Review: Chain-L Lubricant

A little more than a year ago I stumbled upon Chain-L, a lube that boasted the usual: better, longer protection. Especially when it comes to lubrication and other consumable products, I’m always willing to try something new around the shop, so I ordered one of their sample bottles.

See how that worked out for me after the jump…


Since I had it shipped to the shop, they had also included several partially filled sample bottles to distribute to other mechanics and shops (we have several locations), which I thought was a nice gesture.

The first several times I applied it, I did as they suggested and removed the chain, cleaned it completely and applied a drop to each roller. Gotta admit, it’s a lot of work. However, considering that the application lasted the claimed 500+ miles, it was definitely worth doing it the right way. At first, I used this lube only with my best customers; a serious roadie, an Ironman length triathlete, an urban fixie rider. I also used it on my own bike, of course, and a few friends’ bikes. That was all the one ounce bottle, so I ended up buying the full-size bottle. However, it was so good, I found myself hoarding it, not wanted to “waste” it.

The very first thing you notice once you apply it, is how much quieter the chain becomes. The few times I’ve applied it while the chain is on the bike, you can literally hear the chain become nearly silent. The first chain I used it on lasted significantly longer than normal. It’s hard for me to say exactly, since I am spotty at record-keeping with my mileage, but I’d venture it guess it went 50% longer before needed to be replaced. It also made the bike shift noticeably smoother.

When I eventually replaced it, I soaked the second chain in Chain-L before installing, and that application lasted several hundred miles. However, out of pure laziness, I used another lube (that maybe rhymes with No Rink) on the chain when it needed. While that lube works very well, especially for cleaning the chain, I noticed that chain wore out significantly quicker, the drivetrain was louder and the shifting was clunkier.

I didn’t learn my lesson, and continued using that lube (and hoarding the Chain-L) on the third chain. The shifting was getting worse, and it was getting loud like a worn out chain, only about 500 miles in. It showed very little stretch on the gauge, so I popped open the Chain-L and applied it while the chain was on the bike. If my bike could have sighed, I think it would have. Now it’s got 1,000 miles on it with very little sign of wear, and is shifting like a smooth dream. This past weekend, I rode a couple days in Los Angeles’ Storm Of The Century, and even in a steady downpour, it was quiet and smooth and the Chain-L stayed put. I reapplied, but more because I refused to believe that it was okay, even though I saw no signs that it wasn’t.

I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t make the laziness mistake again; I’ll do the extra work and stick with Chain-L. Now, I just need to get over my hoarding problem… even with all the times I’ve used it on my bike and others, I’ve still only used half this bottle. For $12, that’s not bad at all.

Comments

Steve - 12/21/10 - 9:28pm

I too received a free bottle of Chain-L. I even went so far as to apply it with a syringe. Only applying to the rollers. I noticed the exact same results. Completely quite drivetrain. Works well in all conditions. The stuff sticks to the chain very very well. However, one huge drawback for me. The stuff is messy as hell. I have never ever seen my drivetrain more gunked up from any other lube. I wiped the chain as dry as possible and still continued to get the same results. The stickiness of the lube attractes all kinds of dirt and grim. It was just too much for me. I do agree though it is a superior lube. To me its almost like a heavy weight gear oil. Never the less. Everyone should try some of this stuff. I could see pro teams using this for sure. They have mechs that clean the bikes everyday so what do they care if their drivetrain is dirty at the end of the day.

palmermtb - 12/23/10 - 11:22pm

IMHO, there is absolutely no better chain lube than Oil of Rohloff. I’ve been using it for 10 years and have converted more friends than I can count. I bought a liter can in 2001 and only ran out because I was giving away so much of it for my friends to try. I decided to buy a second liter last September and split it with three friends. The lube is really hard to find but it’s worth every penny. It does get a little gunky after awhile but it doesn’t attract dirt. I’ve read some reviews that Rohloff is a great lube but it’s too heavy for dry conditions. Well, I’ve lived in Phoenix since before I started using Rohloff lube and it’s never let me down. I had a friend that would not try it for anything. He finally hit rock bottom and he asked me for a sample. I gave him a little bottle and told him to apply it once to twice a month. He thought that was ridiculous. Long story short he bought his own liter bottle of Rohloff. I always shake my head at people that are still on that quest to find that one lube that does it all. I found it.

pedro - 12/23/10 - 11:41pm

Lube aficionados crack me up.

Studies show that no lube is superior in the wear dept.

As for the noise, the only thing I hear when I’m riding is the wind, cars, trail noise or my headphones.

These reviews are complete BS.

Clarke - 12/24/10 - 11:03am

“Studies show that no lube is superior in the wear dept” I’d like to see those studies.

Jesse Smith - 12/25/10 - 10:09pm

I first heard of this a couple years ago. I avoided trying it, well because the name sounded goofy and I figured it was just another gimick, another lube with the same formula found in everything else. I began reading and following a particular bike forum, and found a particular poster to be smart, give good solid advice, and generally know his stuff. I later found out he was the man behind Chain-L. So I dropped my preconceived notions and gave it a shot.
I’ve been using it on my commuter bike and my road training bike. The commuter uses a 1/8″ chain, and the road bike uses a 9-speed chain.
This is the best lube I’ve used. For comparison, I’ve used regular White Lightning wax lube, Prolink, petroleum, and Dumond Tech polymer.
I’ve put over 700 miles on the commuter since the initial lubing and it’s still quiet and smooth. I’ve put about 400 miles on the road bike since lubing and it’s still quiet and smooth. I don’t have years and years of experience with it, but I think my review holds more credibility than one given after one ride-ie “I just lubed my chain with X, and after one ride, surprise, it runs smoother than it did before!”
Like most products, if you want to honestly judge the product, you will make the effort to follow Mr. Bollag’s clear, detailed application instructions.

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