How Often To Oil Mountain Bike Chain? New Guide For 2023.

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Oiling is an important factor that improves the durability of a mountain bike chain.

But not many are aware of how often to oil mountain bike chain.

The popular rule of thumb is to oil the mountain bike chain after every ride.

However, several other factors also determine the frequency of oiling mountain bike chains.

Key factors to consider are frequency of riding your bike, riding conditions, and so on.

Why Is Oiling Or Lubing Important For Your Mountain Bike (6 Reasons)

Excess Mountain Bike Chain Lubrication
MTB Oiling

Oiling is an important activity for a mountain biker due to the following advantages it offers:

  • Increased durability of the chain
  • Improves the efficiency of the chain
  • Increased durability of drivetrain components
  • Seamless gear shifting
  • It prevents rust and corrosion
  • Prevents squealing noises

1. Increased durability of the chain:

Changing the chain often is not at all fun. It is a dirty job that requires you to invest time, money, and effort.

Moreover, choosing a right chain for your mountain bike is equally difficult.

However, when you lube your mountain bike chain regularly, it is more likely that it last longer.

2. Improved pedaling efficiency:

The performance of your chain has an impact on the pedaling efficiency of your mountain bike.

When your chain is adequately lubed, you are able to pedal better, using less power.

3. Increased durability of drivetrain components:

The worst you can do to your mountain bike’s drivetrain is to let it handle an under-lubed chain.

This could lead to premature wearing of its components, as it has to take the beatings of dry chain, which may also be covered with dirt and grime.

4. Seamless gear shifting:

Who doesn’t like to have their gears shift seamlessly while riding on the trails?

The fact is, this would not be possible without lubing the mountain bike chain properly.

If the other drivetrain components are performing top-notch, lube the chain often to experience the magic of seamless gear shifting.

5. It prevents rust and corrosion:

Have you ever come across a mountain bike chain with rust and corrosion?

If yes then you can conclude that the owner of the bike has been acting miserly with its chain and has not given the love it deserves.

Always give your chain its due love in the form of a quality lubricant, and it is not going to ditch you with a snap while you are on the trails.

6. Prevents squealing sounds:

The squealing sound of a mountain bike is not at all a delight to the ears.

When not oiled sufficiently, chains could cause annoying sounds that could make a ride unpleasant.

You may even find it embarrassing while riding in a group or with a partner.

Therefore, lube your chain regularly for a noise-free, embarrassment-free riding experience.

How Often To Oil Mountain Bike Chain Based On Frequency & Riding Style

Difference Between Enduro and Downhill Suspension Travel
Riding Mountain Bike

The frequency in which you ride your mountain bike and the riding style can be taken into consideration while deciding how often to oil mountain bike chains.

Here are three rule of thumb suggestions.

1. Frequent riders (or long-distance):

If you are an advanced MTB rider and you ride your bike frequently or long-distance then, ideally you should oil your mountain bike chain before every ride.

However, if that is not practical for you, then you must oil once a week minimum.

2. Moderate/ average riders:

If you are a moderate rider and you ride your mountain bike only 2-3 times every week then, oiling your bike once a month would be sufficient.

3. Infrequent riders (short distance):

If you are a beginner in mountain biking and you ride very short distances or use your bike seldom then, you can get away with oiling as few as one or two times a month.

Things To Remember Before You Oil Your Mountain Bike Chain

Before you oil your mountain bike chain, there are two important things to remember for you.

  • Always clean the chain properly before oiling. This will ensure that the lube/oil stays longer on your bike’s chain.
  • The more attention you give to maintaining the chain, the lesser the need for applying oil when you are not riding every day will be.

How To Clean The Mountain Bike Chain Prior To It’s Oiling?

Cleaning mountain bike chain oil
Cleaning mountain bike chain

Prior to oiling your mountain bike chain, it is vital to clean it properly.

This is because an unclean chain can cause added friction within the links, which is not favorable for the optimal functioning of the chain.

With more dirt and grime on the chain, it quickly wears it, reducing the durability of the chain.

In addition, an unclean chain can reduce the flexibility of chain links and contribute to the easy wearing of other drivetrain components.

Cleaning your MTB chain is advisable prior to its oiling because oil is absorbed well by a clean chain.

The duration for which the oil stays on the chain is also increased when it is cleaned prior to lubing.

Shifting performance is also optimal when your mountain bike chain is appropriately cleaned and oiled.

Needless to say, the aesthetic benefits of a clean chain, it speak about how well you take for your bike.

Gone are the days when taking the chain off the mountain bike and giving it a nice shake in a jar of degreaser was sufficient to get your chain clean

The need for more detailed cleaning has come with the advent of modern-day chains, which are more complex in structure.

A cheap ultrasonic machine would be the most ideal solution for cleaning today’s chains.

However, if you do not have one, there is no harm in using the suitable old method of shake-it-in-the-bottle till you get yourself an ultrasonic machine.

How often to clean your bike chain? It is recommended to clean prior to every ride.

If your ride has been short and smooth, you can do this cleaning while the chain is on the bike.

However, make sure that you remove the chain and clean it thoroughly at least once a month.

Different Type Of Lubes Used To Clean The Mountain Bike Chain

Bike chain lubes are available in five common types.

However, before we get into this broad spectrum, it is essential to understand one thing, only use a bike chain oil for your mountain bike chain.

This is because if you use any other oil, there are chances that it will attract more dust and dirt onto the chain.

On the other hand, bike chain oils typically have Teflon in them, which makes them more resistant to foreign matters such as those mentioned above.

The five different types of MTB chain oil are dry lube, wet lube, wax, and ceramic lube.

1. Dry lube:

In simple terms, dry lube is typically used when riding in dry conditions.

This is because dry trails can cause dust and debris to fly and get caught in the crosshairs.

Therefore, when you use dry lube prior to riding on such trails, the chain resists such dirt from sticking onto them.

Dry lube, though, is wet and dries up quickly when applied. Hence, it gets difficult for foreign objects to stick on to it.

2. Wet Lube:

Wet lube is a thick form of chain oil used to lubricate mountain bike chains.

Wet lube oil is more effective when you are riding your bike in wet conditions.

This is because wet lube does not go off quickly when it comes in contact with water or mud.

3. Wax Lube:

Wax lube, just like dry lube, is applied in a liquid state, which later forms a lubricating film coating that acts as a barrier to external elements.

Wax lube is used in dry or damp conditions.

Therefore, wax lube needs to be applied often if you are on a long ride or riding your bike in adverse dry conditions.

4. Ceramic Lube:

Ceramic lube is a type of lube that have ceramic particles in them and are very effective in dry and wet conditions alike.

5. Synthetic Lube:

As mentioned above, the synthetic alternative of the oil is commonly known as synthetic lube.

These oils can be generally replaced for both dry and wet lubes.

11 FAQs On MTB Chain Lubing

1. What happens when you use dry lube in wet conditions on your MTB chain?

Dry lube is not recommended for wet conditions on your mountain bike chain.

Dry lube quickly goes off when you ride your mountain bike in water and wet mud. This may result in squealing sounds and wearing of drivetrain parts.

2. Is dry lube really dry on the MTB chain?

Dry lube is a solvent that, when evaporated, becomes dry.

It perhaps got the name because it is used to lube an MTB chain in dry conditions.

3. Is wet lube really wet on the MTB chain?

Wet lube is thick in consistency and not really wet when compared to the original form of dry lube.

Perhaps, it got its name since wet lubes are used in wet conditions.

4. Can you use engine oil on the mountain bike chain?

Applying engine oil on the MTB chain should be avoided at all costs.

An engine oil has a higher viscosity.

Hence it will attract a significant amount of dirt and grime onto the chain.

This would not only affect its performance but can be detrimental to the entire drivetrain in the long run.

5. Which oil is thinner, dry or wet lube for oiling the mountain bike chain?

Dry lube is thinner than wet lube. This helps in entering even the difficult parts of the chain.

This is important while riding the bike in dry or sandy conditions.

6. Can you oil a wet chain?

You can oil a wet chain, but you shouldn’t.

Instead, it is recommended to use a water dispersant to remove any excess water from the chain before lubing.

A dry chain absorbs more oil, making it more efficient and long-lasting.

7. Should I wax my mountain bike chain?

A chain wax is an excellent alternative to other oils when you are planning to ride in heavy rain or muddy conditions.

This is because wax stays much longer on the chain and helps significantly in preventing squeaky sounds.

8. Should I lube my chain after every ride?

The rule of thumb is to oil your mountain bike chain after every ride.

However, if your ride is a very short and smooth one, it is not necessary that you apply oil prior to the next ride.

9. Should I lube my mountain bike chain after cleaning?

Cleaning is an essential process before applying oil to your mountain bike chain.

It is not recommended to use oil on your bike chain when the dirt and dust remains on it.

Dust and dirt should be cleared off first in order to be able to reach the chain in its entirety.

Foreign particles, when left on the bike chain, could cause squeaky sounds and lead to the damage of drivetrain parts.

10. Can I oil my bike chain while it’s on the bike?

If you are a frequent rider, it may not be feasible to remove the chain every time in order to oil it.

Therefore, you need not necessarily remove the chain off your bike for daily applications.

However, you must make sure that the oil does not reach the bike tires or brake.

On the other hand, if you are back from a ride on muddy trails, removing your MTB chain, cleaning thoroughly, and applying lube would be better.

11. Can you over-oil your chain?

Excess oiling can do more harm than good to your mountain bike.

It attracts more dirt, which can hamper the sprockets, cassettes, and other drivetrain mechanics.

In addition, over-lubed chains can quicken the wearing of drivetrain parts when compared to dry chains.

Final Words

I hope this article has given insight into your question about how often to oil mountain bike chains, and how to lube, and how not to over-lube your mountain bike chain for maximum efficiency and a fun ride.

P.S. If you found this article useful, do consider reviewing our in-depth resources on selecting right MTB chains, preventing chain slippage and ensuring that MTB chains stay rust free.

We also have similar guides on short and long mountain bike chains, as well as dry vs wet MTB chain lubes. Do review them too.

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Team Biking KnowHow

Rohan runs Biking KnowHow along with his team. Rohan has been a mountain biker since 2005. His mission is to simplify mountain biking for everyone. All Biking KnowHow content piece is thoroughly fact-checked. Our content is backed up with leading research and inputs from expert cyclists.