Grease and oil, along with degreaser, are the key products to perform basic maintenance of our bike. Both oil and grease are essential for all the mechanical elements of our bike to work perfectly. But it is very important to know where to use each of them, because if you don’t, your components may not work well or it may even cause a major breakdown or failure.
The first thing you have to make sure before lubricating your bike with both grease and oil, is that both are suitable for the intended use. A chain oil can be used for other transmission components such as the cables or the jockey wheels, in the same way, the grease that you use in the headset bearings will serve you for the hub bearings or for those of the bottom bracket too. But it is very important that you do not confuse, for example, the types of specific grease for mounting carbon components, which have small particles to improve friction between the components, or the specific grease for suspensions, which, although it will not be too aggressive with the bearings, it will not last long either.
Same with oil. To lubricate many of the mechanical components of your bike, especially the transmission, you have different types of oils and densities depending on the climate and the conditions where you use your bike or the quality of the oil itself. Oils for rainy or humid climates have a higher density, and although they last longer, they also trap more dirt particles. On the other hand, oils for dry conditions have a lower density and last less, but they also get dirty to a lesser degree due to the lower accumulation of particles. Today there are so many types of lubrication oil that some of the highest quality have ceramic particles to reduce friction and other oils have become a wax-like paste for those looking for maximum performance in your chain. There are also other Teflon-based oils for lower friction between components. If you are not sure about what type of oil or grease you need, do not hesitate to ask at your local bike shop.
Bearings and bushings are the key points on your bike to apply grease to. If you are thinking of a road, gravel, or Hardtail bike, these will be the headset bearings, hub bearings, and bottom bracket bearings or threads. At these points where you apply grease, you also have to add the pivot points of a dual suspension, whether it has sealed bearings or friction bushes. For the latter, some manufacturers recommend a specific type of very thin grease, some of them even recommend not using grease at all, since this way the material from which the bushings are made will move better.
The headset bearings are one of the most common points to grease and it is advisable that in addition to greasing the bearings, you also grease the fork crown and in the frame where they sit, as well as the rest of the steering parts, but you must be careful not to grease the steerer tube at the point the stem is fitted.
In the hubs you have several bearings behind the bushings and the freehub body, which should be cleaned and greased from time to time. Keep in mind that in the freehub body, there are bearings that can, and should be greased, but the pawls use a very light and thin special oil so that they move without problem and do not accumulate dirt. In addition, systems such as DT Swiss that have two sprockets and a pair of internal springs use a lighter type of grease. When in doubt, always check with the manufacturer before applying grease or oil.
In the case of the bottom bracket, you will use the grease when you install it, whether it is threaded, press fit or similar, and in the same way when you install or clean the cranks. The point of contact of the cranks with the bottom bracket should be greased too.
Do not confuse the lubrication of bearings and pivot points, with the lubrication of the seat tube (you can use the same grease as in the bearings if the seatpost and frame are made of aluminum), with points as we mentioned before with carbon elements that need another type of friction grease.
We are going to use oil mainly on the transmission and in some other moving parts on the bike. In the transmission, the chain is the main element that must be lubricated often, always after degreasing and cleaning. In addition to the chain, we can lube the cables at their entry and exit points from the outers, as well as externally on the roller bearings, tension spring and derailleur hinge points. Similarly, we will use the same oil in the front derailleur, if you have it, (spring and articulation points). Do not abuse the oil in the shifter mechanism, as the oil tends to accumulate dirt and can cause the mechanism to malfunction. If we had conventional brakes (not disc) we can apply oil on the mechanical points of them, being careful that the oil does not contaminate the brake pads / shoes or the braking surface.
Lubricant can also be used on clipless pedals, to favor the entry and exit of the cleat (especially in Crank Brothers type pedals), but in Shimano models, as you will have seen when they are new, a little grease is applied on the tension springs. On the other hand, we also apply grease to the threads of the wheel axles, both in the threads themselves and in the internal contact areas of the axle, as well as on the derailleur hanger when mounting it on the frame, or on the threads of the pedals and the derailleur thread when we install it on the frame. On forks with aluminum steerer tube, it is interesting to use a little grease on the steering cap bolt and a light layer under the cap itself, so that it slides well on the stem when we proceed to tighten the headset. Always, as we mentioned before, if you have any questions, go to your specialized workshop.