Cycling isn’t just a fun, healthy hobby—it’s also great for the environment. In fact, a study found that if the world dramatically increases cycling, it could cut CO2 emissions from urban passenger transport by nearly 11% in 2050. However, there are a few unaddressed environmental hazards in the biking industry.
A lot of these problems have to do with bike accessories. Bike helmets, bike seats, and even bike lubricants can have a detrimental effect on the environment.
The dangers of bike lube can be especially surprising for eco-conscious cyclists, who rely on their favorite lubricants to prolong their chains’ life, ward off abrasive dirt, and make their rides smooth.
Read on to learn about the toxic effects bike lubricants have on the environment—and learn whether natural bike lubes are good alternatives.
The problem with most bike lubricants
If you look on the back of a typical bike lube bottle, you’ll find some alarming ingredients.
The majority of bike lubricants contain petroleum distillates and Teflon (the brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene). Teflon is crafted from complex perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are particularly concerning. PFCs:
- Do not biodegrade
- Accumulate in people, animals, and the environment
- Have proven to be toxic to mammals
To top it all, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is also used in the process of creating Teflon. In 2005, this chemical was designated as a “likely human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even though PFOA was due to be phased out of production by 2015, replacement chemicals, like GenX, are also harmful. EPA animal research has revealed that GenX has effects on kidneys, blood, immune systems, liver, and development, with some results suggestive of cancer.
Most cyclists use these petroleum-based bike lubes on their chains and gears. Unfortunately, when they wash their bikes or get caught in rain, bike lube toxins spread all over the earth and into groundwater.
In other words, when cyclists use petroleum-based bike lubes, they turn an eco-friendly activity into an environmental risk.
A homemade option
To try and protect the environment without sacrificing their smooth rides, some frustrated cyclists have turned to homemade recipes. However, most DIY options come with problems of their own.
Petrochemical-based options. Many DIY recipes rely on petrochemicals, like motor oil, mineral spirits, and paraffin canning wax. While these may be effective alternatives to store-bought options, they are still not environmentally friendly.
WD-40. Some cyclists have turned to plain WD-40 for their answer. Unfortunately, WD-40 is primarily a solvent with slight lubricating capabilities. Although WD-40 works well for degreasing chains, it is not effective as a standalone lube.
While DIY bike lube sounds good in theory, homemade creations are neither more eco-friendly nor effective—and their results cannot be evaluated by the EPA or verified online reviewers.
Natural bike lubes on the market
While homemade bike lubes aren’t a viable option, cyclists can turn to certain eco-friendly businesses for help.
Eco Sheep, for example, creates their bike lube primarily from lanolin oil, along with other sustainable oils. This natural oil comes from sheep’s wool, and neither harms sheep during the process of making the oil nor the earth when it washes off bikes. Plus, lanolin oil works just as effectively as petroleum lubricants—and the USDA has given Eco Sheep products a certification to prove it.
Using a commercially-made natural bike lube comes with a few top benefits:
Guaranteed eco-friendly, effective product. Top natural bike lubes are certified through official organizations. For example, Eco Sheep’s product is
- Certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as biobased, guaranteeing that Eco Sheep’s products are created from renewable materials and perform just as well as petroleum lubricants.
- Certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as compliant with the Safer Choice Standard, which calls for adherence to strict human health and environmental criteria.
Consumer-reviewed. While DIY bike lubes cannot be reviewed on a large scale, commercial options can be. For example, Eco Sheep is reviewed on websites like Amazon and RunnerClick.
Versatile options. DIY bike lubes don’t have many options for varying bike types, but commercial creations do. Eco Sheep, for example, provides special bike lubes for mountain bikes and road bikes—and everything in between.
While homemade natural bike lubes have the right idea, commercial options like Eco Sheep’s products are guaranteed eco-friendly products that are reviewed thoroughly and offer many possible purchase options to match your unique cycling needs.
Ready to make your cycling a little greener? Get your eco-friendly bike lube today.