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Tested: Wolf Tooth WT-1 Chain Lube

Chain lubes, there are so many of them out there! Here Dr Michael Hanslip takes a close look at WT-1 from Wolf Tooth.

I find it impossible to discuss why I like or dislike aspects of any particular chain lubricant without establishing some ground rules. 

If one wanted to wear out a chain as quickly as possible, one would squirt a liberal amount of sticky oil on the chain after every ride. Something like motor oil. The sticky part ensures that every speck of dust and grit that happens past the chain is locked onto the surface of the chain. The frequent reapplication guarantees that some of that grit is moved into the inside of the chain where the “action” happens. 

Grinding compound is, more or less, oil and grit. Exactly what this practice puts in the moving parts of the chain. 

When I worked in a shop, I saw customers doing this wear out a chain in only a few hundred kilometres. 

Self-cleaning lubes have a lot of positives but do require lots of chain wiping in between applications. 

Rule Number One: Never lubricate a dirty chain. 

If one is not permitted to use a basic oil, what are the options? 

Self-cleaning and dry lubes are the two main sorts of modern chain lubes. The recent action seems to be in wax lubes; a type of dry lube. The historical version of this saw a clean chain get immersed in molten paraffin. Paraffin dries to a shiny finish. No dirt sticking issues with paraffin. It is not, however, an optimal lubricant, doesn’t allow long intervals between applications nor provide extra chain lifespan. It ends up being very labour intensive. There are several hot-wax options available now that are far more advanced than plain paraffin. Hot waxing requires chain removal, which is sub-optimal for modern chains. 

Drip-wax lubes, and all dry lubes for that matter, use a carrier to wash the stuff inside the chain before the carrier evaporates. Once the carrier is gone, dirt retention is minimised. And in the best varieties the lubricant moves around inside the chain from the chain’s motion in use, allowing longer intervals between application and longer chain lifespan. 

The carrier fluid will still wash grit inside the chain on application as it did with the plain oil option. 

The Wolf Tooth WT-1 is available in two sizes – 15ml and 59ml.

Rule Number Two: Never lubricate a dirty chain. 

Self-cleaning lubes are like the Holy Grail for chains. If one part of the applied liquid cleans out dirt and the other part lubricates the chain, then one should have a permanently clean and lubricated chain with minimal labour. The hurdle is that the self-cleaning portion attacks the lubricating portion from the moment of application.

Some self-cleaning lubes I’ve tried were too biased towards the cleaning side of things resulting in short intervals between reapplication (and poor lubrication while it was at it). Others have gone too far towards the lubrication side and left the chain messy. 

Rule Number Three: Never lubricate a dirty chain.  

Wolftooth is the latest self-cleaning lubricant to make its way onto my bike chain. It comes in two bottle sizes. The 15ml bottle is for portability. The larger 59ml bottle serves as a workshop size. That the big one is very small is a reflection of how little Wolftooth suggests is required for each application. From an economic view, this stuff is good value.  

Wolftooth is an after-market parts and accessories manufacturer that produces over 300 variations of chainrings for the MTB, ‘cross and gravel markets. Their story is that they wanted to maximise the lifespan of their drivetrain products by offering an appropriate lubricant. They partnered with a lubrication specialist to develop something that satisfied this objective. 

I only had a short time for this review so I put the WT-1 on a MTB chain that required some lube and then rode it a lot over a couple of weeks to see how it went. I had been using a drip-wax lube on that bike already, making it quite clean to start with. I wiped it well before applying one drop of the blue-green liquid to each chain roller, and then back pedalled for a minute before I hung the bike back up on the wall. The next day I wiped the chain again to remove any WT-1 still on the outside of the chain links and took it for a ride. 

After each ride the chain got a thorough wiping to remove the efforts of the self-cleaning portion of the WT-1. It brings black stuff out from the inside of the chain as you ride, but it wipes away easily with a clean rag. 

High Praise

Across a half dozen rides and probably 20 hours of pedalling on trails that were half dusty and half muddy I gave the lube a decent test. It was good. The chain always wiped clean to bare metal. The chain was silent. Shifting was exemplary. 

I didn’t have enough time to explore the interval between reapplications, nor the impact on longevity of the drivetrain. It was, however, sufficient riding in harsh enough conditions to determine that it lasts approximately as long as the lubes I’ve liked in the past, and longer than many. Twenty hours off-road is good. It might take me six months to measure chain wear and get an idea of how WT-1 impacts that.

Wolftooth lubricant is an appealing option in a crowded market from a company that produces a lot of great products. More at www.scvimports.com.au.

You can find your local Wolf Tooth dealer at www.scvimports.com.au

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