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When a company claims to make 'probably the hardest-wearing wax-based chain lube on the market,' which 'allows you to ride hundreds of miles between applications,' I'd expect to see some results. Well, I did. I tried the Smoove Universal Chain Lube, and it's true.
Smoove's owner/director, Thomas Dibley, made those claims in a nice covering letter he sent with a bottle of his product to road.cc HQ and asked us to 'give Smoove a thorough thrashing'. We were happy to help.
I have half a dozen bottles of dry lube products on the shelf in the workshop, none of which have ever run out, for the simple reason that none of them work effectively so I don't use them. Typically, 40 to 60 miles is all I get before the grinding transmission becomes noticeable. In some memorably wet rides that's been even less.
Often these products have names including the word 'Pro', which, I've concluded, apply to the need to have a squad car alongside you with the team mechanic hanging out applying more lube to your chain as you skim along. I asked my wife to provide a similar support role on the Wiggle Northern Angel. She said something about 'Muc-Off', though I may have mis-heard.
Smoove says the lube has been formulated for the toughest stage-races in the world and 'applied correctly' won't need re-applying mid event. 'Applied correctly' means as shown on the Cyclorise website and you need to start with a clean chain. My trusty CAAD10 was in need of a new chain and cassette, so I washed the new chain in white spirit and rinsed it in IPA*, allowing it to dry before fitting.
Smoove is a thin, white liquid that needs applying to the rollers-only as you turn the chain to get a light, even coverage. Because it's runny, some ended up on the workshop floor but I managed to get a chain looking something like the one in the video, with the odd roller 'joined' to its partner with a bit of lube. I left it overnight to dry (Smoove recommends this, though it says an hour is enough). The next day, the chain appeared completely dry. Only by touching it could I detect the presence of the lube, in a faint stickiness.
My plan was to see how far I could ride before chain noise became noticeable. After 60 miles, all was well. All was well after 100 miles too. It was only when I got to 200 miles (not, I had better point out, all on the same ride) that it dawned on me that I was never going to get a grinding chain, because Smoove doesn't work like that.
By around 100 miles I noticed that the stickiness of the lubricant had increased a bit. By 200 the chain rollers were looking quite grey, though the chainrings and sprockets were still pretty clean. At 250 miles I put the chain in an old bidon and cleaned the whole lot off with citrus degreaser. This turned an impressive shade of dark grey, which tells you a bit about the differences between this and other wax lubes: while most work by flaking off, taking the dirt with them, Smoove creates this long-lasting coating which doesn't fall off (hence the long-lasting lubrication) but does hang on more to the dirt. Whether this is an issue for you depends on how often you like to clean your chain, as routine degreasing and re-lubing is more associated with using wet lubes, which some people avoid for that very reason.
However, if you are in the habit of giving your chain a thorough clean and re-lube, once a week or so, then this maintenance routine is no worse and a lot less messy than a wet lube. Smoove recommends citrus degreaser for the job, but when I ran out I tried white spirit and it worked just as well, bringing the chain up sparkling.
Ordinary washing, with clean or soapy water, didn't seem to affect the product. Nor did getting caught in torrential rain on the way back from seeing Sir Wiggo unveiling a statue of Tom Simpson in County Durham. Come the winter salt, I wonder how the chain will fare given that the side plates tend to escape coating and hence lack some protection from corrosive compounds. At the moment, Smoove is aiming its product particularly at the mountain bike market and reckons it works just as well in the mud. We shall see. Thus far, though, I'm a convert.
*Isopropyl alcohol, not India Pale Ale
Smoove makes some bold claims about its chain lubricant, and my experience so far is that it really works
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Smoove Universal Chain Lube
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?
Smoove says: "Smoove™ is a long lasting bicycle chain lube for use in any terrain. Smoove™ works in dry, wet, muddy or perfect sunshine conditions. Smoove™ reduces chain wear and increases the lifespan of drivetrain components. Smoove™ lasts longer between applications than most other chain lubricants, runs cleaner and is extremely durable."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
How to use:
Step 1 > Apply SMOOVE to a clean dry chain.
Step 2 > Apply on the inside of the chain while turning the pedals to ensure that the lube gets worked into the chain.
Step 3 > Let the lube dry for at least an hour.
Step 4 > Best results are achieved if lube is applied the night before.
Step 5 > Do not wipe chain after application.
Step 6 > Too much lube will cause residue to accumulate around the derailleur pulley wheels and cassette.
Quite runny, which makes it a little drippy to apply and a steady hand is needed.
Outstanding longevity – I went over 200 miles between applications without any squeaking. It doesn't wash off in the rain or under the hosepipe. Cleaning of the chain requires a bit more effort than with some other dry lubes.
In absolute terms, yes, this is an expensive lube, working out at £110 per litre. But comparatively, it's excellent because you need so little of it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
So far, in the relatively benign autumn weather, performance has been excellent. Riding in heavy rain didn't affect it at all, I ran over 200 miles between applications and the chain still looked pretty clean, though washing it off in solvent revealed how much dirt it picked up.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very long-lasting and clean.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really, it's more like a wet lube in the way you maintain your chain but that's all good discipline.
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
If you've struggled to find a dry lubricant that goes this distance, this should answer your prayers. More or less indefinite lubrication, the only limit being how often you want to clean it off and reapply.
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, mountain biking