Anyone who’s turned a wrench in a bike shop has seen their fair share of gunky chains, often resulting from well-intentioned fathers who figured that WD-40 would fix their kid’s squeaky chain. A couple years ago, the California company decided to commit to bike-specific products, and from what we found, they’ve come a long way from the blue spray can.
WD-40 has been producing their original formula lubricant/solvent for more than 50 years. It’s ubiquitous. You’ll see the company’s classic shield logo on NASCAR stock cars — heck, even prolific rapper Lil’ Wayne references WD-40 in his lyrics (give his latest studio album a close listen if you like scavenger hunts).
So, how does an iconic company break into a niche industry that has always been wary of the original WD-40 product? They offer a comprehensive arsenal of lube and cleaner, tested on cyclocross tracks throughout North America.
WD-40 offers two solutions to cut the mud and grime: Heavy Duty Degreaser and Foaming Wash. The former is a fairly viscous, biodegradable solution, presumably citrus-based, judging by its aroma. (A spokesperson for WD-40 Bike has informed us that its “degreaser and foaming wash contain no citrus, no solvents, no added colors. Citrus can degrade a clear coat and delicate carbon and plastic componentry, and was purposefully left out of our formulas.” —Ed.)
We generally prefer lighter, more fluid degreaser, because it quickly penetrates and coats chains, cogs and derailleurs. WD-40’s degreaser is a bit too gel-like for our tastes. Once diluted, it was easier to brush onto the drivetrain.
The diluted degreaser is effective, but we found it to lack some of the punch of Park Tool’s Citrus Chainbrite solvent. The tenacious grime that accumulates on road bike drivetrains requires some elbow grease to dislodge.
Once you’ve cleaned and rinsed your drivetrain, it’s time to break out the Foaming Wash — that’s a tip, by the way. If you do the chain last, you’re going to splatter your bike with a greasy mix of chain grime and solvent.
The Foaming Wash is a convenient way to clean off dust and dirt. If you have time and inclination, you can hose down the bike, spray the wash, scrub it down with a bottle brush, then rinse. If you’re working indoors, touching up the frame or just plain lazy, you can use the spray by itself without untangling the hose.
We love the Foaming Wash. It’s a one-stop option for cleaning everything besides the drivetrain. However, it came in an aerosol spray can instead of the Windex-style plunger. It will sound pathetic, but after a big day of riding, we had to suffer through a fair bit of arm pump and fatigue as we sprayed down the bike with cleaner. I guess we need to lift more often.
Don’t trust anyone who tells you that the same lube works for both wet and dry conditions. A dusty ride in Moab has entirely different demands, as compared to those faced on greasy New England singletrack. So WD-40 offers both dry and wet lube.
Throughout the Colorado summer, we primarily employed the Dry Lube. It’s tricky to strike the balance between a solution that repels dust but lasts longer than a couple rides. We’ve ridden some dry lubes that require re-application after as little as two or three moderate road rides.
WD-40’s Dry Lube provided weeks of no-worries service on the road and about one week of trail riding before reapplication. It’s most effective when you give it a chance to dry after you wipe the excess off your chain. Naturally, there are limits to the formula’s durability. Off-road rides that were sprinkled with stream crossings were a bit too much for the dry formula.
When we anticipated mixed conditions, the Wet Lube was reliable and durable. Eventually, we started using this product on our mountain bike chains exclusively, and although it attracts a bit more dust and sand, the extra peace of mind was worth the compromise.
The Wet Lube doesn’t offer the same bulletproof mud resistance as a layer of grease — that’s a go-to trick pro mechanics employ in the worst conditions. But we used the WD-40 Wet Lube on one very muddy day of cyclocross earlier this fall and it held its own. It is on par with one of the benchmarks of wet-conditions lubes, Pedro’s Syn Lube.
In addition to cleaning and lubing your bike, WD-40 offers a polish, not unlike Pedro’s Bike Lust, called Frame Protectant. However, instead of being applied as a spray, the protectant is a heavy cream, which needs to be squeezed onto a rag and then wiped onto the frame.
This application method is a bit annoying, especially compared to the ease of a spray application. But it does a great job once it’s on the frame.
It helps glossy frames look dazzling and down the road, your bike is actually much easier to clean off, thanks to the slippery sheen that comes from regular applications of the Protectant.
Pros: Solid products, notably the chain lubes and frame cleaner. Affordable pricing.
Cons: Cleaner would be better as an aerosol; polish would be easier if you could spray it. Degreaser is a bit too thick for our preferences.
The Bottom Line: Every once in awhile, we see a sticker at the trailhead that announces, “WD-40 Is Not Lube.” Indeed, it is now way more than just that. The company now offers a variety of products not packaged in blue spray cans. Most of it exceeds our needs for bike maintenance.
Heavy Duty Degreaser (20 oz.): $15
Foaming Wash (1 l.): $14
Dry or Wet Lube (4 oz.): $9
Frame Protectant (8 oz.): $14