Wet vs Dry Chain Lube | Which Is Best For Your Mountain Bike?

Maxima mountain bike chain lube wet and dry formula on a work bench


    Ah yes, the age old question - should I use wet lube or dry lube on my mountain bike drivetrain? What's the difference between them? Well we’re going to be tackling this today, and get ready, because there's more to the question than you might think.

The Importance Of Chain Lube
For Your Mountain Bike

    So you’re about to go for a ride, and to make your chain a little bit happier, you’re goingto lube it up! But should you reach for the dry or wet lube?

    Already, you’re making the right choice of lubing your chain, because that’s something everyone should do before every ride, no matter what kind of conditions you’re heading into. But before we can answer which lube to use let’s make sure that your chain is ready to get lubed.

    Lube is always going to be most effective when applied to a clean chain, so make sure you at least give it a thorough wipe down before going any further. If you’re lubing up a dirty chain, all the sediment in there is basically acting as a sandpaper to grind down all the moving parts of your drivetrain, causing it to wear out way faster than necessary.    

using wet formula maxima mountain bike chain lube on a sram xx1 gold chain

Let’s break down the differences between dry and wet lube.

    They’re both accomplishing the same goal of making your drivetrain last longer and decreasing the amount of power you need to push through the pedals, but beyond that, they’re pretty different. Because your chain is so low to the ground and in the direct line of fire of all kinds of crap that gets tossed up by the tires, picking the right lube will protect your chain better depending on what is getting tossed at it.

Dry Chain Lube

maxima chain lube dry formula on a teal background

    Just like the name suggests, dry lube is designed to work best in dry conditions because it has a lower viscosity, which will pick up less dust and debris. It’s not very tacky, so its greatest strength is picking up as little dust as possible, minimizing that sandpaper effect that dust will cause on your drivetrain. Most dry lubes will have a paraffin wax or teflon coating on the chain that, once dry, does a great job protecting the chain and lets it smoothly glide along those cogs.

    But it's not all good news for dry lube, and it's got a couple of downsides. First is that because it’s a lower viscosity lube, it won’t last as long as a thicker lube.

mountain biking in dry conditions through a lush green forest

  Also, it needs a few hours to dry out after you apply it before it can lubricate without picking up any dust from the trails. And if it rains even for a couple minutes or if you go through a deep creek, then it’ll all get washed away and you’ll be left high and dry with an unlubricated chain.

Wet Chain Lube

    Now let’s take a look at wet lube! Wet lube is a much thicker viscosity and designed with wet conditions in mind. Because of that thick viscosity, water has a much harder time knocking it off the chain, allowing the lube to stick around for a lot longer in the rain or if you’re sending it through all the puddles you can find. You also don’t need to wait for it to dry, because its meant to be wet when you use it, and you can reapply more right on the spot in the middle of a ride if you need to. But you’re also less likely to need to reapply because it’s thick enough that it lasts a bit longer than dry lube.

maxima chain lube wet formula on a teal background

    Sounds too good to be true, right? Well it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for wet lube, because it collects quite a bit more dirt and grime out there. This added friction in your drivetrain will cause some friction, but it’s still better than having your dry lube washed off at the first sight of water.

tor splashing through a puddle on his raw transition spire mountain bike

Which Is Best For You?

maxima mountain bike chain lube dry and wet formula sitting on a work bench

    If you’re riding in dry conditions and really don’t expect to run into any random storms or ford any rivers, then dry lube will work great for you. You just need to remember to let it dry for at least a couple hours before getting it all dirty, otherwise you may as well use wet lube and get all of its benefits as well. You can also use wet lube in these conditions as long as you apply an appropriate amount, rather than just fully spraying the chain as you spin the cranks. Just a drop on every link is plenty, and make sure you wipe the chain after application just to get rid of any excess that dirt could stick to. Done correctly, the lube gets in between the links and rollers of the chain but isn’t on the outside of it, so you can get the best of both worlds with the performance of wet lube without the mess. Careful though, overusing wet lube and letting dirt stick to your chain is what leads to that build up of crud on your derailleur pulleys, so you’ve got to stay on top of keepin it clean.

    Because we ride here in the Pacific Northwest, we always want to be prepared for an unexpected shower, so quite a few of us here at the lost co run wet lube year round. It also keeps the decision pretty straightforward when lubing our chains, but back when I lived in the desert of Southern California, I was strictly on a wax based dry lube that I would apply the night before riding. If you’re living somewhere with more distinct seasons, you could also switch between wet and dry depending on conditions.

So if you're not interested in cleaning or degreasing your drivetrain that often and ride super dry and dusty trails, then dry lube will be great for you.

If you don’t mind keeping your drivetrain nice and clean and ride in some variable weather conditions, then wet lube is your best friend.

maxima mountain bike chain lube dry and wet formula sitting on a teal background

WPL Wet Chain Lube - 4oz - The Lost Co. - Whistler Performance Lubricants - WB-WCL-120-01 - 628250704013 - Default Title -
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WPL Dry Chain Lube - 4oz - The Lost Co. - Whistler Performance Lubricants - WB-DCL-120-04 - 628250704044 - Default Title -
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Maxima Syn Chain Guard Wet Formula - The Lost Co. - Maxima - 95-01904 - 851211003560 - Default Title -
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Maxima Syn Chain Guard Dry Formula, 4oz Drip - The Lost Co. - Maxima - 95-03904 - 851211003621 - Default Title -
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Got questions? Feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call!





Tor Weiland



Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes: Transition Spire

Bike Size: Medium

Favorite Trails: Oriental Express, Galbraith

About Me: Hailing from the sunny landscape of California, Tor headed north and landed here in the cloudy town of Bellingham, WA. His riding style is "PINNED" and he loves to scope out those seemingly impossible triples. He loves riding and also loves sharing his experiences with others. You can catch Tor in front of the camera or behind the keyboard, but best of luck catching him on the trail!