First Impressions: Chain-L Lube

Ask ten different riders what they want in a chain lube, and you’ll probably get ten different responses. Some favor cleanliness, others want ease-of-application, and some just want whatever happens to be on their workbench. But if you ask Chain-L‘s Francis Bollag, he’ll tell you that it’s all about lubrication. Bollag began selling Chain-L to the public in 2009 after nearly a year of testing and refinement. He designed Chain-L to satisfy what he felt were the three most important requirements for a chain lube: lubrication, lubrication, and lubrication. Chain-L lube oil chain bicycle drivetrain campagnolo sram shimano

In a market where buzzwords like “clean” and “dry” are used to describe chain lubes, Chain-L stands out as a decidedly “wet” lube. The formula was not chosen for fashion or marketing reasons. The rationale for selecting a wet formula is that a chain operates under an extremely high bearing load, and only a wet-style lube can re-apply itself after each cycle (which is why you wouldn’t use a dry-style lube in your bottom bracket or hubs).

Applying Chain-L is a bit different than other chain lubes. To reduce post-application cleanup, Chain-L recommends that chains be lubed off the bike. For my initial application, I followed their advice and applied Chain-L to a new chain that had been spread out on newspaper (rollers facing up). Because Chain-L is so viscous, I had my doubts that it would penetrate the chain’s factory lube. By the time I reached the last few links, however, the previously-applied lube had already soaked into the chain. Chain-L lube oil SRAM drivetrain
Day zero. Chain-L has been applied to the chain over the factory lube.

I commute approximately 120 miles per-week, and depending on weather, I usually re-lube the chain every week. Because Chain-L is billed as a high mileage lube, I wanted to see how many miles I could ride before Chain-L needed to be reapplied. My evaluation criteria, while hardly scientific, was simple–if the chain made noise, it was time to re-lube. During this period, the only drivetrain maintenance I performed was a single wipe-down of the chain, cogs, and chainrings.

My bikes are quiet, but riding on a chain that’s been lubed with Chain-L is downright eerie. We’re talking ninja-level quiet. After one week of on- and off-road commuting, the drivetrain was quiet, and still operating smoothly. Two weeks in, and I began to wonder when I would need to re-lube the chain. Around the middle of the third week, I started to notice that the drivetrain’s buttery feel was fading. And by the end of the third week, I declared it officially time to re-lube the chain. Chain-L lube oil SRAM drivetrain
Three weeks later. The drivetrain was wiped-down once during the first week.

During those three weeks, we had very little rain in Colorado, so nearly all of my commuting took place on dry roads and trails. Without that rain, however, the trails were exceptionally dusty. Even in those conditions, Chain-L attracted no more dirt than lower-mileage lubes (that would not have lasted as long as Chain-L).

Chain-L works best with you employ a hands-off approach. If you’re the type that feels the need to frequently re-lube your chain (even if it doesn’t need it), you probably won’t like Chain-L. The key is to forget what you know about those other lubes, apply Chain-L as recommended, and then just leave the chain alone until it starts to make noise. If you follow those guidelines, you’ll spend more time riding, and less time lubing and cleaning your drivetrain.

You can purchase Chain-L from select dealers, or directly from the manufacturer. A 4-ounce bottle retails for $12.

Disclosure: Chain-L provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

9 thoughts on “First Impressions: Chain-L Lube

  1. Yep, I get about 1,000 miles between applications too. A little less if if its been wet, but I am very happy with this stuff. I can’t stand how it smells, but I don’t stop and smell the chain lube very often.

    1. Thanks for that.
      There are those few cyclists, at least in my area — who have the courage to drive in the rain. Even more, to drive in thunderstorms, like I do.

  2. Two questions.

    1) How did you apply the lube? Based on your description, did you do it roller by roller (similar to what I believe Dumond recommends for their lube)??

    2) How much of the bottle did you use after the two applications?

    1. 1. I lay the chain out on several sheets of newspaper, with the rollers facing up. One drop per-link/roller.
      2. From what I can remember, very little lube was used/necessary.

  3. I lube about every 800 miles or so. Ed Pavelka did a review of Chain-L and got about 1300 miles. Also, wipe the chain after every ride to remove road grit. Even though Chain-L prevents contamination under the link, it’s better to keep it out entirely as well as cleaning off the black residue.

  4. Is this lube considered on for/by road cyclists? As it is assumed that all above are road cyclists.
    In my older years, when I did cycling daily, I lubed one of the most popular lubes daily: link-by-link (on top). Wiping, at the end of day.
    Doing this work be cost prohibitive on Chain-L.
    [even more, when I did in my old times of using the chain cleaner at the end of each week]
    Especially in an environment of dirt and/or sand along the road shoulders.

    1. If you apply Chain-L off the bike, the end result is a much cleaner drivetrain. Even at one drop per-link, Chain-L lasts so long that it’s very economical.

  5. How & when was the cycling market expect to find out of this product?
    I hate it when it takes literally years for what be called a ‘local bike shop’ begin to ‘display’ a “new product.” “New” via their inventory; NOT via the cycling nor distributor market.
    That’s really deception to the customer of the cycling market.
    As the product/technology has already aged.
    As competition is already on its way to bringing an equal/better product.

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