How dare I! There is no way that I am going to get away with this, but I’m going to do it anyways. I am going to tell everyone I can that there is nothing wrong with using WD-40 on their bicycle chains.
Blasphemy, you say?
Well, hear me out first.
I am not a quack, or snake oil salesman. I happen to be an experienced bike tech, with 6 years of full-time shop employment, and many more years before that I was a home mechanic in my garage. And although I am still young, I have seen a lot of worn out drive-trains. I been with many of them from their installation, through their subsequent maintenance, as well as their eventual replacement. From birth to death, if you will. I know the character of the owners, I know how much they ride, and I know what they ride through. I also know what they lube their chains with, as they buy it at our shop. Most of the time, their chains are well cared for with regular applications of expensive, bicycle specific chain lubes.
Now, I have no evidence to back up the claims that I am about to make. Nor do I know anything about the chemistry or physics behind the use of lubrication and moving parts. I can only offer you anecdotal evidence of some things that I have observed.
WD-40 will NOT hurt your drive train, and it IS a lubricant. And a fairly good one at that!
I have been mountain biking for 17 years, and I have done a lot of hard riding, in many different conditions, and I have a confession to make. I lube my chain with WD-40. You will not hear to many of your local bike shop employees share this with you. I’m sure that you have been told at some time that putting WD-40 doesn’t do anything for your bike chain, or that WD-40 isn’t a lubricant, or worse yet, that putting WD-40 on your chain will actually make it worse! I am writing this to tell you that all three of these statements are untrue. I hope you will believe me when I tell you that my drive trains last as long as, if not longer than, most people’s, despite the fact that WD-40 is just about the only thing that ever touches my chain.
In fact, if you buy the chain oil sold at your local bike shop, than there is one thing I can say for sure: My bike’s chain is cleaner than yours is right now! A clean chain and cassette runs much smoother, and lasts much longer, than a dirty one. Give me a spotlessly clean chain, no matter how dry it is, over that oily black dirty thing on your bike any day. Not that my chain is running dry. WD-40 provides enough lubrication to last longer than my average ride. By my estimations, in dry conditions, it will keep my chain running quiet and smooth for about 8 – 12 hours of riding. For me that means I need to re-apply it about once every three or four rides. There is no mistaking the sound of a dry chain, and at that time I simply give it a spray, wipe it off really good with a rag, and Presto! Ready to go for a few more days!
Still don’t believe me? Check out the ingredients in the can. The stuff is mostly oil. If you don’t believe that WD-40 can be used as a lubricant, spray some on your fingers and rub them together. Slippery, eh!?
Just some things to remember if you are planning to take part in WD-40’s magic:
1) DO NOT ever point that thing any where near your brake caliper, rotor, rim or hub bearings, it will wreck them all! You don’t have to hit your bike with the sprayer at full blast. Keep it easy on the trigger finger and just let a little trickle out onto the chain. (It does require a soft touch!)
2) It is okay to use it on your derailleurs to keep the bushings clean and moving freely, but don’t put it in your rear derailleur pulleys if they contain sealed bearings (a la SRAM X0/X9)
3) And finally, if you are going out for a ride in the rain and muck, than bring a small bottle of synthetic chain oil (Tri-Flow is my personal fave) just incase. The one downside of WD-40 is that it does tend to wash off quickly in really, really, wet situations. But doesn’t anything? (Please don’t say Phils Oil! That stuff is way too clingy!)
Let me hear what you think about WD-40 in the comments, I’m really curious.