubes known to be long-lasting such as Green oil wet lube, Muc Off wet lube, and Weldtite TF2. If you’re using such lubes then lubing once a week might be good enough even in wet conditions.

In dry conditions, you should clean and lube the chain every 100-150 miles or once a week, whichever comes first. However, if it is a muddy ride then make sure to clean and lube the chain immediately.

3. Type of Lube

There are mainly two types of bike chain lubes: wet and dry.

Wet lubes are thicker and stickier than dry lubes, which allows them to cling to the chain and provide better protection against moisture. They are also better at staying on the chain for longer periods of time, which means you do not need to apply so frequently.

Dry lubes are designed for dry and dusty conditions. They are usually thinner and less sticky than wet lubes, which makes them less likely to attract dirt and grime. Dry lubes also tend to be cleaner to work with and do not leave a residue that can attract dirt and dust.

How Often Should You Lube Your Mountain Bike Chain?

Since MTB chains go through heavier abuse and are more exposed to dirt, sand, and mud than road bike chains, they should be lubed after every two or three rides.

Although most mountain bike user manuals recommend that the chain should be cleaned and lubed after every 100 miles of riding, you should lube whenever necessary based on the factors mentioned above.

How to Tell If Your Bike Chain Needs Lubrication?

There are a few symptoms your bike chain might show when it requires lubrication. If you notice your bike chain starts to squeal or squeak and is not smoothly shifting, it’s time to lubricate it.

Here are the most common ones –

  • Noise

If you hear grinding or squeaking noises as you start pedaling, then it’s a clear sign that the chain needs proper lubrication. The bike chain continuously engages and disengages with the cassettes. And when the chain is rusty or dirty that can cause irritating noises.

However, proper lubrication can help smoothen the chain texture and help get rid of rust which will eliminate the noise.

  • Chain Skipping

When you pedal or shift gears, if you notice that the chain is slipping or skipping, then it’s probably due to the lack of lubrication. A dirty chain is another reason the chain might be skipping.

It is time to apply a good lube to help reduce the friction between the chain, cassettes, and other parts.

  • Rust

Rust is another clear sign that the chain needs lubrication. You will notice rust and corrosion when moisture gets trapped in the metal surfaces. Lubricants create a barrier on the metal surfaces that doesn’t allow moisture to be trapped, protecting the drivetrain from rust as a result.

  • Difficulty Shifting

If you’re having difficulty shifting gears, it could be a sign that your chain needs lubrication. A dry or dirty chain can cause friction and resistance, making it difficult to shift smoothly.

  • Roughness

If your chain feels rough or gritty when you pedal, it’s a sign that it may need lubrication. A dry or dirty chain can cause friction and wear on your drivetrain components, leading to premature wear.


So, how often should you lube your bike chain? This depends on several factors like how long and how hard you ride, the conditions you ride in, and the type of lubricant you use.

For instance, if you frequently ride in wet or muddy conditions, you might need to lubricate your chain more often to prevent rust and corrosion. Also, if you use a particular type of lube, such as wax or oil, this can affect how often you need to lubricate your chain.

The quality and condition of your chain also plays a role in how often you need to lubricate it. If you ride frequently and use your bike for intense workouts, you may need to lubricate your chain more frequently than someone who rides less often or less intensely.

To keep the chain in top-notch condition, it’s best to lubricate the bike chain at least once a week and after every long ride. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the chain with a lint-free cloth before lubricating.

And also, don’t overdo it because that can increase the sand and dirt accumulation.


1. Should I lube my chain before every ride?

Ans. No, because that might gunk up the drivetrain unless you’re biking in very wet conditions.

2. Should I lube my bike chain after every wash?

Ans. There is no such rule. Whether you would lube the chain or not will depend on the chain’s condition and how frequently you ride. However, it’d be beneficial to lube the chain after every wash.

3. Is it OK to use WD-40 on the bike chain?

Ans. WD-40 works like a charm in preventing rust. When the bike chain has rusted or started to become discolored, applying WD-40 can save the chain from further damage. However, it doesn’t lubricate the chain well.

About the author

Cobie Brown

Born and grew up in Colorado, I chose to work in the field of what I liked most, biking. I’ve been working as a full time mechanic in the cycling industry for over 13 years. I started BMXing when I was just a 6-year-old kid and got hooked from the very first day. Then I started riding and not a single day went by since then that I didn’t touch my bike.

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