Your bicycle chain is one of the most important parts of your bicycle: it’s what transfers energy from your pedals to your rear wheel and gets you moving. Properly lubing your bicycle chain can dramatically extend its lifespan and keep your bike running better.
It’s easy to determine whether or not the chain needs to be lubed: do the “finger test.” Lightly touch the chain with your fingers and then rub them together. This should produce a slightly slick feeling, not dry or wet or clumpy. A slightly slick chain is properly lubed. If your fingers get wet or clumpy, you may need to clean your chain. If the finger test comes up dry, then it is time to lubricate.
If your chain needs cleaning, option 1) Wipe your chain with a dry rag to get off as much as possible. Do not apply lube until the finger test says to.
When it’s time to lube your chain, it’s important to use a bike lube as opposed to something household like WD40. WD40 is actually primarily a solvent, and will strip all the lube from your chain causing it to run dry which can damage the chain and sprockets. It can also get into your bearings and cause damage to the rest of your bicycle.
Bike chain lubes come in three varieties; oil-based, wax-based, and synthetic. They will each work to lube your chain, but each has strengths and weaknesses.
Oil-based lubes like Lava Flow Chain Lube tend to be inexpensive and you can use very little, making them very cost-effective. If you use the correct amount then it will help to keep your chain clean and will require very infrequent re-lubing. However, if you use too much, it will pick up all the dirt and grime and make your chain very messy. Use the finger test and if it feels dry then wipe the chain with a dry rag and use a total of 8-10 drops of Lava Flow on the entire chain. On average, you will only need to do this once every 3-5 weeks.
Wax-based lubes like White Lightning require more to be applied for the same effect as oil-based lubes. Wax-based lube also needs to be reapplied regularly. This can be expensive over time. They tend to not pick up a lot of grit and grime no matter how much you apply. Wipe the chain with a dry rag and then place a drop of lube on each link. Check weekly.
Synthetic lubes like Tri-Flow are very similar to the wax based lubes in that you can over lube without it causing much problem and they are more expensive than the oil lubes. Tri flow has an added benefit of being Teflon based. Teflon-based lube works best on Teflon-coated cables, keeping everything smooth. Lubing procedure is the same as wax lubes.