If I tried to count on my fingers the number of times I’ve gone to a friend’s house to help them with a bike project, only to find that they don’t have any grease... I’d need a lot more hands. It’s gotten to the point that I just have mine in my bag ready to go, but some people seem to need a refresher on exactly why grease is so important – let’s do that now!
So you just got your new bike, you’re ready to ride, but your bike’s not. That’s ok, pop on a couple pedals, slide the seatpost in there and you’re good to go, right? Well, as long as you grease up.
When it comes to pedal installation, besides the obvious tricks, be sure to grease those threads up generously. A heaping helping of grease on the pedal spindle and the crank threads will help everything slide in smoothly and help you remove those pedals down the road once it’s time for a change.
Ditto for seatposts. If you’ve purchased a used bike or two, you’ve likely encountered a seatpost that is so seized in the frame, that there’s just no getting it out. That hassle can be avoided with a little grease during the install. Coat the seatpost and seattube generously, and everything will slide together smoothly (and slide apart easily once you’re ready for a change).
Basically, anytime you’re joining threaded surfaces on the bike, a little grease will go a long way toward making everything come together easily and come apart again down the road.
Disassemble any part that has bearings and (hopefully) you’ll find grease keeping everything spinning smoothly. Headsets, bottom brackets, hubs, etc… all lube their bearings and retainers with grease to keep everything buttery. Over time that old grease is washed out, and you’ll eventually need to re-up or risk shredding your bearings from the increased friction. Luckily, that same grease you use to lube your threads, can also pack your hubs! Just make sure to choose something waterproof and right for bikes.
Grease Vs. Lube
This seems to be the sticking point for most people. Grease = lube, right? Nope. Lubricants, like chain lube, are oils – liquid at room temperature, and awesome at reducing friction, but they won’t last long as it’s fairly easy for them to be washed away. Grease, on the other hand, is… well, grease. Solid at room temperature and longer lasting, it’s awesome at keeping threaded pieces turn-able and helping your bearing-loaded parts stay spinning, but it does attract dirt, grime, and gunk that makes it imperfect for exterior uses. That’s why you’ll find grease used on threads and internal components where the elements are less of an issue, and you use lube on external bits like chains, cogs, etc… If you were to grease up your chain, it’d spin really smoothly, but all the dirt and grit that would end up sticking to it would eventually grind you to a halt (and might grind through your components too).
Just be sure to have both in your tool box, and you’ll never have to worry. And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to leave the grease at home when I head over to a friend’s for some bike work!