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This Valentine’s day got me thinking about lubricant. Oh you. Not that kind! I was pedaling my bike and thinking about how lovely a quite, oiled chain is. Such a simple pleasure and so easy; it takes less than five minutes to oil your chain and the rewards last for a hundred miles.
That being said, one of the most frequent questions my students ask is, “What’s your favorite chain oil?”
How to oil a chain
First, let’s talk about how you’re oiling your chain. You should be using a light amount, only putting oil on the chain (never the gears) and cleaning the excess off soon after you’ve applied it. The goal is to get oil inside the chain where metal meets metal. Anything left on the outside of the chain will attract dirt – so thoroughly wipe it away.
About chain lubricants
Armed with this knowledge, it’s best to choose oil that has a small amount of solvent in it. This allows you to lift away old, dirty oil that has accumulated on the chain.
Many chain lubricants are simply oil without solvent (which makes your chain a dirt magnet) or are wax based (which is impossible to clean dirt away from or, worse, don’t work at all). Some oils are so thick they bog down your chain and gears forcing you to deep clean with special degreasers each time you oil your chain. If you’re using one of these now, trash the partially used container, suck it up and pop the ten bucks to invest in a better oil that will make your chain sing.
What follows is Gracie’s Wrench’s recommended favorite lubricants, helpfully listed in order of preference.
#1: ATB (Absolutely The Best) Lube
Available in select stores nationwide
The retirement project of former Exxon oil engineer Keith Lewis, ATB Lube is simply the best performing all-round chain lubricant I’ve come across.. It is a perfect balance of lubrication and solvent, thin enough to go on lightly but thick enough to hold during a rainstorm, and it stays on for at least 100 miles if good weather. This stuff is the real deal.
Lewis goes so far as to change the formula slightly for the climate he’s selling to, so if you buy a bottle in Bend, OR, it will be slightly tweaked for the drier climate than a bottle you buy in Portland. ATB can be found at shops throughout Oregon, but not everyone carries it so call around first.
(Side note to gun owners: This oil also has the distinction of being the oil most frequently purchased by military families to send to their loved-ones in middle-eastern conflict zones as it works beautifully to clean and lubricate firearms in desert conditions. Bonus?).
#2: TriFlo Lubricant
Widely available nationwide
TriFlo is the tried and true standby of many a bike shop as their all-round, go-to lubricant. The TriFlo website claims that it also does a great job loosening rusty bolts, which is true. However, it’s ability to work as a solvent makes it a little thinner than you’d typically want for your chain and have to reapply more often.
Shake well. Most people ignore this itsy-bitsy 2-point font instruction on the back of the bottle. TriFlo separates like vinegar and oil inside the bottle. Its thinner consistency and having to shake the bottle every few seconds while oiling your chain is why it loses out to ATB Lube. On the plus side, you can find it at most any bike shop across the country and the price is right – a bottle will last you for quite a long time.
#3: Tie between DuMond Tech and WD-40 Bike Chain Oil
Available in select stores nationwide.
Both of these oils have about the same consistency and work about as well as TriFlo, without the shaking. They’re in third place since they are not quite as easy to find in every bike shop and for reasons listed below.
Dumond Tech was born locally in Kirkland, Washington. It’s marketed as a “dry” lube which means its a little on the thin side. Because of this you’ll have to reapply more often, but that consistency also means it penetrates well, a major plus.
Dumond Tech is slightly more eco-friendly than other options listed here, so if that’s important to you, this is great choice. However, because you’ll have to apply it more often, the increased volume you’ll go through might negate the environmental friendliness of this oil.
A few years ago WD-40 released their first line of bike products, called WD-40 Bike. They knocked most of the other products I’ve used to clean and maintain my bike out of the picture, but their oil, while a solid choice for lubrication, had two major flaws.
Like Dumond Tech it is a little on the thin side so you have to reapply more frequently.
Two (and the more egregious flaw) is that it smells deeply of musky, manly cologne. The first time I smelled it after my boyfriend oiled his chain in the basement, I thought he’d been partying down there with a guy sporting thick gold chains around his plunging neckline revealing a forest of chest hair. While the scent is annoying, it’s not really an actual issue until it’s used on my mountain bike. Which I ride in the wilderness in the summer. Where there are bears. Who are attracted to strong, perfumed scents. Uhhh… no thank you.
Choose for your climate
With any of the above products, if they offer a choice between a “dry” lube and a “wet” lube, I go for the wet version. These are formulated for the humidity in the air, so for Portland it’s a no-brainer to go with the slightly thicker wet lube. If you live in a drier climate, consider the dry versions instead.
How do you love your lube?
Share your tips and advice in the comments below.
A wild journey by talented riders.
This is an awesome scenic bikeway!
Here’s a fact not many people know: Lane County has more remaining covered bridges than any county west of the Mississippi River. So what could be better than a ride that celebrates several of them — along with some small-town charm, a beautiful lake at the foot of the Cascades and a smooth, mostly flat rails-to-trails bike path from downtown out past the lake?
The Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway follows the Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route and is appropriate for almost any rider. You can do an out-and-back on the Row River Trail path and stay traffic-free, or for variety you can go out on the path and back via roads – including one good climb, if you like that sort of thing (you can also easily bypass the climb). This is a refreshing, naturally beautiful ride you’re sure to enjoy, and a great chance to check out Cottage Grove, an historic town with a handsome old downtown and lots of activities and attractions.
From parking areas in downtown Cottage Grove at the Community Center or Bohemia Park, visitors can travel 17 miles of smoothly paved off-street path along the north side of Dorena Lake, passing three of the six covered bridges on the route. All three of these bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dorena Bridge is a popular wedding site, for those visitors wanting a bit of romance in addition to scenery. Four bathroom stops, seven parking areas, and three picnic areas along this part of the route provide many rest opportunities and a chance to get off the bike and enjoy the scenery. A store in the modest community of Dorena provides snacks and refreshments.
Visitors comfortable riding on the shouldered roadway can ride the 17 miles back to Cottage Grove on the road, and view another covered bridge. Those who want to bypass the Garoutte Road hill can return to the bike path at the western end of the lake. Two campgrounds and one bathroom stop provide recreational and rest opportunities.
Within Cottage Grove, visitors share low-speed Main Street with cars through the National Register-listed Downtown Commercial Historic District. A number of coffee and ice cream spots, restaurants, pubs, shops, and a bike shop face Main Street and offer refreshment or services. At the western end of downtown, the Bikeway includes views of two more covered bridges and a footbridge. Of note is the Chambers Bridge, the only covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi also listed on the National Register.
WATCH THE VIDEO
This route comes to us courtesy of the Ride Oregon website.
Guest article by Brad Nelson (@be_radpdx) & Phil Barber (@oddluv) of Axiom Event Productions
Tips for the amateur organizer
So – you want to want to be a ride director. Whether it’s your first time ever, your first time in a while or just your first time today, consider the points below and and use them to roll out your event like a pro.
1. Keep your friends close…
Knowing your strengths is usually easy, but knowing (and admitting) your weaknesses is perhaps more important. Few of us are talented enough to be proficient at every event element. Instead of wasting time and energy wrestling with all tasks, get help from friends early on in the process.
Respect your friendships (and preserve your sanity) by making clear, direct and specific asks. Your friends are giving their time and working hard to make your event look and feel great. Makes sure in advance they know exactly what you’re asking of them: the gravity of responsibility and the estimated time commitment (be honest!).
2. …and your product closer
Is your ride a 50-mile tour, or a five-mile meander? Is the journey the destination, or are your riders focusing on each stop along the way? Know what you’re selling, and who you’re selling it to. Don’t forget that your event is much more than just what happens on the day of your ride! The participant experience includes all pre- and post-event elements, from your advance marketing tweets to your feel-good followup photos. Plan accordingly, and you’ll be rewarded with returning riders year after year.
3. Your very own Mechanical Turk
Afloat as we all are in a sea of GPS toys, smartphone apps and paperless communications at and around our events, it’s easy to lose sight of the main engine behind your event’s success: the team you’ve assembled to bring your event to life.
Even the most robust cue sheet can’t replace your ride leaders and sweeps. The most streamlined customer service platform can’t replace a live person at the other end of a telephone. As event producers we keep as many gritty details behind the curtain as possible – just be careful not to forget about the hardworking people you’re hiding back there too.
4. Managing Rider Expectations
Your riders might be very savvy, but we can’t expect them to read every single piece of event information (what a dream that would be!). As the ride organizer, it is your responsibility to get the message across.
Be as clear as possible about what your event provides and what participants are expected to provide for themselves. Communicate those expectation multiple times and in a variety of ways to ensure the message sinks in. For example: are you providing only minimal on-route mechanical support? Remind your riders to bring a spare set of tubes.
5. Practice Takes Practice
Imagine that you’ve finally decided to go back to school for a master’s degree. You’d have to re-learn how to be an academic: how to study, how to take a test, how to write an A+ essay. Planning an event for the first time (or the first few times) is a lot like this. Not every issue and aspect of your event is going to be intuitively obvious to you – even if you’re a seasoned event professional – because each event is unique. For each new event, you’re going to have to re-learn event production in a new context. It sounds tedious, but with the right dedicated approach it becomes a little easier each time.
Ride your ride. Twice.
6. Check your calendar– it’s Funday
Throwing a party is hard work. Throwing a party on wheels spread across dozens of miles is even harder. For all the tips and tricks that can make event production easier, your event is still going to be stressful. To counterbalance the stress, you have to be having fun or you’ll never want to throw an event again. Following the tips above won’t guarantee you a fun day, but they’ll get you close. The rest is up to you.
7. Can we come?
What do you do to ensure your event goes well? Share your ideas below in the comments.
We look forward to your ride!
The Oregon Gran Fondo is one of three races that comprise the Oregon Triple Crown. In order to qualify for the Oregon Triple Crown, you have to sign up for the most grueling of the courses from each of the three races.
While some say the Oregon Triple Crown is not for the faint of heart, we beg to differ. For one, you’ve got all summer to complete the three races (5/31, 8/2, 8/26). And for two, there is a ton of support.
The Oregon Gran Fondo is a particularly great race, with a gorgeous course and a fantastic finish line party.
HOT TIP: The registration fee for the Oregon Triple Crown goes up on February 15. You’ve got plenty of time to train, but only a few more days to save. Register today! [more info]