Is Dry Chain Lube Any Good?

So what kind of bike lube should you get? Is dry chain lube any good? Let’s dive into the field of bike chain lube and answer all of your questions. We’ll talk about wet and dry lube, how often you should lube your chain, and what happens if you use the wrong stuff.

Is Dry Chain Lube Good?

Dry chain lube is very useful. Both dry and wet lubes excel at lubricating your bike chain and keeping it clean. They tackle the problem of providing long-term lubrication for your bike in wet and dry conditions.

Is the only difference that one is used in wet conditions and the other in dry conditions? Let’s find out together!

What’s The Difference Between Dry and Wet Lube?

While there are folks who say that dry lube is best for dry conditions and wet lube is best for wet conditions, the difference is actually much more basic. 

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Dry lubes are runny lubricants that you apply to your chain. Over a short amount of time (usually a few minutes or hours), they’ll dry and form a protective, waxy barrier on your chain. 

This barrier is long-lasting and fairly grime resistant, but it can get washed off if you expose your bike chain to too much water.

Wet lube, on the other hand, is a thick liquid lubricant that retains its liquid form while it lubricates your chain. 

Because it’s always an oil, it’s fundamentally limited in its ability to repel dirt and grime. Failing to wipe off excess wet lube can result in a thick layer of coarse muck coating your bike chain, chewing through your cogs in no time at all. 

Wet lube will also drip off of your chain over time due to both gravity and the force applied to your chain while you pedal. This means that you need to reapply it much more often than you need to reapply dry lube.

Which Lube Should I Use?

Many people say that dry lube is best in dry conditions and that you need to use wet lube when it rains. This is a small oversimplification. 

Which lube you should choose has a lot to do with how you apply your lube and how often you apply it.

Dry lube usually needs a few hours to dry off, so you’ll need to apply it before you ride. It’ll last much longer in dry conditions, however, so you can go for a couple of weeks or even a month while still getting good protection from your lube.

Wet lube, on the other hand, can be applied moments before you hit the trail. It’s important to apply it to a dry chain to avoid making a nasty dirt slurry that’ll grind your gears, but applying a bit of solvent and wiping your chain down doesn’t take very long. 

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You’ll also want to be careful to wipe off any excess lube with a rag before you ride. This will help reduce the amount of dirt that sticks to your chain and keep your cogs and derailleur happy.

The big downside of wet lube is that you’ll need to reapply it a lot more often. Some serious cyclists apply wet lube before every long ride. While you don’t necessarily have to be that diligent, you’ll want to use your wet lube at least once a week, or more often if you’re riding in wet or dirty conditions.

So why do people think that wet lube is better during the wet season? The thing about wet lube is that you’re already reapplying it pretty frequently. Your lube falls off your chain within a couple of long rides without the influence of rain or puddles. 

With rain or puddles, the overall lube retention of your chain stays pretty much the same. Or, to put it a different way, wet lube still gets washed off of your chain by rain, but you’re already in the habit of reapplying it, so it’s not a big deal.

Dry lube doesn’t need to be reapplied very often in dry weather. In wet weather, however, it washes off of your chain within a few rides. 

This means that if you ride your bike a couple of times in wet conditions you’ll want to reapply your lube. If it’s raining a lot, you’ll have to reapply your lube quite frequently. It usually makes sense to switch to wet lube in order to save some money and use a product that’s designed with quick, easy application in mind.

When to Lube Your Chain

It’s important to keep your bike’s chain lubricated at all times. There are two hard and fast rules regarding when to lube. 

First, if your chain makes noise, clean and lubricate it. Second, if you clean your chain because it’s dirty, lubricate it.

Beyond that, you’ll have to use your judgment. In general, you don’t want to ride more than 200 miles without lubricating your chain. 

Dry lube can last two weeks to a month under dry conditions, while wet lube probably should be applied at least once a week. 

Again, there are plenty of serious cyclists and bike mechanics that use wet lube before every ride to protect their expensive drivetrains.

If it rains or you go on a long ride through lots of puddles, consider cleaning and lubing your chain regardless of where you are on your schedule. 

You can usually get away with a drizzle or two in between dry lube applications, but two long commutes during serious showers can wash some dry lubes off entirely. When in doubt, lubing more often is better than lubing too little.

When to Use Dry Lube

Dry lube is perfect for riders in fairly dry climates who don’t want to lube their chains very frequently. 

It’s less good if you do your maintenance right before you ride, however, and you’ll feel a bit silly going through the long application process if you have to constantly re-lube your chain during wet weather. 

If you live in an area with predictable seasons, you’ll probably want to use dry lube when it’s dry and wet lube during the rainy season.

Which Specific Bike Chain Lube Should I Choose?

Muc-Off Dry Lube is probably the best lube on the market, period. 

If you’re unsure what to buy, start there. If you live in wet conditions, you might want to pick up a bottle of wet stuff as well, but Muc-Off Dry Lube is cheap enough that you can apply it pretty often and still get plenty of bang for your buck.

If you’re after a wet lube, try Rock N Roll Gold. It’s very inexpensive and does its job incredibly well. It’s also formulated so you can use it as a cleaner, although you might want to get a dedicated bike chain cleaner regardless.

What Happens if I Use Dry Lube Instead of Wet Lube (or the other way around)?

In the short term, your bike’s chain doesn’t care what kind of lube you use. As long as your chain has been freshly cleaned and properly lubricated, it’ll stay safe from friction damage and clear of debris.

Issues with using the wrong lube often involve applying your lube wrong. It’s very important to follow the manufacturer’s full instructions and wipe off the right amount of excess lube. 

It’s also important to wait until your dry lube has had time to dry before you ride. Riding with a bunch of excess wet lube on your chain or a dry lube that hasn’t dried can result in a nasty slurry of lube and grime that will grind down your cogs like sandpaper.

The other issue you’ll run into is your lube’s ability to stick to your chain in wet conditions. Wet lube is reapplied frequently enough that this usually isn’t an issue, but dry lube will need to be reapplied if you ride in the rain.

One final issue has to do with grit accumulation in wet conditions. Wet lube doesn’t handle muddy puddles perfectly, but dry lube is definitely not designed to handle wet dirt getting flung at your chain constantly. 

This means you’ll want to limit the number of long rides you do through wet, dirty areas while using dry lube and clean your chain thoroughly when you get home.

Does Bike Lube Prevent Rust?

When people talk about bike lube, they usually discuss its role in reducing friction and its ability to repel dirt. As it turns out, bike lube actually does a fairly good job preventing rust, too. 

This does NOT mean that applying bike lube once will keep your chain rust-free forever. If you ride in the rain, your lube will wash off. This means that you’ll need to clean and re-lube your chain frequently for the rust-prevention powers to stay active.

Sam Benkoczy

Hi, I'm Sam. I own and maintain 6 e-bikes, 15 regular bikes (road bikes, folding bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes among others). I learned about bikes from my local bike mechanic as well as from bike maintenance courses. I love being out there in the saddle, and using my bike as a practical means of transportation. You can also find me on my YouTube channel at Say hi to me at

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