Q: It’s almost a cliche if you ask any mechanic about a lube. The answer is always “it attracts dirt” in one form or another. Is there such a thing as a lube (spray or grease) that does not attract dirt as much?

—Johnny, who wants it clean

A: It’s absolutely true that chain lubes attract dirt and grime, which leads to premature drivetrain wear. Your chain needs to be clean and free of friction if you want it to last.

To find the right lubricant, first, you need to consider the environment you ride in. In dry and dusty conditions like we have in SoCal, a dry, wax-based lubricant is absolutely the best. Wax-based lubes don’t attract the fine dust that can work like sandpaper on moving parts in your drivetrain. The only downside is that wax-based lubes typically don’t last long, especially in wet or muddy riding conditions. For those who frequently ride in harsh and wet conditions, a “wet” petroleum-based lube will work best. It will adhere to the moving parts better
and stay on longer than half a ride.

Second, you have to know how to apply lubricants. You can’t simply drizzle a stream of oil on your chain every time you hit the trail. That will actually do more harm than good. By caking on layer after layer of lubricant, you will create an environment that invites all kinds of contaminants. Instead, be careful how you apply your lubricant. It’s a tedious process, but it will pay off in the long run.

In our experience, aerosol lubes are nearly useless for mountain bikes. Whether lubing your chain or anything else, the spray blasts everywhere, leading to over-lubed chains and contaminated brake pads. Instead, use a drip lube that can put the lube right where you need it.

If you’re not a bike-maintenance nut, you can simply backpedal the bike while dripping the chain lube on the chain. Resist the temptation to lube the cassette, pulleys or chainrings. Again, that will do more harm than good. Once you’ve dripped a bit on the whole chain, take a shop rag and wipe off the excess. Any lubricant that’s left on the outer chain link plates can cause problems. The lubricant is only useful if it’s inside the chain on the rollers.

If you are a bike nut, which most of us at MBA are, you should wash your bike meticulously before lubing your chain. You can use a degreaser if you like, although we’ve had good luck with plain-old Dawn dish soap and a soapy brush. Once the chain is clean and dry, take your drip lube and put a single drop of your preferred lube on each of the chain rollers and pins. This will allow it to penetrate without leaving any excess to wipe off.

Finally, don’t think you necessarily need lube every time you ride. Instead, listen to your drivetrain. When it starts to sound dry, then it’s time for a lube job.


Q: This might sound like a dumb question, but I recently bought a mountain bike for my wife, and I can’t get it set up right. When I bought my bike, the shop set up my shocks for me; but, we bought this bike online, and the shock is totally too soft. I tried to pump the shock up, but I can only get to like 100 psi before my pump blows off, and that’s not enough. I don’t want to go to a bike shop, because my wife will think I don’t know what I’m doing. What should I do?

—Edward, whose pump is blowing it

A: You need a high-pressure shock pump that can handle more pressure than the floor pump you’re using. You will also want to carefully check the pressure guidelines, which can be found printed on the fork or shock itself or on the company’s website. The fact that you tried to take a floor pump to a shock makes us think it might be beneficial to head to a local shop for a lesson on setup too. Your ego might be dinged, but your wife will thank you in the long run.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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