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Every so often a new lube claims to be the elixir of chain life, offering cleaner/smoother/longer-lasting running with no downsides. Wolf Tooth's WT-1 Chain Lube may be the first I've tried that really delivers everything I want from it – and quite a bit more besides.
WT-1 is not just a lube, apparently – it's 'premium synthetic drivetrain treatment.' Wolf Tooth says it was developed because it wanted a product to maximise the life of its transmission products – the company produces over 300 different chainrings. Not being oily types, Wolf Tooth did it in partnership with SCC Tech, and if you hunt around you'll find this same stuff as SCC Slick All Conditions Bike Chain Lubricant.
It's a blue-green liquid that's thick enough to apply sparingly, one link at a time. There's no need to remove old lube first, but I started with a freshly-degreased drivetrain anyway, because I wanted to see exactly what this does differently.
Once applied you can run the chain through the transmission a couple of dozen times, or go for a short ride. This allows the 'detergent-like' component to get to work. After this, a wipe with a 'micro-cloth' brings off a remarkable amount of black gunk – so much so, I found it hard to imagine any lubricant being left behind. However, on the next ride the chain ran impressively quietly and smoothly.
After around 120 miles of 'ride and wipe,' the amount of dirt coming off was much reduced. What's really impressive, for me at least, is that the black dirt comes off so easily; no solvents involved, just the cloth. It wipes just as easily from chainring and sprocket teeth as it does from the chain.
In a blasé kind of way, Wolf Tooth suggests you reapply 'once every 400 miles.' I lost my nerve and reapplied after the next ride (around 160 miles), but I don't believe it made any difference. What I did find was that, after each subsequent wipe, the chain took on a pleasing lustre, like polished pewter.
After that, I didn't apply it again for the next 200 miles, at which point I found the chain wear was past its replacement point. Looking at my Strava records I'd run up 3,400 miles on that chain, so it was on borrowed time and I don't think the WT-1 had resulted in excessive wear.
If you take quiet running as a proxy for low wear (noise = friction = wear), this seems a very effective lubricant.
In the meantime, the dry summer conditions had given way and, on a ride back from watching the Tour of Britain make its way out of Weardale towards Allendale, I got caught in torrential rain.
It was like being in a car wash. I had to pull over because I couldn't see where I was going. The roads flooded, I was soaked through from head to foot, and the spray from the wheels must have utterly doused the transmission; but I put the bike away after another good wipe down and, next time I rode, the chain still looked good. No traces of surface corrosion.
Is there anything not to like? You have to add on the price of a soon-to-be-filthy microfibre cloth to the lubricant. There's nothing to stop you using an ordinary rag, but Wolf Tooth recommends the synthetic fibre and I found it was soon covered. On the other hand, the amount of degreaser required is reduced pretty much to zero, as all you need to do is re-apply the WT-1 and wipe.
The last wonder-lube I reviewed for road.cc was Smoove Universal Chain Lube, which more than lived up to expectations for long-life running. However, I found it soon turned the transmission grey with residue, and needed solvents to get it off. Over the winter I stopped using it because it left the chain outer plates exposed to road salt – while the resulting corrosion was generally superficial, I don't want an orange chain.
WT-1, being American, comes in a fluid half-ounce bottle (15ml) at £7, or a two-ounce bottle for £19. According to Wolf Tooth that's 20g and 64g, but that includes the bottle... nevertheless, at £15 for 125ml (or just over 4floz), Smoove is easily less than half the price.
On the other hand, other lubes allegedly cutting-edge lubes also come up expensive. Recently Mike Stead tested Silca Synergetic Drip Lube and that, at £32 for a 64g bottle, is getting on for twice the price of WT-1. And while Mike really frothed about the performance, it sounds like its doing a very similar job to WT-1.
Also, we can (and do) argue about the price of lubricants, but with top-end cassettes costing hundreds of pounds – if you can get them at all! – whether a drop of lube costs a penny or five pence seems an irrelevance.
WT-1 ticks all the boxes for me: it's easy to use, long-lasting, weather-resistant and – perhaps best of all – makes your transmission really easy to keep clean.
Last well and performs impressively – especially if you value a clean transmission
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Wolf Tooth WT-1 All Conditions Chain Lube
Size tested: 20fl oz
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Wolf Tooth says: "WT-1 Chain Lube is a premium synthetic lubricant and drivetrain treatment for all conditions. It will clean and protect chains, while optimizing chain lubrication for peak performance. As a synthetic lubricant, WT-1 improves the mechanical efficiency of your drivetrain while lasting 3-5x longer than other chain lubes. As a chain treatment, WT-1 cleans your chain by pushing dirt to the surface where it can be wiped away, then protects your chain in all conditions so you can ride longer between applications."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Available in 2.0fl oz (59ml) and 0.5fl oz (15ml) bottles
Ease of use is important in selecting a chain lubricant and chain treatment. The complete application process of WT-1 Chain Lube takes about 10 minutes and there is no need to clean your chain before getting started.
Here's how to begin using WT-1 Chain Lube:
Shake bottle of WT-1 for 30 seconds. A ball bearing is present in every bottle to help mix things up.
Apply one drop to each roller of your chain. We recommend applying WT-1 Chain Lube to the top side of your chain between your derailleur and chainring, just in front of that lower pulley wheel.
Backpedal 20-30 times. This helps WT-1 Chain Lube find its way between all the pieces of your chain.
Wait 5-10 minutes. Pretty simple.
Wipe chain with microfibre cloth until it appears clean with a light sheen. It'll look extra dirty at first, then it will clear up as you wipe away that dirt.
Ride your bike. Reapply at least once every 400 miles.
It's done everything Wolf Tooth claims, so far.
As good as any long-lasting chain lubricant I've used, with much reduced mess.
Extended periods between applications make it more economical than the price suggests.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
If there are any failings or drawbacks, I have yet to uncover them.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Quiet and smooth running, easy to clean, long-lasting, easy to apply.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Rapidly gunks up the recommended microfibre cloths.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's expensive against general lubes, though usefully cheaper than some specialist concoctions – Silca's Synergetic Drip Lube is £32 for the same amount, while AbsoluteBlack's Graphenlube works out at £46 – the 155g bottle is a cool £114.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I'm usually a bit wary of claims for chain lubes that do it all, but this is very impressive. It makes for a smooth, quiet transmission, is quick and easy to use, and above all, it makes it very easy to keep the chain, cassette and chainrings clean.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,