Wickens & Soderstrom No.5 Drivetrain Lubricant is a thinnish lube that does a great job of keeping things quiet whilst being non-gunky and easy to clean off. That's about as good as chain lube gets.
After the efficacy of helmets and high-vis, whether or not red light jumping can ever be justified, and is it right to wear arm warmers without leg warmers, surely the most contentious subject in cycling is chain lubrication.
While some companies go to extraordinary lengths to back up claims with friction testing rigs and white papers, others just pop on a non-legally-binding description and hope for positive reviews. This is unfortunate because it's bred an inherent scepticism of all things slippery, with people arguing with religious fervor that their lube du jour is the true Messiah and the rest are just very naughty boys.
So with a completely unscientific, 100 per cent anecdotal hat on, we review the No.5 Drivetrain Lubricant.
W&S makes the obligatory claims that No.5 reduces friction, vibration and noise whilst also protecting from dirt/moisture and cleaning as it goes. It says it's 'non-harmful', which is nice; it certainly doesn't smell of anything. And it's made in Britain.
It comes in a 125ml bottle with one of those unscrew-a-bit dripper lids. I take the view of less-is-more when applying lube, and found the tip wasn't great at meting out a small drop onto each link, but that's splitting hairs as I wipe excess off anyway after it's had a chance to soak in. Compared with, say, Muc-Off bottles, the nozzle needs a tweak.
In order to properly assess the performance of any chemical you need a clean slate. Starting out, I cleaned the bejesus out of a fairly well-used chain, going through with a proper industrial-grade degreaser twice – brushes, chain cleaner tool, scourer pad, the works.
After applying a generous amount of No.5 and leaving it to sit for a few hours, I was surprised by the amount of black fluid that had seeped out from under the chain bushings – the bit of the chain you actually want slippery. Wiping clean and reapplying a bit more, it took another two applications before it settled down – the W&S was clearly doing a cracking job of loosening particles stuck in the remaining old lubricant and wicking them out of the gap.
Once 'set up', the first thing I noticed was the quiet. Very quiet. I've never heard less noise from this particular (Ultegra-105/FSA) drivetrain.
After 25 miles of bone dry then soaking wet, the cassette was pretty dark and the chain was covered in black grime. This wiped off easily enough, but a quick test ride showed a noticeably louder drivetrain – a sign of needing more.
So degrease/reapplication, then after a dry 40 miles the film was back – but notably shinier. Again it wiped off easily. After another wet 25 miles – so 65 total – the chain was looking less black than previously, it wiped clean and wasn't as noisy as after that first 25 miles.
Leaving well alone, I added another dry 40 to the total, making for 105 mixed wet/dry miles. There was an amount of greyish stuff on the chainplates, but you could clearly read the logo stamped on the side and the cassette looked used, but certainly not filthy. Again, this cosmetic layer wiped off in one go, leaving a fairly respectable-looking chain.
The most notable difference was the cassette – after over 100 miles it looked pretty clean – certainly a lot cleaner than the initial 25 miles, and much cleaner than historic lubes had left things.
Over the next few months of mixed wet-dry riding, I concluded that the No.5 lube is good for about 100 miles of wettish riding, more if it's dry – maybe up to 150 all-up, with a wipe-down after each ride to keep things looking nice. Because it doesn't turn into sticky gunge, you can wipe down, re-apply over the top and keep going – no full degrease needed.
When it's time to clean everything up, the process was noticeably easier than with other lubes such as Muc-Off's C3, Progold Prolink or Shimano Wet Lube. Using brush or chain cleaning machine yielded excellent results, and on re-application it lasted consistently longer – no doubt down to having purged all trace of historic lubes from the chain.
What has become obvious is that once you go down the No.5 road it's much easier to keep your drivetrain looking and riding like new. I'm now into the rhythm of going two rides on one application, then cleaning up using a stiff brush and green pad with a little biodegradable degreaser. And I'm talking bike-decal-covering filthy rural roads, rims completely brown by the end of the ride.
Seeing how it's impossible to do a genuine side-by-side comparison between lubes without setting up identical bikes and having a friend only do the same rides, all I can do is offer up my anecdote that yes, the Wickens & Soderstrom No.5 lubricant is pretty good, it lasts a fair while and, critically, it's quiet and easy to clean off.
At £14 per 125ml bottle it should do you about 3,000 miles if you don't slosh it on. Yes, that's a 'premium' price – Muc-Off's C3 is £12 for 120ml, Juice Lubes' Viking Juice is £10 for 126ml – but for the quietness, cleanliness and ease of clean-up, it's the bottle I reach for.
Once set up, this lube does a very good job of keeping things quiet and clean
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Wickens & Soderstrom No.5 Drivetrain Lubricant
Size tested: 125ml
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?
It's for people who appreciate quiet, clean drivetrains and easy cleanup when needed.
No5 Drivetrain Lubricant
Wickens & Soderstrom No.5 is our Nano drivetrain lubricant. It is the result 2 years work combining oils waxes and Nano particles to smooth the surface of the drivetrain and lubricate.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Wickens and Soderstrom No.5 Drivetrain Lubricant Features:
- Reduces friction
- Reduces vibration
- Reduces drive train noise
- Protects drive train from dirt and moisture
- Cleans as it lubricates
I wish the dripper offered more control.
Once set up it lasted 100-150 miles, with re-application easy enough on a clean-ish drivetrain.
100-150 miles isn't bad for the cleanliness on offer.
It's expensive, but it lasts well and performs well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The cleanliness. It's nice to be clean.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The dripper nozzle leaves a bit to be desired.
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 score
In the quasi-religious world of lubricant assessment, it stands out as one that delivers tangible results. It's not cheap, and if you ride lots you'll be re-applying frequently, but the overall package is worth it.
About the tester
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, MTB, singlespeed and Dutch bike pootling