If you’re reading this you probably ride a bike. If you ride a bike it probably has a chain requiring some sort of lubrication to keep the thing from sounding like the neighbor kids huffy. The chain lube selection at your local bike shop can be somewhat overwhelming; wet, dry, synthetic, graphite… the list of options goes on and on. One choice that’s popping up more and more is some sort of “eco friendly” or “bio” lube.
Hey… Lube Guy!
I recently ran into bike lube guru Mark Lowenstern, the man behind Yelo Velo bike lubes, doing support at the Donner Lake Triathlon a few weeks ago. Mark was giving me the “skinny” on his line-up of lubes that take the moniker of “green, eco friendly and bio” to the next level.
The big deal behind Yelo Velo lubes is the fact that they can claim “Ultimate Bio-Degradable.” “Bio-degradable” simply means that a product will eventually bio-degrade… like your shoes or even your bike! “Ultimate Bio-Degradable” means that a product has to transform into 60% carbon dioxide and water within 28 days of exposure. I like that. I also like the fact that the lube is void of petroleum, polyalphaolefins and other harmful chemicals since I’m a greasy handed bike mechanic more than I’m a hack journalist.
Hearing this I was worried that my bottle of chain lube would dry up or congeal like salad dressing but Mark claims the shelf life on the lube is better than that of petroleum based product when kept in a stored container.
Mark says the lubes are essentially a mixture of oils from up to 3 different types of plants. The oils from each plant are unique and contain properties that lend themselves to handle an individual job when it comes to lubing the chain on your bike. One oil handles the task of adhesion, another oil takes care of corrosion resistance and a third aids in durability. Two of the lubes — Millky White & Xtra Dry- have ceramic powder added to them for the lowest possible frictional coefficient .
Put a check mark next to the box labeled “Made in the USA.” The plant oils used in Yelo Velo lube are both grown and mixed in the mid-west. The lube is then shipped in bulk to Sacramento where it’s put in 2oz and 4oz bottles for distribution and sale to folks like you and me for $9 to $12 a bottle.
The Lube Lineup
Milky White: This is your general purpose, most conditions lube. Akin to an “all temp” ski wax, Milky White is the go-to lube when the trail conditions are variable. The lube is a mix of ceramic powder and 3 different types of plant oils (which Mark claims are “top secret”). I’ve used this lube on my mountain bike quite a bit so far this year. I’ve noticed that the lube does indeed last quite a while, letting me enjoy long rides (4+ hours) without having to re-lube. I’m also impressed with its ability to handle some water crossings without washing off.
Nasty Wet: When the trail turns sloppy this lube really works! Mark won’t tell you which plant contains what properties, but he must have quite a bit of the one labeled “adhesion” in this lube. I used the Nasty Wet this year racing at The Downieville Classic which was indeed both nasty AND wet, and can attest that the lube’s name matches its intended riding conditions. I couldn’t believe that my chain sounded and felt as good as it did after what the bikes were put through on course this year. I could also see this lube being the ultimate commuter bike lube in the wet season.
X-Tra Dry: If your rides typically end with dusty shins and dried boogers, this just might be the lube for you. This lube contains ceramic powder to aid in lubrication. The ceramic powder is carried by corn alcohol which penetrates deep into pivots and then dries leaving the ceramic to do the job of lubrication. I honestly haven’t had a chance to test this lube extensively enough to give an honest opinion, but if it’s anything like the Milky White or Nasty Wet it’s sure to please. I’ve heard a couple of other mechanics praising the X-Tra Dry’s ability to penetrate pivots and free up sticky or otherwise frozen components.
I’ll give it a solid stamp of “Darn Good.” The lube is reasonably priced, made in America and offered in 3 styles to handle a full spectrum of lubing requirements to match your trail conditions.