White lithium grease: it’s cheap, easy to find, and has a large number of uses. You might already have a tub of it on a shelf in your garage. (Look next to the WD-40.)

Much like with WD-40, people are wondering if it works on their bikes.

“Is white lithium grease good for bicycles?”

A reader writes in:

Hi, is white lithium grease a good idea for bicycles? And can you use it for cables?

Walt Litman

White lithium grease works on bikes

Hi Walt,

White lithium grease is fine for bikes. You can use it to grease your seatpost, grease the threads on your pedals, and even pack it into your bearings.

It might not have any special additives or sales gimmicks like popular bicycle grease, but it does the job, and it’s cheap.

The main reason I don’t use it more often is due to how it turns an ugly brown color over time. I will happily pay more for a green, blue, or pink grease that maintains its color.

Better grease for bicycles

If you only have a few bikes to maintain, a small container of bicycle-specific grease will last you for years. In my opinion, that’s a better purchase than a big tub of white lithium grease.

I highly recommend Phil Wood grease. It works well for all applications. It’s also dark green so it blends in with most parts and doesn’t discolor over time.

But you can get good quality grease from Park Tool, Shimano, Rock N Roll, and others. Expect to pay $10-15 for a small tube.

The best value is going to be marine grease. Marine grease is made to hold up in harsh marine environments, preventing rust without washing out. It is more than capable of handling muddy mountain bike trails, water crossings, and rainy rides. And it’s usually red, green, or blue. All of this for a price comparable to white lithium grease!

Seriously, you can get a giant tube of marine grease for under $10. There’s actually a WD-40 Specialist Marine-Grade Grease. You can find it at your local auto parts store, tractor store, or boat shop, or of course you can order from Amazon.

When not to use white lithium grease

White lithium grease and marine grease are both capable of greasing metal-to-metal contact points (like threaded fasteners) and bearings (like your hubs or headset). But there are a couple places where you should not be using grease.

Don’t use grease on cables.

I wouldn’t use white lithium grease for cables, as it could do more harm than good. Putting any sort of grease on cables will attract dirt, so it might feel smoother at first, but performance will get worse than it was in the first place.

For lubing cables I would use a very light oil or a teflon dry lube. Something like Boeshield T9 is excellent. Or ProLink chain lube – it works on nearly everything. There is also a cable-specific lube from Rock N Roll called Cable Magic that is really good.

*Just remember, don’t use any type of lube on teflon-coated cables, because it will just interfere with the lube that is already there. Teflon cables should be left dry, while regular stainless steel cables can be lubed lightly.

Don’t use grease on your chain.

There are two big problems with putting grease on your chain.

First, grease is too thick to get deep down into the pins and rollers of the chain. And you need chain lube inside the chain, not coating the outside.

Second, that layer of grease will be readily exposed to the elements. It will collect so much dust and dirt, and then as you pedal, the grease will transport that grit all through your drivetrain.

It will be a mess and your drivetrain will need replaced sooner than necessary.

So, use something that actually says “chain lube” on the bottle!

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