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Is it time to lubricate your bicycle? But what if you can't find a bicycle lubricant? Can you stop the irritating squeak your bike has by using chainsaw oil?
The sound of a dry bicycle chain can be more annoying than a crying child or even loud horns. Unless oiled with a proper lubricant, it will make a constant loud screech. Apart from creaking, a dry chain will not move smoothly, causing you frustration throughout your ride.
We'd recommend that you use chainsaw oil on your bike chain only if you're sure you know what you're doing. You can use it to lubricate your bike chain and derailleur pulleys. Chainsaw oil is designed to lubricate chains that are constantly under a lot of pressure and heat.
Although virtually any oil can be used on your bicycle chain, some lubricants perform much better than others. The reason is that most lubricants are designed for use in closed components of the bike. These, when used to lubricate the drive-train, are exposed to the dust and debris of the environment thus reducing its efficiency.
To see how effective chainsaw oil is, I lubricated the chain links on my Cannondale Trail 4 with Husqvarna premium chainsaw bar & chain oil that I had on hand at the time. It was the rainy time of the month that made my test become successful. Let's understand how it worked.
Why should you lube your bike chain?
Bike chain lubrication is an essential aspect of bicycle maintenance. Using the appropriate bike lube to keep chains properly greased reduces friction. Oil also prevents the metallic parts from corrosion thus enhancing the life of your bike chain and increasing its performance.
Oiling also improves drive-train efficiency by enabling the rider to exert less force. Even in the presence of lesser force, more energy is produced and delivered to the system. If lubricated properly, the bike chain and drive-train are protected from wear which results from constant rubbing.
What is the best lubricant for a bike?
The best bike lubricant is the one that has the following properties:
- It should form a protective layer of oil between the cranks and the chain.
- It should prevent metal-to-metal contact to avoid wear and tear of the drive-train system.
- It must form only a single layer of lubricant molecules between the surfaces in contact.
- It should contain additives that form a layer of low shear strength thereby reducing the friction. For example; the additive Molybdenum dialkyl dithiocarbamate is found in many bicycle lubes.
- An ideal bicycle lubricant should be viscous enough to penetrate into the links.
- The lube should provide oxidation stability against the damage resulting from water and heat.
Can you use chainsaw oil to lubricate your bike chain?
Yes! You can use chainsaw oil or bar oil to lubricate the chain and drive-train of your bike once in a while. In fact, it's an excellent lubricant when you need to ride in rainy weather. Since chainsaw oil is more sticky and thick as compared to ordinary bicycle lubes, it won't wash away during rain or in damp conditions. For everyday riding though, this lubricant can be too sticky if used to lubricate the chain often.
What's the difference between chainsaw oil and bike lube?
The major difference between the chainsaw oil and the bike lubes is viscosity. The more viscous oil is, the more resistant it is to flow. Unlike how a bike lube will immediately penetrate into the chain links or the drive-train system, chainsaw oil will not be able to flow into the links. This is because chainsaw oil has more viscosity as compared to the bike lube.
Another important difference is additives that are found in bike-specific lubes. Despite being present in a small concentration, these additives protect the metallic parts from corroding and wearing down. These also play the role of antioxidants to protect the bicycle components against the oxidative damage resulting from water and heat exposure. These additives are however not found in the majority of chainsaw oils.
Considerations while using chainsaw oil to lubricate your bike
The chainsaw oil should not be highly viscous. Otherwise, it will increase the drag force causing your bike chain to suffer from wear and tear.
More coatings of chainsaw oil should be applied because it is thick, unable to penetrate quickly, and may produce lubrication gaps.
The excessive oil should be wiped off to prevent dirt and debris from collecting inside the lubricant layer and making the chain messy.
It should be used only in extreme weather conditions when other oils are washed out during rain. The frequent use of chainsaw oil to lubricate bicycle chains or drive-train should be avoided.
The oils to be avoided
The lubricants which may affect the overall efficiency of your bike chain include:
Cooking oil or vegetable oil, like bike-specific lubricants, can reduce the amount of pedaling force required to ride a bike. The major reason we don't recommend using these is that they collect a lot of dirt and grime.
Most of the gear oils and engine oils are too thick to penetrate into the links of your chain. They may apparently grease your bicycle, but leave ungreased surfaces on the inside. Thus, it won't protect the metal parts from wear. Moreover, all the dust from the trails will be clogged inside the oil layers due to their thick consistency.
WD-40 cannot be an alternative to a bicycle lube. It's actually a degreaser and not a lubricant. WD-40 is a solvent that can be used to clean the surfaces or remove the layer of dirty oil before the application of a lubricant.
Machine oil is a white mineral oil that you use to lubricate your sewing machines. It is not effective enough to act as a bicycle lube. Moreover, it has no anti-wear additives to prevent your bike chain from snapping.