I have always used two types of lube, Shimano PTFE dry lube and Finish line wet lube dependent on the conditions. I never had issues with them but when Chain-L surfaced the claims was just too good to not try out. They were fairly cheap and Chain-l’s marketing man Kevin Yiu sold me on getting a bottle and trying it out for myself.
I applied Chain-L on both my road bike and mtb and here is my real world findings. The lube is applied differently to standard lube and extra care must be taken to prep the chain pre lubing. Chain-L recommends the dismount of said chain and then carefully applying one droplet per roller. Leaving it for 5-10 minutes the lube will soak completely through the chain and then you can clean up the excess with a clean rag and mount the chain. The idea is for a deeper penetration of the rollers to enhance longevity.
I followed these instructions and remounted my chains on bikes and for the first few rides were amazed. You know that feeling when your bikes completely squeek free and you feel like you are pedalling through the clouds? It’s like that. The drivetrain was utterly quiet. It was insane. I have never had chain this quiet ever. Not even from a new chain. It also shifted great. Shifts came precise and hesitation free and you just had that golden feeling inside of yourself that everything is perfect.
Due to the sticky texture of the Chain-L lube, they recommend that you wipe clean the chain after the first few rides to get rid of excess dirt that accumulates and golly geez does it accumulate. You basically have to wipe down the chain after every ride for 4-5 rides if you don’t want your chain to look like the kmc black edition. The quietness that you noticed on your first few rides eventually is replaced by the same drivetrain noise that you have grown accustomed to. Except now, after the silence, you are suddenly not quite so accustomed to it any more.
Eventually i had accumulated some distance on the roadie chain and i do believe that the lube lasts for as long as Chain-L claims. I ended up not having to relube the chain at all and the only thing i had to constantly do was to wipe down the chain with a clean rag to get ride of excess dirt. Before i replaced the chain with a new one i checked the rollers and they were still spinning freely and well. The noise levels on the chain began to grow and grow but it still felt sufficiently lubricated.
For my MTB though i experienced a slightly different affair. About 4-5 rides after my reapplication of Chain-L i was racing the Mont 24hr. Everyone that has entered a 24hr race at Canberra knows how dusty the trail becomes from 1000’s of other riders riding in front of you. After 2 laps or so my chain was squeeking like nothing else. It felt seriously dry and once again the shift quality deteriorated. From this stemmed my biggest concern with Chain-L.
Chain-L suggest not mixing their lube with other lubes for optimal performance. This combined with the troublesome lubing procedure made me question how useful the lube is. On a normally lubed chain you just grab the lube bottle and reapply the lube section by section. Easy. On the Chain-L you cannot do this. If you attempted to top up your lube the same way as normal lube you would come back the next day finding lube all over your floor and your chainstays and whatever else is in that vicinity. In fact the only way to top up Chain-L lube is to either dismount your chain or soak up a rag with Chain-L and run it through the chain. This factor becomes EVEN more accentuated in the middle of a 24hr race or for that matter any marathon race and the user really has no quick way of relubing on the fly.
The other issue i found is after a very muddy/dusty ride i would always hose my bikes off with water and you are bound to get water on the chain. Again there is no quick way of toping up the lube on the chain after the wash and that makes me question the overall usefulness of Chain-L on MTB applications. Further to all of this when chain-l is on and really after the initial 2-3 rides it feels not too much different to a regularly lubed chain using any other lube. The only difference is instead of running a bottle of lube through the chain every 2 weeks you are running a clean rag cleaning up the excess dirt.
For roadie riding i will continue to use Chain-L. It has a place for road applications and could genuinely help with chain wear. I dislike how it accumulates dirt so bloody quickly but i guess it is offset by the fact i don’t have to relube the chain for 1000kms. Shame that the silence does not last forever as that would be insanely awesome and it seriously makes the bike feel so good when your drivetrain is buttery smooth.
For MTB riding i will be switching back to my normal combo of PTFE dry lube for everyday riding and WET lube for bad conditions. Due to the nature of MTBing a lube solution which allows quick top up’s and relubing is paramount in optimal performance and Chain-L is just too troublesome to apply under those conditions.
So a short summary for you lazy types
100% silent on first 2-3 rides
Long lasting under tame terrain/weather conditions
Relatively cheap for the amount of use you will get out of 1 bottle
Attracts dirt/dust like nothing else
Unable to reapply mid race/ride
Silence doesn’t last forever