SMOOVE UNIVERSAL CHAIN LUBE
Long-term test part one: Winter
125 ml 141g £13.99
The Smoove Universal Chain Lube is, according to the manufacturer, “Probably the hardest wearing wax chain-lube on the market”. Admittedly, wax types are primarily intended for dry, arid conditions, where you want to collect minimal grime. However, the past month or so (500 miles) has been anything but. Snow, sleet, waterlogged, dung-basted roads, with salt thrown in for good measure …
This is another of the pour ’n’ leave to cure petrochemical blends that emerges from the spout with a runny, milky consistency. This ensures it will penetrate and, moreover, coat the chain’s intimate moving parts.
Unlike most of this genre, it’s not designed to cure and scab off - at least not in big chunks, which might explain longevity. Rather, the top layer traps dirt, grit and similar contaminant. This prevents it working into the chain and ultimately, becoming a ruthlessly efficient grinding paste.
Having got recipient chains dinner plate clean, whether using solvent soaked rags, chain bath, or a degreaser jelly , such as Green Oil’s Degreaser Jelly, park bike(s) outside. Shake the Smoove bottle briefly and drizzle a little into each link, keeping a clean rag beneath to catch any spatter as you gently turn the cranks.
The creamy texture means it’s very obvious where you have/n’t applied.
Given the wintry weather, I gave fixed and derailleur chains two middling helpings. In keeping with loads of other petrochemical blends these days, there’s a curing period. Before you all click away in droves, it’s good to go in an hour.
Calling their bluff, I took this route with my rough stuff tourer. Applied and excess dismissed outside, I whipped it into the hall, had breakfast and caught up with some diesel strength coffee. By contrast, that delivered to my fixed’s chain was left overnight - a full eight hours.
Coming from using more traditional waxy formula, I was initially surprised by the tacky tenacity and the speed at which the chain was cultivating a grimy patina. Something I thought must’ve been the result of minimal curing period and the mercury registering minus 2. Nonetheless, friction was minimal and shifting slick.
Five miles from home, on our formative 25 mile loop, I became conscious of that unnerving bob, synonymous with a slow flat.
Whipping out the rear wheel, the chain was still very tacky, transferring an oily looking patina to my gloves (these washed clean at 40 degrees). Thorn purged, tube replaced and wheel reinstated, I was pleasantly surprised by how much lube still remained on the chain.
Subsequent outings were mixed terrain, with plenty of long grass and unmade dirt roads. That familiar metal on metal tinkle kicked in after 120 miles, which doesn’t sound that impressive compared with a wet/ceramic blend such as Weldtite TF2 Extreme Wet or Nasty Lube Siberian. However, unlike these, it required minimal maintenance. I’ve been happy enough to leave it be. Pleased to report that regularly sudsy bucket bike washing also made negligible impression.
Rule of thumb suggests re-applying once you’ve stripped the chain of any congealed debris, although if you’ve run it through to a filmy state, a clean rag rub down should suffice. Really shiny electroplated, or indeed stainless, chains have encouraged some premature dispersal to the side plates.
Nonetheless, I’ve been exposing ours to waterlogged lanes, freezing conditions and those regular bike washings. Even with these variables in mind, I’ve only needed to top up after 130 miles. The best I’ve ever had from an emulsion type in similar contexts was 80 miles, most struggled to 60.
£13.99 for a modest bottle of lube is hardly small change and, yes, chainsaw oils are brilliant, cheap as chips substitutes … but, comparing like with like, it is still quite pricey, in terms of miles per application, pitted against Motorex Dry, or Rock 'n’ Roll Absolute Dry. Dare I mention some clean ceramics, including Fenwick’s Stealth.
However, it’s important to remember that I’ve been testing Smoove universal chain lube in some extremely harsh conditions. Getting a chain lube to perform universally well throughout is an extremely tall order.
I’ve certainly enjoyed using Smoove’s universal chain lube. If waxy lubes are your thing and you want one that stands a sporting chance of staying put, during filthy weather, it’s worth considering. That said; it faces stiff competition from similarly clean, petrochemicals with smaller price tags.