Maintenance is the key to prolonging the lifespan of your bicycle. Therefore, one of the most common questions when it comes to maintaining a bicycle is how often it needs to be greased.
If you are cycling in dry weather conditions, you should grease the bearings once a year. However, if you are often cycling in heavy rain, greasing the bearings every 3 to 6 months is a much better bet. The seat post should also be greased at least twice a year, as well as threads on your pedals.
Many different factors can impact the frequency of when grease should be reapplied. Therefore, in today’s article we’re going to cover everything you need to know about greasing your bike’s components.
Bicycle Components That Should be Greased
First off, keep in mind that greasing and lubricating are two different things. Grease is mainly reserved for internal components, while lubricant is applied to components exposed to the elements. The main purpose of grease is to keep essential components moving and prevent them from seizing up, especially areas with metal-on-metal contact, like the following:
The most important components when it comes to greasing a bicycle are the bearings. The main reason bicycle bearings need grease is to reduce friction. Bearings allow your bike’s moving parts (like the bottom bracket, headset and pivot points in the suspension) to move freely through their travel, but they experience a tremendous amount of friction.
Therefore, applying grease here is essential for keeping things rolling smoothly. Grease is very thick and sticky, so dirt can easily attach. However, as bearings are not exposed to the elements, this isn’t an issue like it is for parts to which you apply lubricant (like the chain). Still, apply grease sparingly; there’s no benefit to overdoing it.
The seat post can also benefit from the application of a light layer of grease. This will help prevent your non-dropper seat post from sticking in the seat tube, which can be annoying if you frequently adjust your seat height during a ride. If you own a dropper seat post, this won’t be an issue, but greasing the external post that clamps into the seat tube can still be beneficial.
Just remember, with a dropper seat post you want to grease the outer post housing, not the internal post that slides up and down within the housing. Greasing the latter can introduce dirt and grime into the post’s seals…something you definitely don’t want.
Greasing certain bolt threads before tightening them is also very important. This includes your pedal spindles and your bottom bracket (if it’s threaded as opposed to a press-fit). A thin layer of grease here can prevent them from seizing up, which makes them very difficult to remove.
Grease should not be applied to every thread however. Consider the threaded screws that hold your brakes onto your handlebars, or your bars to your stem. These are threaded screws we definitely do not want to loosen while riding. A thread lock compound is a better choice for these components.
When it comes to threads, if it should move freely while riding, apply grease. If it shouldn’t, use thread lock instead.
How Often to Grease Bicycle Components
Different bicycle components require different greasing schedules. However, factors such as the quality of the grease, the weather conditions, and the environment can have a significant impact on how often the components should be greased.
For example, bike bearings should be greased once a year. However, if you are constantly cycling on debris-covered terrain or in bad weather conditions, you should grease them every 6 months or sooner. When it comes to the seat post, you can apply grease a few times a year, or whenever you notice it starting to stick in the seat tube.
Threaded bolts don’t need to be greased more often than once a year if you ride in dry weather conditions. Any time you change out or clean your pedals, make sure to remove the old grease and reapply a thin layer of clean grease to keep the spindles moving smoothly.
How Long Bicycle Grease Lasts (When Stored)
If you have found an old tube of grease in your garage and are wondering whether it’s a good idea to use it or not, first make sure to check for an expiration date, as most manufacturers place them on these products. If the grease is stored properly, it should last to its expiration date and beyond.
Keep in mind that the oils in grease will start separating from the solid additives over time. Most of the time, this separation happens because the grease has been stored in a hot environment. This would make the grease unsuitable for use.
However, as long as you are able to mix the grease back into its proper consistency and it doesn’t look to be contaminated with any dirt or debris particles, the grease should perform just fine.
Do Some Components Need to be Greased More Frequently?
While the seat post can be greased more frequently if it is constantly getting stuck in the seat tube, the bearings shouldn’t be greased more than 4 times a year. Over greasing the bearings could significantly decrease their lifespan.
If you use too much grease in your bike bearings, the grease will begin to clog the moving parts. This increases friction, which can then increase the temperature in these components (the exact opposite of what grease is supposed to do) and cause excessive wear.
No matter how diligent you are at greasing your bike’s components at the proper intervals, it’s beneficial to do an annual inspection of your bike, especially before riding season. Take apart, deep clean and re-grease all the components that require it. This also allows you to inspect your bike for hidden damage so you can get things repaired before any serious issues occur.
Should a Bicycle Chain be Greased?
One of the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to your chain is greasing it. Grease should only be used for components that aren’t exposed to the elements. Once you grease the chain, it will spread all over the chainring and cassette as well. The grease attract excessive amounts of dirt and debris that will make the chain, chainring, and cassette wear out much faster.
Attributes That Bicycle Grease Should Have
Greases are used when liquid lubricants and oils are not appropriate. However, there are certain attributes grease needs to have in order to perform well when applied to the components of a bicycle.
Wide Temperature Range
If you are looking for high-quality grease, aim for products that can function properly in a temperature range of -20 to +80 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want the grease to become liquid at high temperatures or too thick at low temperatures.
Grease is oxidation and corrosion-resistant. This is important because it will be applied to areas of your bike that can be easily damaged by oxidation or corrosion. Even though bearings are rarely exposed to the outside environment, it’s always possible for dirt and debris to work their way in and start to break down the metals. Grease helps prevent intrusion so your components stay clean.
Another important factor is water resistance. High-quality grease should have some level of water resistance. Even if components are sealed against the elements, water can always find a way inside. Grease helps keep water out and your parts rust-free, which is essential for extending their lifespan.