Technical FAQ: Chain lube application tips, double and triple chainring setups, Campy compatibility

How to choose and apply chain lube, mixing double and triple chainring groups, what Campy parts work with each other.

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Dear Lennard,
Really need your advice. I know chain maintenance is a personal preference, but I want your honest opinion since you also ride in dry conditions in Colorado, like me.

I wipe off my chain after every ride and re-lube the chain. I make sure the chain is dry and wiped off again before riding again. I have been using Tri-flow for chain lube for about 5 years. But in the past, I have also used Finish Line Dry Teflon lube. I am interested in trying other lubes.

I wipe off the chain and re-lube with Tri-flow every time for six to eight rides. My chain then starts looking dirty with degraded shifting performance, so I usually do a deep chain clean with the Park Tool cyclone chain scrubber CM-5.2. I use Simple Green as the degreaser, and I then use water as the last step before letting the chain totally dry before reapplying lube and wiping the excess. I also make sure the jockey wheels and cogs are clean.
— Kevin

Dear Kevin,
Once you have removed the old lube with Simple Green as you have been doing with Park Cyclone chain-scrubbing tool, my recommendation would be to use Squirt or the faster and more expensive Ceramic Speed chain lube.

After that, just do your daily wipe-down and lube application, with Squirt or Ceramic Speed. Those are the lowest-friction, simplest-to-apply lubes on the market. Since they are wax-based, your chain will stay cleaner than the experience you are currently having, and you can just keep wiping down and applying it daily. You won’t need to use the Park Cyclone anymore until you replace the chain and use it to remove the factory lube before applying Squirt or Ceramic Speed chain lube.

I have done chain lube tests in friction labs over the years for VeloNews, starting with this test of 30 lubes conducted at the Friction Facts lab in 2013. Then we did this lab test on ProGold in 2015.

Note that low chain friction due to the lube (and hence greater rider speed with the same power output) is synonymous with high chain longevity since the chain is wearing less as it moves due to the lower friction.

As our lab test showed, the very lowest chain friction was obtained by a thorough electrostatic cleaning of the chain, followed by soaking the chain in molten paraffin wax in a double boiler. This type of method, with additional slippery stuff added to the molten paraffin, was used on the chain of Sir Bradley Wiggins prior to his breaking the world hour record on the track. Removing, cleaning, and soaking the chain in molten paraffin takes a lot of time and commitment, for a marginal gain. You can buy chains already prepared that way from Ceramic Speed, Silca and others.

There are a handful of lubes that test pretty close to that method, but without the labor-intensive process. See the full results here.

― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
In response to KC, you said he couldn’t use a 10-speed triple crank with 11-speed chain, derailleurs, shifters, and cassette. I’ve got a related question. I have Shimano Ultegra 2×11-speed. I am thinking of moving to a triple front to get a lower gear for loaded touring on a tandem. The cranks have 110 BCD so 34T is as low as the chainrings can go. A triple can handle a 30T or smaller chainring. I think I can buy triple chainrings that will fit the cranks and a triple front derailleur that can handle the chainring sizes and capacity.

The chainrings and front derailleur all specify 9- and 10-speed. The rest of the drivetrain will not be modified so will remain 11-speed. I expect to need to use a friction shifter for the front derailleur since Ultegra doesn’t have a triple STI shifter anymore and I don’t want to mix and match shifters. I don’t think there are 3×11 STI shifters. Since the inner dimensions of the chain are the same between 10- and 11-speed and the spacing between the chainrings on 10- and 11-speed are the same or similar, and I’ll be using friction shifting, I don’t understand how the rest of the drivetrain would care whether the front is a double or a triple or a 10-speed or a 11-speed. I understand the rear derailleur may not be able to take up all of the chain slack when small-small, but that seems manageable. I also understand that cross-chaining may be somewhat worse when on big-big or small-small, so that should be avoided and also can be managed. Your response at the same website to Jim seems consistent since it says 10-speed chainrings can work without problem with a drivetrain that is otherwise 11-speed. How does changing the 10-speed chainrings from double to triple change this?

Thanks. I enjoy reading your clear technical descriptions and often refer to your book when working on my bike.
— Bob

Dear Bob,
It wasn’t the changing of the 10-speed chainrings from double to triple that made it incompatible, it was the fact that he was changing to 11-speed shifters, and, as you say, 3×11 STI shifters don’t exist. It hadn’t occurred to me that KC might go to a friction shifter, as you have. With friction shifters, the 10-speed triple chainrings should still work fine with an 11-speed chain.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Regarding a question about a worn and stuck Campy crank bolt‘, a tool like the 3/8″ Drive R.B.R.T. Hex Driver 10mm bit might also be an option before considering destructive methods.
— John

Dear John,
Good solution. Thanks.

I ought to have also mentioned in that post about the seized Campy Super Record crank bolt how to avoid that problem in the first place. I recommend always using an anti-seize compound on the threads to prevent titanium bolts from seizing onto titanium threads. The solids, like copper flakes in the “grease carrier,” prevent the titanium threads from binding on each other.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I want to upgrade my rear mech to 11-speed medium-cage Chorus. Will the new 11-speed HO Chorus mech work in a standard QR hub and wheel. Or will I need a non-HO rear mech?
— Steve

Dear Steve,
The new 11-speed HO Chorus rear derailleur should work fine in a standard QR hub and wheel. The QR will not affect the mounting of the rear derailleur.

Campagnolo now embosses a letter (A, B, C, etc.) on the new Super Record, Record, and Chorus drivetrain parts to clarify their compatibility. If your shifters are recent enough to have this, for best results, ensure that the letter embossed on the shifter matches the letter on the derailleur.
― Lennard

A Campagnolo Super Record front derailleur with an "A" designation.
A Campagnolo Super Record front derailleur with an “A” designation to indicate compatibility with other Campy components. (Photo: Buddy Spafford of Campagnolo NA)

Dear Lennard,
I just read your recent column and the post concerning the pre-2015 11-speed Campy front derailleur. Cycles Marinoni in Montreal may have what Bryin needs. The link is: Cycles Marinoni Inc.
— Harry

Thanks, Harry.
― Lennard

Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder ( and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (, a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,”DVD, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikesand Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.” He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn on Twitter.

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