Shopping for chain lube can be daunting task. There are different formulas for wet and dry weather, road and off-road use, and even lubes that claim to lube and clean your chain at the same time. What if you just want one lube that performs well for any type of riding? Bucking the trend of hyper-specialized lubes, Smooth Operator offers a single chain lube that’s designed to excel in wet and dry conditions, on- or off-road.
Smooth Operator chain lube is available in four ounce bottles ($12), or a travel size (10 ml) three-pack ($9). Both bottles feature child-resistant caps and precision applicator tips. While I didn’t review the lubes’ safety data sheets, the company classifies their the lube as environmentally friendly and low-toxicity. My highly scientific sniff test revealed a light, sulfur-like scent, but any odor dissipated quickly after application.
When applying Smooth Operator lube, less is definitely more. Resist the urge to slather the entire chain with lube–a single drop applied to the chain’s rollers is all that’s needed. Thanks to Smooth Operator’s precision applicator tip, the lube goes exactly where you want it. As with other lubes of similar viscosity, Smooth Operator works best when allowed to penetrate deep into the chain’s pins and rollers. This is not a lube that you use five minutes prior to riding. Applied the night before a ride (and wiped down to remove any excess), Smooth Operator will attract very little dirt.
My testing took place on bicycles which were equipped with both new and used components. On new chains and cassettes, I applied Smooth Operator lube directly over the factory chain lube. For the used chains and cassettes, I cleaned the components with mineral spirits before lubrication. One of the test bikes was dedicated to on-road (paved) use, and another saw exclusively off-road (dirt) use. Chains included 10- and 11-speed models from KMC and SRAM.
When evaluating chain lubes, I place a premium on longevity. I consider a lube to be a success when my chain runs smoothly and quietly for several weeks. Did Smooth Operator’s chain lube live up to my expectations? Absolutely. In dry conditions, I went almost an entire month before having to re-lube the chain on my commuter. Off-road, Smooth Operator held up to numerous creek crossings and countless dusty trails (without any chain suck whatsoever). And although I didn’t perform any head-to-head testing against competitors’ lubes, I’d place Smooth Operator in the same league as Chain-L, mileage-wise (with the former being easier to apply).
Disclosure: Smooth Operator provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.