Chain lube should keep your chain lubed, not looking nice. Clean lubes are giving something up to be clean. Maybe it’s the need to apply to a completely clean chain, maybe they don’t protect against rust as well, but there is no free lunch. Clean lubes are not as effective at protecting your chain as greasy gross wet lubes. Is the ball joint of your car clean? Heck no, it’s horrible, covered in a goopy mess of black grease. You don’t see them using ‘clean’ or clear grease in there.
Prolink makes a good really thin chain lube. It’s like WD-40, but for bikes. WD-40 has a whole bunch of solvents in it. These help break down rust and flush out thicker lubes. When the solvents dry, there is a bit of lube in the WD-40. Not enough to actually do a good job lubing a chain, but enough to keep a door hinge swinging freely. Prolink is similar, but it has a higher lube content. Still a ton of solvents, but more lube. That means Prolink is a great lube to clean your chain with. What??!
Cleaning your chain with degreaser is bonkers. If the degreaser is strong enough to break down the old chain lube, guess what, it’s strong enough to keep the fresh stuff from getting in. Sure, you can flush the chain with water, after degreasing it, then use a combo of time and an air compressor to blow the water out of the chain. Me, I don’t like to use an air compressor on a chain. Not only is it hard on our generator, but it also flings black water all over the place, including but not limited such places as your rims, tan sidewalls and disc rotors. Just air drying a chain could take over a day. I don’t have time for that. I have firewood to process. If you clean your chain with prolink, you flush two things outta the chain: grit (composed of road grit and bits of your chain) and old lube.
Continue on for more True Facts about Chain Lube:
Analog’s Cardinal Rules of Chain Lube:
The process is super simple: Shift into the big ring up front and the hardest gear in the back. Apply Prolink generously, so that when you stop pedaling, it’s dripping on the floor. Do something else for a few minutes. For instance, buy a water bottle from us. Then mosey back over. The solvent has done its thing. Take a dry T shirt, preferably your roommates, and drag the chain through it, holding the chain very loosely in a bundle of shirt. You can do this on the upper run of chain or the lower. I don’t care, just don’t get your fingers caught in the chainrings. Pedal backward. Keep flipping the shirt to a fresh spot of cotton and keep wiping. Do this routine until the chain is coated and wet looking but not black with oil. If you are riding in nice dry weather, boom, that’s it, you are done. If you are riding in the rain, or mud, or snow, etc, you are not done. Leave the chain alone and go buy a hat from us. When you come back in five minutes, most of the solvents will have evaporated out. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry.
Now, grab your other bottle of lube, Finish Line’s wet chain lube (Phil’s oil also works fine but it’s double the cost with no noticeable benefit) and apply a thin stream of that to the chain. Get it fully coated, but you don’t need a gallon of the stuff. Just make sure the rollers and side plates are covered with a thin layer. Wipe off the excess, good to go.
Prolink is the only lube I have used that pulls bits of metal out of the chain’s rollers. The chain gets grit in the rollers, and that grit acts like sand paper and wears the chain down. The little bits of metal that flake off further wear the chain down. Removing those is muy bueno. Prolink does that. Finish line wet lube is just a cheap, goopy lube that keeps the chain running quietly and does well with wet weather. It’s sticky and dark green and gross, which are all good traits in a heavy duty bad conditions lube. It comes off easily with Prolink. Reapply when the chain is either noisy, has some surface rust, or because you are about to go on a big bike trip. Clean it with Prolink a few times a year, or when it’s really mucked up and gross.
Now go throw out that silly chain cleaner, and use that Simple Green on what it was intended for: pizza stains on your favorite concert Tee. Actually, use Miracle Red for that, it’s better.