On a baker’s rack in my garage sits a plastic storage bin. The bin is about the size of a shoe box, and it’s where I store my collection of bicycle lubricants. At last count, that bin contained thirteen different chain lubes. Yes, thirteen. But now, thanks to DUALCO‘s new line of chain lubes, I’ll be able to pare that collection down to just a couple of bottles.
Like nearly every other chain lube vendor, DUALCO offers different formulas for wet (Cold/Wet) and dry (Hot/Dry) conditions. The US-made lubes are packaged in two-ounce plastic bottles which feature adjustable, twist-top applicator caps. The Cold/Wet version retails for $8.55 and the Hot/Dry formula carries an MSRP of $7.66. According to DUALCO, both formulas are non-toxic and won’t harm paint, plastic, or rubber.
When it’s time to evaluate a new chain lube, I start with a new chain that’s been stripped of the factory lube. Doing this reduces the likelihood of any interaction between the two lubes, and I can observe how easily or quickly the new lube penetrates the chain’s rollers. While some manufacturers’ wet and dry lubes have a similar appearance and viscosity, DUALCO’s two lubes couldn’t be more different. In the following video, I applied the Cold/Wet lube to the top piece of chain, followed by the application of DUALCO’s Hot/Dry formula to the bottom section of chain (where the ambient temperature was 68 degrees).
Twenty minutes after lubing the chains I took the this photograph. Post-processing was limited to adjusting the brightness and contrast of the background portions of the photo.
Look closely at the chain near the top of the photo and you can see that the Cold/Wet lube has made its way into the chain’s crevices. Running your finger across the tops of the links reveals a light, greasy coating that fills the gaps between the chain’s plates and rollers. By comparison, the chain treated with DUALCO’s Hot/Dry formula feels nearly dry and free of residue. When you think about it, this is exactly how you’d want the two lubes to behave. The Cold/Wet formula needs to resist being washed out by rain and snow, whereas the Hot/Dry can’t leave behind a residue that will attract dirt and grit.
As with most things in life, chain lubes are–ultimately–a compromise. Dry lubes are often less durable than wet lubes, and wet lubes are usually messier than dry lubes. While DUALCO’s two formulas each had the desired characteristics that you’d associate with wet and dry lubes, they also exhibited far more versatility than I anticipated. The heavier Cold/Wet formula ran much cleaner than hoped for, and the lighter-weight Hot/Dry lube held up to harsh weather better than some competitors’ extreme condition lubes.
If you’re wondering which lube is better, the answer is, it depends. If you want the longest-lasting lube, go with the Cold/Wet formula. A single application will last a very long time. In fact, resist the urge to top off the Cold/Wet lube because you think too much time has passed. If the chain is still running smoothly and quietly, just keep riding. I had gone several weeks on one application of Cold/Wet and figured it was time to re-lube the chain, just in case. It turns out that I jumped the gun, and the result was wasted lube and a messy drivetrain.
For riders who spend the majority of their time riding dirt or gravel, DUALCO’s Hot/Dry lube is the obvious choice. It doesn’t attract excessive amounts dust or grit, but at the same time, Hot/Dry doesn’t have to be reapplied as frequently as lubes that claim to clean and lubricate at the same time. And unlike wax-based lubes, build-up is minimal with the Hot/Dry formula–no more scraping sludge from your derailleur’s pulleys or front derailleur cage! As an added bonus, DUALCO’s Hot/Dry lube works exceptionally well on clipless pedals’ cleats and springs.
If I have one nit to pick with DUALCO’s chain lubes, it’s that the applicator nozzle allows the Hot/Dry formula to flow much too easily. Even when opened only a small amount, the nozzle’s wide tip has an all-or-nothing operation that ends up wasting lube and requiring more cleanup than necessary. In the future I’d like to see DUALCO offer the Hot/Dry lube with a pinpoint nozzle, while keeping the current applicator for the heavier Cold/Wet formula.
Disclosure: DUALCO provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.