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.

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.

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.

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.

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