We've grown numb to most chain lube manufacturers' heady boasts but the new Chain-L N°5 'High Mileage Formula' actually seems to work as advertised.
Chain-L makes no claims to be 'clean' or 'dry', instead using a straightforward mineral oil base plus a proprietary mix of high-pressure lubricating additives that are solely chosen to reduce friction – nothing more and nothing less – and the result is an eerily quiet-running and smooth-feeling drivetrain that dry lubes simply can't match.
Our first proper test session was an 80km road ride in Belgium where even intermittent showers and unrelenting road spray rain wouldn’t wash the Chain-L off our drivetrain. Two days later we took the same bike out again for another few hours – without reapplying any oil – and to our surprise, the chain was still running smoothly and quietly.
Back on home soil, we've gone upwards of several hundred road kilometres (dry ones, thankfully!) on a single application and even managed consecutive days of mountain biking in bone-dry Arizona and Moab, Utah's brutally fine, powdery grit – again, without having to reapply for two or three days, which is a veritable lifetime in those conditions.
We did eventually find one weakness in Chain-L's impressive armour, though: just a couple of hours of especially wet and sandy trail riding pounded the lube into oblivion. But to be fair, virtually every other product we've sampled in similar conditions would have suffered a similar fate.
Chain-L creator Francis Bollag says one of the key features of his lube is the rather high viscosity and stringy, sticky consistency, which is better able to stay put inside the chain's rollers where it belongs. Bollag admits it's a similar tactic to that used by Phil's Tenacious Oil, only his formula isn't quite as thick and stringy so it more readily seeps into small crevices.
As a result, it doesn't quite get quite as filthy as that legendary green stuff but still has the potential to be quite messy if you simply slop it on your chain and head out, so apply it a bit more sparingly, let it seep into the rollers for an hour or so and then wipe off the excess (the proper method for any wet lube).
Follow those guidelines and a Chain-L-treated chain actually stays reasonably clean, and when it comes time for a proper degreasing, it strips more readily than wax-based lubes, too.
At US$12 for a 4oz bottle, Chain-L certainly isn't cheap. But we've barely even gone through a tiny 1oz sample bottle on three different bikes in two months so it still strikes us as very economical over the long run.