Friday, 22 February 2013

Fenwicks Stealth Lube - Any Good?

Keeping a bike chain lubricated can't be that complicated and its just a case of making sure its got some slippery oil like stuff on it, right?

Remember when you were knee high to a grasshopper and about once a year you would get tired of your bike chain squeaking so much that it was doing a passable impression of a budgie? The solution would invariably be to go to the garden shed/garage and find your dads tin of 3 in 1 and give the offending squeaking and rattling chain a liberal dose of oil until it was running freely out of every link of the chain? If the chain was really lucky it would get "adjusted" to within an inch of it's life so that no slack what so ever was present? - some of you remember this scenario well, don't you?  

Budgie - Breadfan

Sorry, couldn't resist squeezing a video of one of my favourite tunes from way back when I was knee high to that grasshopper (I'm quite short) via an extremely tenuous budgie link.  (the alternative was a picture of an oil can and this video clip of the Welsh rockers entertained me much more)

Over the last 12 months I have discovered that chain lubrication has come on a bit since the mid 70's and apparently having cheap thin oil on your chain that gets thrown off the chain all over your shiny racing bike isn't particularly cool or very good for the life of your chain.

I've tried a couple of chain lubes recently, both of which would be described as "wet" lubes designed for use in winter or wet conditions rather than the "dry" lubes that are usually designed for use in dry conditions. The lubes in question are Muck Off Ceramic C3 and Fenwicks Stealth Lube. 

Although this post is about Fenwicks Stealth Lube, I'll touch on the Muck Off Ceramic C3 to explain why I tried the Fenwicks lube. The Muck Off lube is lovely to use and easy to apply to the chain via the applicator that is built into the bottle nozzle,one small drop per link proving adequate to lubricate and protect the chain. The quality of gear shifts was always better following an application of C3 and I was very happy with its overall performance. However, there was always one underlying problem - For the first couple of rides following a fresh application of C3, the drive side chain and seat stays would end up being covered in tiny drops of lube that had been flung off the chain (even after thoroughly wiping any excess off after application and prior to riding) Not a big problem, but a little annoying to a "clean freak" such as myself.

After asking around in a couple of local bike shops, I cam to the conclusion that for winter riding a wet lube was indeed the best lube to use and C3 was thought to be pretty good. A couple of people had suggested trying Fenwicks Stealth Lube as although it is a wet lube it actually cures overnight into something resembling a wax or dry lube.

A bit of internet research revealed that Fenwicks needs to be applied to a clean chain and it needs to be applied the day before the bike is ridden if the best results are to be achieved.

Application is via a pipette that is built into the bottle cap. To be honest, I found this method of application didn't work very well unless the contents of the bottle had been thoroughly warmed up by standing it in hot water for a few minutes. There would invariably be as much lube on the outside of the applicator as there was in the pipette itself and this made application a bit messy and wasteful.

I found that a less wasteful method of applying the Fenwicks was to screw the applicator off of the C3 bottle onto the Fenwicks bottle which allowed much smaller quantities of lube to be applied to each chain link.

Having allowed the lube to penetrate the links of the chain overnight, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had also dried out overnight and was indeed quite waxy in appearance and to the touch. 

The first couple of rides I did following the application of the Fenwicks Stealth lube were in extremely wet conditions. The lube stood up to the wet conditions well and even after a 100k in very wet conditions, the quality of gear shifting was better than with the previous C3 lube. Lube "fling" however was still present, but not as bad as with C3. 

The Fenwicks lube is sticky stuff and after a couple of wet rides and maybe 175k I noticed that I was starting to get a build up of waxy residue on the cassette, jockey wheels and chain. Shifting quality was still top notch and the chain didn't feel like it needed a fresh application of lube.

The above photo was taken after a very wet 100k sportive on roads that were at times flooded to a depth of water that was covering the bottom bracket.

With a little more experience of using the Fenwicks, I would now attribute most of the "fling" and residue build up to an over application of the lube (although I was only applying one "drop" to each link, a "drop" can vary in size!) Applying a very small drop of lube, leaves the chain and drive train in a much cleaner state than illustrated above.

Currently I would say that I am getting around 200k between applications with the chain being thoroughly cleaned rather than wiped off, every third application or after circa 400k. I suspect you could get away with a bigger interval between cleaning the chain, however on the basis that I don't need to stretch the intervals out, I don't in the interests of extending chain life.

Reducing the amount of lube applied to each link hasn't diminished the excellent shift quality in any way.

Top up applications, still work best if applied at least 24 hours before the bike is ridden.

Something else I have noticed is that lube "fling" is very much reduced and the lubes ability to dry to a properly waxy state is improved if the contents of the bottle are thoroughly warmed up and shaken prior to application. Without this step I suspect the lubes constituent components separate out and diminish the lubes ability to work as Fenwicks intended.          

Following subsequent experimenting with how the Fenwicks is applied to the chain, I have found that the method of application that works best for me is as follows;

  • Thoroughly clean the chain (either off or on the bike)
  • Apply the lube at least 24 hours prior to riding the bike
  • Thoroughly shake the bottle and warm the contents up by standing in warm water
  • Apply one very small drop of lube to each chain link (roller)
  • Once lube has been applied, spin the chain on the small front/small rear sprocket combination to work it into the chain links
  • Wipe any excess lube off of the chain links and external faces of the inner/outer chain plates
  • Leave the lube to dry overnight.
  • Apply a top up application at around 175-200k or maybe between rides
Now that I have worked out how to use Fenwicks Stealth Lube in a way that suits the type of riding I do, I can see this lube being used all year round. The fact that it does genuinely dry out to a waxy finish means that it would be suitable for dry road use (for most roadies) and it provide excellent protection and lubrication in even the wettest conditions, a lube for all seasons?

Would I recommend Stealth Lube? Definitely, but it would be on the basis that it needs to be applied correctly to get the best out of it.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read the Pixies rambling thoughts and I hope you are able to pop back again sometime in the future.

And just to finish off this post an alternative version of Breadfan...


Dha weles diwettha




  1. Great review just what I needed to make my mind up.

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