I like quiet bikes. The last thing I want to hear when I’m riding is a noisy chain. And while I know the benefits of a properly lubed chain, I’d rather spend my time riding than cleaning and lubing my bike. Dry lubes promise sparkling drivetrains, but that often comes at the expense of longevity. Wet lubes offer long-lasting protection, but they can be messy. Finding a lube that combines the best of both worlds is a challenge, but Smoove’s universal chain lube ($14.95 / 150 mL) makes it easy to keep your bike lubed and mess-free.
Based in South Africa, Smoove designed their chain lube to withstand the brutal conditions faced by racers competing in that country’s Cape Epic off-road race. Unlike solvent-based lubes, Smoove utilizes a proprietary water-based formula that contains wax and special additives. Did you raise an eyebrow when you read the word wax? Don’t freak out, Smoove is nothing like those oldschool wax lubes that left your bike’s drivetrain looking like a wax museum reject.
Unlike conventional lubes that can be applied directly over existing lube, Smoove works best when applied to a clean, dry chain. Simply wiping the chain down with a rag won’t do–you need to strip the chain down to bare metal. For my test, I used a new SRAM chain which had been degreased with mineral spirits and isopropyl alcohol. Following Smoove’s instructions, I applied the lube directly to the bare chain while it was on the bike. Compared to wet-style lubes, Smoove is less viscous, and has a thin, milky consistency. Although I noticed some drippage during application, most of the excess lube remained on the chainring, derailleur pulleys, and cassette.
Smoove recommends waiting at least an hour for the lube to dry before riding, and when possible, letting it cure overnight. Wanting to insure a successful test run, I went with the latter, allowing the lube to sit for approximately eighteen hours before riding. The next day, the chain looked as though it was coated with a thin layer of grease. When I ran my finger over the chain, the cured lube felt tacky to the touch, but didn’t leave behind any residue. Running through the gears with the bike in the repair stand didn’t reveal any stiff links or skipping. The test bike’s drivetrain also sounded noticeably quieter, although I wondered how long that would last.
Half of my testing coincided with unseasonably wet weather, and the other half took place in dry, dusty conditions. To really test Smoove’s longevity, I limited my riding to just dirt and gravel. My first ride with the Smoove-treated chain was largely uneventful. The bike shifted smoothly and quietly, and some of the excess lube started to flake off. The first 30-40 miles of testing took place on damp trails and dirt roads, and I was pleasantly surprised to find no signs of rust on the test bike’s chain. Racking up more miles, I began to wonder when the Smoove lube would need to be reapplied. After 60 miles the bike rode as quietly as it did on day one. Finally, after 125 miles, I noticed a faint squeak coming from the Smoove-treated chain.
Satisfied with Smoove’s durability and lack of required maintenance, it was time to test clean-up and reapplication. Stripping the Smoove-treated chain took less time (and effort) than removing the original factory lube, but more importantly, there was virtually no grit present in the leftover solvent. By comparison, a conventional wet lube would have attracted much more dirt, and required additional solvent baths to flush out the old lube and grit. On the second application, I applied Smoove more conservatively, which noticeably reduced the excess lube on the bike’s drivetrain components. Using the same test methodology, the second Smoove application lasted over 125 miles before the chain began making noise.
If you’re the type of rider who puts off maintenance until the last possible moment (i.e. five minutes before the start of a ride), Smoove may not be the chain lube for you. On the other hand, if you’re willing to do a little advance planning and prep work, you’ll be rewarded by Smoove’s durable, low-maintenance drivetrain protection and lubrication.
Disclosure: Smoove Lube provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.