The Complete Guide to Bicycle Grease

Unfortunately, not too many bicycle riders—even those who would consider themselves enthusiasts of the sport—give much importance to the kind of grease they use to maintain their bikes. The fact of the matter is that the type of grease one uses is important, and putting the wrong kind can end up damaging one’s bike. Not all kinds of grease, after all, are suitable for the maintenance of a bike’s bearings. The temperatures at which these bearings operate are relatively low, making the kind of grease commonly used for automobiles ill-suited for a bicycle bearing’s purposes.

A good estimate for when a bicycle’s bearings need to be regreased is about after 2 to 3 years of normal use. Of course, it really ultimately depends on how often a bike is used, and how reliable the grease that was previously used is. Suffice to say that grease failure can happen at any time (and in the most unexpected moment), and one shouldn’t expect a new bike to have been greased well at the factory from which it came. Indeed, our experience with new bicycles that have supposedly been greased at a factory doesn’t inspire confidence, and in our estimation, most factory-original grease is not just substandard but has also been applied erratically. Naturally, the best way to determine whether your bike is overdue for a re-greasing is to inspect it.

Below is a table that lists a few factors that can (and eventually will) cause grease failure, as well as the signs that one needs to look out for.

Causes of Grease Failure Evidence of Grease Failure
Age of Bike: this is the most likely cause of grease failure, and it will more often afflict bicycles that don’t see regular use. Lack of grease, ungreased bolts and ball paths, or the presence of hardened grease in and around the threaded parts of a bicycle.
Internal contamination: This other highly likely cause of grease failure is caused by particles worn from the bearing surfaces. Light-colored greases turned dark, translucent greases turned darker and opaque.
Moisture contamination: This cause is only likely when the bike is ridden extensively in wet conditions. Reddish rust color in grease, rust on bearing parts, water droplets in grease or bearing area. Colored greases turn a lighter shade.
Dirt contamination: This cause of grease failure is most likely if contaminated grease that has oozed out of the bearing is wiped off the wrong way. Gritty feeling like sand in the grease, not the same as the rough feeling from a tight bearing.

Grease Vs Chain Lubricant

First and foremost, the type of product one should use to lubricate a bike’s chain and drivetrain won’t be the same product one should use for, say, a bike’s wheel bearings. Indeed, many make the mistake of using one kind of lubricant to serve both purposes—but you need to avoid doing so. The type of lubrication to use on a bicycle’s chain and drivetrain will be different from what you’ll need to put on a bike’s wheel bearings, bottom bracket threads, and the like.

One good way to determine which parts of a bike needs greasing as opposed to lubing is by checking which parts are threaded. If it’s threaded, then it is grease you want to use. Conversely, a bicycle’s chain and drivetrain require either an oil-based or wax-based lube (depending on riding conditions) to keep everything running smoothly.

Use Bicycle Grease for bicycle wheel bearings, pedal threads, bolts on brake components, headset cups, pedals spindle threads, suspension system joints, etc. (Again: grease is primarily used for the threaded parts of a bicycle, to protect the thread and prevent seizing of the bolt.)

Use Bicycle Lubricant for the bicycle chain, brake lever pivots, derailleurs, etc.

What Kind of Grease To Use

Suffice to say that one should know their bike and the material used for some of its components to be able to determine the type of grease they need to use. For instance, a bicycle with ceramic bearings will need grease that’s been formulated to be safe for ceramic. There are many kinds of grease available on the market that are supposed to be ceramic friendly, but there are also a few that are not, and using non-ceramic friendly grease to coat a ceramic bearing will make the bearing wear out more quickly.

Is your bike made from carbon fiber? Because not just any type of grease will suit a carbon fiber frame. Petroleum/Teflon-based bicycle greases can damage a carbon fiber frame in the long run, so if your bicycle is made from carbon fiber, you’ll need to opt for greases that have been specifically made to be carbon-friendly.

Best Bicycle Greases Available on the Market Today

1. Finish Line Premium Grease

Finish-Line-Premium-Grease-made-with-Teflon-Fluoropolymer-3.5-Ounce

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This versatile bicycle grease is Teflon-based and has been specially designed for all kinds of bicycle bearings. Being Teflon-based, Finish Line Premium Grease is infused with polymer particles that make it water-resistant to a degree, preventing it from washing off easily. Finish Line Premium Grease is in fact one of the best greases out there for bicycles that aren’t infrequently ridden under wet conditions. The product also boasts rust-resistant qualities that help fight against corrosion.

One downside to Finish Line Premium Grease is that it is thicker than most bicycle greases, which means applying it with precision and accuracy will be that much more difficult. Also, this product isn’t meant for carbon fiber bikes, so if your bike is made from carbon fiber, then you’ll need to use another kind of grease.

All-in-all, Finish Line Premium Grease is a great and affordable product. It is a high-quality grease that is highly-rated among enthusiasts, too.

2. Park Tool Polylube 1000 Grease

Park-Tool-PPL-1-PolyLube-1000-Lubricant

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Park Tool Polylube 1000 Grease might just be one of the most popular greases available on the market today in no small part because it’s available everywhere. One reason it’s also very popular in the bicycle community is that the Park Tool brand is known to be a manufacturer of quality bicycle tools—we’re glad to report that the bicycle greases it makes are no exception.

The Park Tool Polylube 1000 Grease in particular is very versatile and is even carbon safe, which means it will be a great grease to use on carbon-framed bicycles. Unlike the Finish Line’s Premium Grease (which only comes in tube form), The Park Tool Polylube comes in a variety of sizes, from tubes to jars.

One downside to Park Tool’s grease is that it is, pound-for-pound, more expensive than most bicycle greases available on the market. While we in particular think the price difference is totally worth the high-quality grease you’re getting, some might prefer grease that is less pricey.

3. White Lightning Crystal Grease

White-Lightning-Crystal-Grease-Biodegradable

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White Lightning Crystal Grease is another high-quality grease that might be attractive to the more environmentally conscious given its biodegradability. Its biodegradability and non-toxic features mean it will be safe for children and pets. Unlike other brands of grease, White Lightning Crystal Grease is odorless, too, and won’t stink up your garage over time.

This grease is also being advertised as stainless, which is a big plus. We simply can’t count the number of clothes and carpets we’ve absolutely ruined after greasing our bicycles, so although we haven’t been able to test White Lightning Crystal’s stainless features, if it works as advertised, then that can only be a good thing.

Another thing that we liked about White Lightning Crystal Grease is that it’s a clear kind of grease, which will make it easy to see through the grease and determine whether some bolt is rusted or breaking down. Indeed, one typically needs to wipe the grease off of a bolt to assess its condition, but not with White Lightning Crystal Grease, precisely because it is clear and transparent.

White Lightning Crystal Grease is also carbon-friendly, and will, therefore, be a great grease option for those who own carbon-framed bikes.

One downside to White Lightning Crystal Grease is that some have disputed the company’s claims about this grease being biodegradable. While we neither can confirm nor deny whether the grease is, in fact, biodegradable on the basis of what others have said, we think it would be better for the company to address the claims in a manner that will satisfy their consumers—many, after all, are drawn to White Lightning Crystal Grease precisely because the grease is advertised to be biodegradable.

4. Phil Wood Waterproof Grease

Phil-Wood-3-Ounce-Grease-Tube

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Phil Wood is a company with a great reputation for making both bicycle chain lubes and bicycle grease. Indeed, the company has its share of diehards who swear by Phil Wood’s products.

One thing notable about Phill Wood Waterproof Grease—which, to be sure, doesn’t really speak to its quality but is notable nevertheless—is the unassuming packaging. It’s a green tube with lettering that signifies it’s a Phil Wood product, and that’s it. While we don’t really expect grease products to have flashy branding, Phil Wood’s is just so… simple. And we think it’s a great and subliminally effective way of telling consumers that the company makes the quality of their products speak for themselves.

Overall, Phil Wood Waterproof Grease works extremely well. One application will last longer than usual, and it is carbon-friendly, too.

Perhaps one reservation we have is that it doesn’t come in a bigger container. This might not be an issue for most, but we have more than a few bicycles that need regular greasing, so someone like us will prefer to buy grease by the bucket—or, at least, something slightly larger than a tube.

5. Bel-Ray Waterproof Grease

Bel-Ray-Waterproof-Grease-16oz.-Tub-99540-TB16W-by-Bel-Ray

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Bel-Ray Waterproof Grease isn’t the best grease available on the market, but it works exceedingly well, and it’s also very—very!—affordable. Its affordability, in our opinion, already makes it a strong contender.

Also, Bel-Ray is a company that seems to have a singular focus. And it is in manufacturing grease. They don’t make anything else but bicycle grease, which tells us that they probably know what they’re doing.

Although Bel-Ray’s advertising will give one the impression that its products have been primarily designed for motorcycles, this can’t be further from the truth. Trust us, many have used—and continue to use—Bel-Ray Waterproof Grease on their bicycles.

Again, this grease is just so affordable, and one is getting, how shall we say, good enough quality grease for the price. So if you’re the type who doesn’t want to spend too much on grease but, like us, needs to use a lot of it, then Bel-Ray Waterproof Grease just might be the product for you.

6. Shimano Dura-Ace Grease

 SHIMANO-Dura-Ace-Grease

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The Shimano Dura-Ace Grease is a pretty popular grease among bicycle enthusiasts, too. Its popularity is partly because it’s made by Shimano, a very trusted, popular, and reliable bicycle parts manufacturer.
Shimano Dura-Ace Grease is also frequently touted as a great go-to grease not least because of its anti-rust features, which is said to be fantastic at protecting bicycle parts from corrosion.

One thing we liked about the Shimano Dura-Ace Grease is that it’s got a great container, and its lid seals very well, assuring that no leakage occurs during storage.

Overall, it’s a great performing grease that’s both waterproof and long-lasting even after a single application.

One downside we have about the Shimano Dura-Ace Grease is that it is quite expensive. You are certainly getting a lot of grease features for the price, but you also might be forced to apply the grease sparingly since it’s quite pricey.

The Bottomline

Greasing your bicycle regularly is an important part of maintaining it and keeping it fit for use. After all, grease, as well as chain lube, is what will make each part of your bicycle run smoothly, as they grind against each other and face the elements during daily use.

There are many bicycle grease products available on the market, with some performing better than others. The products that we suggested above are, in our opinion, the best that are available on the market today.

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