Grease is the Word!
As much as lubing your chain is a contentious subject on which everyone has an anecdote and opinion, grease is also something which every cyclist should have, but disagreement is rife even among the professionals.
When I started work at the bike shop, I asked to be supplied with a couple of specific greases, one for bearings, another for forks, and a third for pawls/ratchets.
Grease is usually a crude based oil suspended in a soap which acts as the thickening agent. In effect grease acts much as a bearing under pressure, especially under shear pressure. It fulfils two equally important roles, to lubricate the moving parts and to prevent the ingress of contaminants into a semi sealed chamber. It is important to note the last part of that sentence, grease works well in a sealed environment, at least in the case of bicycles.
In my last blog post I talked about the emulsification of chain lube, forming that thick, black gunk on your chain – that gunk is essentially forming a grease – but, because it is external, its protection properties are severely compromised, it just collects more dirt and dust until eventually it seizes the moving parts.
For the purposes of servicing bikes, I tend to stick to three types of grease, each designed to serve a different purpose:
The first is a good bearing grease and it must both lubricate and slow the ingress of water and dirt. In all my services, when re-lubricating bearings, I use the distinctive blue Mobil XHP222, a thin marine grease. It is thin enough not to create excessive friction, which translates into drag, yet thick enough to slow the ingress of water. It is good to use in pivot, headset, wheel and bottom bracket bearings.
The second is a good shear grease, especially for axles, I use Red Rubber grease which provides excellent lubricant properties. It is “stickier” than XHP so is better used in more open applications, such as the crank shaft, it is also vegetable based so unlikely to make seals swell. I also use it on pawls sparingly as thin applications protect the pawls but allow almost friction free movement.
Thirdly, a good suspension grease is essential for, err, suspension. I use RSP or Slick Honey on suspension seals as the have a very high oil to soap ratio. They are thin, slippery greases, designed to squeeze between the rubber seals with the minimum of friction.
The only other grease I would use on a bike is anti-seize on the threads, my favourite is copper slip (coppa-slip), which can also be used on the rear of brake pads and the contact points between saddle and seatpost.
The other glaring omission is assembly grease, however, they’re pretty generic basic greases used to prevent oxidisation bonding except, of course, in the case of carbon fibre friendly grip compounds, which aren’t greases at all.
I should point out that theses are the greases I usually use, there may be better, there will be worse, but, for quality vs price, these are always the greases I recommend.