How Often Should I Lube My Mountain Bike Chain?

Bike chain

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The most popular and simplest form of upkeep for any bike is regular cleaning.

However, just like changing the oil in your car, bikes need an oil change. Bike oiling frequency depends on lube type and your location.

Proper lubrication boosts its lifespan and gives an exciting riding. The bike can move smoothly and detach debris. It also keeps your chain strong, but,

How Often should you oil your bike?

Bikes have tens of components and but the drive chain is the most susceptible to wear. This is because it’s always in motion and constant tension, whether downhill or uphill.

The chain is also open and directly exposed to external elements that might hurt your bike. With proper lubrication, however, your bike can operate better than ever.

An oiled drive chain prevents the entire drive train from wear. In addition, it protects the crankset, rear-wheel gear assembly, and derailleurs from wear. 

The drive chain is the most critical part when it comes to the bike’s transmission of power. And thus, here’s when I choose to lube the bike chain:

After exposure to water to grit, mud, grime, dust, or dirt, cleaning alone is not enough. I prefer riding in perfect condition, so I oil after every 100 miles. 

Cleaning After a Long Ride

A quick clean-up of your entire cassette and re-lubrication is significant to keep your bike in check.

Lubrication shouldn’t be factored by whether the bike got dirty or not. To break it down, this is a simple procedure you can perform after every hard ride. 

  • Use a lint-free rag and wipe down your chain
  • Next, floss the cogs and jockey wheel
  • Apply the lubricant
  • Raise the rear wheel and turn pedals allowing the lubricant to work deep into the pivots. 
  • Finally, in case you have excess lubricant, repeat a light down chain wipe. 

Re-Lubricate your Bike if it Gets Dirty

A mountain bike is more prone to mud, dirt, grime, and off-road-related conditions. Once the bike gets noticeably dirty, a thorough cleaning helps bring it back in shape for subsequent use and a re-lubrication. 

Re-lubricate your bike every time you wash it. Soap and flowing water wash away the lubricant.

Along the trail, the bike picks up dirt elements. Harsh wet weather conditions like rainfall or dusty roads may as well affect the bike’s lubrication.

The drive train attaches a lot of trail debris and grime; thus must be cleaned thoroughly and lubricated to make it is clean for the next ride. 

A mountain bike transmission is set to function at 98% but drops to 94% in real biking. Once the bike becomes dirty and is exposed to natural factors like water and dirt, the efficiency reduces to a mere 80%. 

Un lubricated bicycle chains wear out faster and, with time, spoil the cogs on the cassette and chainring. In addition, un-lubrication leads to lost pedal power and performance.

Clean Up Your Bike After Covering 100 Miles at Least

In case you ride on ideal roads without exposure to grime, water, or dirt, it is still important to lubricate as it keeps your drive chains’ performance top-notch.

So don’t forget to lubricate once your bike covers 100 miles 

Over Lubrication

You should know that lubrication is required only at the rivets and not on the outer plates.

Too much lubrication in the chain attracts dirt and grime. The combination of lube oil and dirt forms a gritty paste which is unnecessary.

Proper chain lubricant protects your chain and drive train components from friction. It prevents water; thus, corrosion cannot occur. It enables the drive chain to function effectively for many years. 

Related: 5 Bike Chain Lube Alternatives

Proper Lube Application

  1. First, clean up your drivetrain. Get a lint-free rag and remove any components on the chain. You can splash high-pressure water to remove dirt entirely.
  2. On a dry chain, find a starting point, either on the master link or pick a link to start from. 
  3. On every pin or roller, apply a drop of chain lube. 
  4. Continue applying droplets on each pin, moving the pedal in reverse until you get to the first roller. 
  5. Once all pins are oils, turn the chain up and down the rear cogs to move the lube deeper in the pins.
  6. Once satisfied that every bit is well lubricated, wipe down extra lube along the chain with a lint-free rag. If you are using wet lubricant, you need to dry clean severally. 

Inexperienced cyclists apply the lube on the drive chain while spinning the crank aimlessly.

It’s an ineffective method and will only waste your lube. Excess lube on the chain acts as a dust magnet. It will attract everything you are washing the bike from; crud, dirt, and dust. 

MTB Lubrication Tips

  • Even without use, clean and oil your bike and bike chain annually. 
  • To increase the chain’s lifespan, use a wet lube after every ride; it makes the next ride more fantastic. 
  • Clean the chain and re-lubricate after every 100 miles. Some bikes will even go for 200 to 500 miles without extra relubrication. Remember, relubrication doesn’t have a strict timeline but requires owners’ wisdom to determine when to do it. 
  • Suppose you anticipate wet conditions or muddy trails, re-lubricate after a few miles. Water washes away the lubrication, and by the time you get back, the chains could have excessive wear. 

Another factor that determines how often you oil your bike is riding frequency. How long do you ride? Is it long-distance, moderate, or you are a short-distance rider, mainly for fun?

When having long-distance rides, I prefer oiling once per week. There are long-distance riders who lube after every ride so, this entirely depends on the type of lube used and trail condition.

If you keep attracting dust and debris, you might have to perform frequent lubrication. 

Average rider. A frequent rider doesn’t need oiling as frequently as long-distance bikers. Twice or thrice a week may be fine. Depending on the type of oil used, some lubricate once a month. 

Infrequent riders. For short-distance riders, each chain application can go for a long time. This is because you rarely cycle. Without regular lubrication, you risk having the longest wear. 

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Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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