Dumonde Chain Lube 18-Month UpdateJan Heine
Long-distance gravel races put extreme demands on chain lubes. Wide and often knobby tires throw up a lot of dust, and the bikes are usually not equipped with fenders to keep that dust off the chain. Adding to the challenge are creek crossings where the chain gets submerged. Repeat for 24 hours or even longer, and you’re asking a lot from your chain lube.
During the really long races, many riders carry small bottles of lube that they reapply to their chains during resupply stops. Above is Lael Wilcox on the way to winning Unbound XL a few years ago. It was Lael who recommended Dumonde Tech chain lube: “The only stuff that works.” Between that recommendation and my own experience with this lube when I was racing in the rainy Pacific Northwest, we started to carry Dumonde Tech in the Rene Herse program a little over a year ago.
There have been some memorable rides and races since then, so it’s a good time for a quick update. Unlike Lael, I rarely carry chain lube on my rides. But I also hate a squeaky chain as much as most cyclists. For last year’s big events, I took a little extra care in applying Dumonde Tech to our chains: As recommended by the manufacturer, I first degreased the chains of both Rene Herses for Unbound XL (Mark’s bike and mine). Well, at least I tried: The sticky rust-protection lubricant SRAM applies to its chains is hard to get off. I rinsed the chains with water to remove the degreaser, let the chains dry, and reinstalled them. I applied Dumonde Tech, then immediately rode each bike for ten minutes to distribute the lubricant. The idea is that the lube coats the bearing surfaces of the chain links with polymers to form a durable plating. As recommended, I repeated this one more time before we headed to Unbound XL.
That’s a lot of effort. Well, at least for somebody whose bikes usually require almost zero maintenance: It took about 15 minutes for both bikes combined (plus the time for letting the chains dry). If that is what it takes to avoid hours of riding with a squeaky chain…
Calling 2022 Unbound XL a severe test for bikes and riders alike would be an understatement. There wasn’t just the creek crossing early in the race (top photo) that could have washed all the lube off our chains, resulting in a squeaky ride all night. However, our chain remained silent. The next morning, torrential rain for hours turned the roads into a muddy quagmire. (Above is Kevin Fettes battling the road conditions on Hurricane Ridge tires.)
At the finish, bikes and the lower halves of the riders were covered in mud, but our chains were still turning happily and quietly. A quick wash with soap and water, some new lube, and they were ready to go again. They hadn’t even worn measurably during the 25-hour ordeal.
Dumonde offers two different lubes. Their ‘Original’ formula is intended for wet conditions, and that’s what I used for Unbound XL. For the Arkansas High Country Race, I used the same chain that Mark had ridden in Unbound XL, but applied some more lube. (There’s no need to degrease the chain again.) This time, I used the ‘Lite’ formula with a lighter concentration of polymers that is intended for dry conditions. There wasn’t going to be much mud in Arkansas, but it’s very dusty.
As I traversed the rocky and dusty trail of the Arkansas High Country, my chain remained silent for almost 40 hours of racing. Then it started to squeak a little. Apparently dust presents an even bigger challenge to the chain lube than mud. This makes sense: Dry dust draws the lube out of the chain through capillary action. I was just a few hours from the finish, so I continued without worrying about the dry chain.
After these races, plus many adventures and rides in the Cascade Mountains, do we agree with Lael’s assessment that Dumonde Tech is the best chain lube available today? Yes, absolutely—at least among the dozen or so we’ve tried. Forty hours and more than 400+ miles of dusty racing is pretty good for a chain lube. If your race or adventure is longer or even more demanding, you’ll want to carry some spare lube.
To make that easier, we now offer Dumonde Tech in a 0.5 oz (15 ml) trial bottle (above). It weighs just 17 g (full) and fits into any bag—perfect for carrying on your ride. Combined, all the tools shown above weigh less than what remains of the chocolate bar.
By the way, the standard Dumonde Tech bottle holds 2 oz (60 ml), and if you aren’t concerned about space and weight, it’s easy to carry, too. Dumonde also offers larger bottles, but unless you are a shop that’s lubricating hundreds of chains a month, you don’t need it. A little lube goes a long way.
We don’t expect to sell a lot of Dumonde Tech chain lube: Once you get a bottle, it’ll last for many years. And if you’ve got a chain lube you like, by all means continue to use it. But if, like us, you’ve been looking for a better lube, that bottle of Dumonde Tech can make the difference between a squeaky chain or a silent drivetrain on a rainy ride.
Photo credits: Linda Guerrette (Photos 1, 3), Rugile Kaladyte (Photo 2), Kai Caddy (Photo 5)