Whether you set up to Zwift in your living room, kitchen, den, or spare bedroom, remember to bring along an easily overlooked ingredient: proper chain lube. Squirt (or otherwise apply) the right substance for indoor training and you needn’t worry about covering up your new pain cave, short of a stabilizing and sweat-catching mat placed under your trainer and bicycle. Use the wrong lubricant, however, and you could face some clean-up. On a Zwifter’s floor, grease can land several feet from the trainer.
“That’s one of those difficult things with indoor training,” says Derek Goltz, who oversees marketing and social media for Hauppauge, New York-based lubricant company Finish Line Technologies, Inc. “It can leave stuff around that you’d never see while riding in an outdoor environment.” Stuff, says Goltz, originating from your chain.
Quick lubricant lesson: Chain lubricants essentially come in three categories. Unlike the name says, “dry lubes,” explains Goltz, are frequently petroleum-based. While dry lubes often feature additives that aid in shielding a chain from dirt, these lubricants still aren’t completely dry. They often form a light paste, and they’re designed to pull dirt and dust off your chain by ultimately being slung from your drivetrain as you pedal. The technology works impressively when you’re riding outdoors.
“But indoors they can make grease bombs,” says Goltz.
“Wet lube” chain lubricants are best for enduring protection in muddy or stormy conditions. Never use them for Zwifting—even in a downpour on the London course.
The superior chain-lube option for indoor training, says Goltz, is a “traditional” wax lubricant. “It sets up nice and hard—imagine a block of paraffin wax,” he says. “It won’t grab any chain grease, and all that you’ll have to clean up are pieces similar to the wax shavings you’d find from a candle. Easy to deal with.”
“Walk into your local bike shop and ask for a traditional wax lubricant,” says Goltz.
Goltz also recommends that you take some other steps before adding a coating of new wax lubricant. In short, you’ll first want to degrease, clean, and dry your chain, and ideally your entire drivetrain (which includes chainrings, cassette gears, and rear-derailleur jockey wheels). Luckily our friends at Global Cycling Network offer some excellent step-by-step video instruction.
Sounds harder than earning Zwift’s “Tron” bike? Once your drivetrain is properly cleaned and lubed, maintaining the chain on your Zwifting bike can be about as easy as coasting. Goltz says that Zwift athletes riding four times weekly will likely get two weeks of riding between applications, and that wax coatings generally last longer for those who ride less. When the chain squeaks, only the roller areas and pins require more wax—no need to coat every last part.
Best of all, more consistent use of a wax lubricant leaves your Zwift bike’s chain ever cleaner. Stick with wax, and ultimately the day comes when your drivetrain is literally grime-free. Go ahead, grab that chain! Let it graze your leg! You can’t get greasy if you try.