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  1. #1
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    Molybdenum vs. Lithium based grease?

    I'm a non-triathele, and buy grease for the bearings (non-sealed hubs, bottom bracket and fork) and for lubing cables inside of the housing.

    I get it in 1 lb tubs from the local auto supply store. It takes about a decade to go through a tub at the rate I use it. We're talking like $3 or 4 for a pound of grease.

    There's a dizzying choice of greases available, and some are lithium and some are molybdenum-based. Some are more stable at high temperatures, like 350'F, which doesn't seem to apply to bikes much. I generally just get some general use grease in what looks like the prettiest tub, not knowing much else to use to differentiate one from the other.

    Any real difference between Moly vs. Lithium grease?

    Does it matter for a non Lance Armstrong?

  2. #2
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    The bearing loads on bikes are pretty damn low. So low in fact that most of the bearings could be lubricated with oil, except that it would spin out. For your purposes, it's more likely that you'll end up with a grease that's too stiff, vs. one that doesn't lubricate well enough.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    For your purposes, it's more likely that you'll end up with a grease that's too stiff, vs. one that doesn't lubricate well enough.
    Second that. Automotive grease may be design to be lubricating optimally at higher temperature. At regular temperatures, especially during colder days, it may not be effective enough for a bike.

    I suspect grease manufacturers also like to exaggerate the claims and "breakthroughs" of their product much like shampoo manufacturers. Proper maintenance of the bike will have a lot more importance than the grease (as long as it's one suitable for bikes).

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raleigh71 View Post
    I'm a non-triathele, and buy grease for the bearings (non-sealed hubs, bottom bracket and fork) and for lubing cables inside of the housing.

    I get it in 1 lb tubs from the local auto supply store. It takes about a decade to go through a tub at the rate I use it. We're talking like $3 or 4 for a pound of grease.

    There's a dizzying choice of greases available, and some are lithium and some are molybdenum-based. Some are more stable at high temperatures, like 350'F, which doesn't seem to apply to bikes much. I generally just get some general use grease in what looks like the prettiest tub, not knowing much else to use to differentiate one from the other.

    Any real difference between Moly vs. Lithium grease?
    Different things. Grease is made up three parts. First is the base (almost always a soap) that holds the second part, an oil, and makes it a solid. Third are various additives to change the behavior of the other components, provide protection if the grease is forced out of the contact surface, and to change the stickiness of the grease.

    Lithium is used for the soaps of many general purpose greases. (calcium is used in cheap greases. sodium and barium based greases are also common, as are mixtures)

    Molybdenum dioxide is an additive, used for protection of parts when they're loaded heavily.

    So there's no reason you can't have a lithium based grease with molybdenum, and, in fact, they're very common.

    Bike bearing pressures are very low, so nearly anything is good enough. But, as you point out, the amount of grease used is small. I use a good quality NLGI no 2 (NLGI numbers refer to the hardness of the grease at room temperatue. No 2 is the most common grease grade), with more concern about water resistance than anything else.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    Molybdenum dioxide is an additive, used for protection of parts when they're loaded heavily.
    Actually it's Molybdenum disulfide that's the high pressure additive in "Moly" greases.

    Otherwise you gave a good summary of grease technology and both you and FBinNY are correct that bicycle bearing demands are laughingly low compared to what these greases are designed to handle.

    One way to avoid an excessively heavy grease is to buy one sold for bicycle use like Phil's Grease or Park's grease. Yes, there is a cost penalty and yes, these are just regular commercial greases repackaged but they chose suitable grades. The cost is negligible unless you are operating a large fleet of bikes and these products are available in larger containers if you use a lot and that keeps the price per ounce down to a more reasonable level. I buy Phil's Grease in either 14-oz cylinders or a 22.5-oz tub and either container lasts for years even while maintaining 6 bikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Actually it's Molybdenum disulfide that's the high pressure additive in "Moly" greases.
    duh. I shouldn't post past my bedtime.
    One way to avoid an excessively heavy grease is to buy one sold for bicycle use like Phil's Grease or Park's grease. Yes, there is a cost penalty and yes, these are just regular commercial greases repackaged but they chose suitable grades. The cost is negligible unless you are operating a large fleet of bikes and these products are available in larger containers if you use a lot and that keeps the price per ounce down to a more reasonable level. I buy Phil's Grease in either 14-oz cylinders or a 22.5-oz tub and either container lasts for years even while maintaining 6 bikes.
    I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for.
    This is for bicycles, not NASA.

  8. #8
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    Either grease should be fine. I have found out that they have a use by date. Usually between 4 and 6 years.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    This is for bicycles, not NASA.
    I don't care. I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for, on anything. People who don't publish spec sheets are hiding something. In the case of Park and Phil wood, it's that they're repackaging some commercial grease and charging a huge premium, not that they're peddling crap. But there are reasons to want to know this stuff: park's grease is, according to the msds, a polyurea based grease. There's nothing wrong with that, but polyurea greases have horrible compatibility with all sorts of common grease. Someone at phil's forgot to pay the internet bill, so I can't see anything about their grease (but I think it's also polyurea based.) And I want to know when they decide to change suppliers and change the specs of the product.

  10. #10
    Senior Member kamtsa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I don't care. I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for, on anything. People who don't publish spec sheets are hiding something.
    Or possibly, there is very little demand for the spec.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I don't care. I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for, on anything. People who don't publish spec sheets are hiding something. In the case of Park and Phil wood, it's that they're repackaging some commercial grease and charging a huge premium, not that they're peddling crap. But there are reasons to want to know this stuff: park's grease is, according to the msds, a polyurea based grease. There's nothing wrong with that, but polyurea greases have horrible compatibility with all sorts of common grease. Someone at phil's forgot to pay the internet bill, so I can't see anything about their grease (but I think it's also polyurea based.) And I want to know when they decide to change suppliers and change the specs of the product.
    There should be a MSDS sheet published for them.

  12. #12
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    The true beauty of Moly in grease, is it's ability to lubricate, even when dry....... it's tough to get off your hands, though....

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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  13. #13
    Senior Member MudPie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    ... is to buy one sold for bicycle use like Phil's Grease or Park's grease. Yes, there is a cost penalty and yes, these are just regular commercial greases repackaged but they chose suitable grades. The cost is negligible unless you are operating a large fleet of bikes and these products are available in larger containers if you use a lot and that keeps the price per ounce down to a more reasonable level. .
    I do the same, mainly for convenience. Sure, it's cheaper by the pound, but I really don't use much. I maintain two bikes, both have sealed cartridge wheel and bottom bracket bearings. Once a year, I repack the headset with grease. I guess I could pop off the covers on the cartridge bearings and repack, but haven't had a need to. Essentially, I have the same four oz tube for over four years, and I'm not even half done with it! I like the squeeze convenience of dispensing just the right amount, and plus, have Park grease tube in my tool box adds street cred.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I don't care. I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for, on anything. People who don't publish spec sheets are hiding something. In the case of Park and Phil wood, it's that they're repackaging some commercial grease and charging a huge premium, not that they're peddling crap.
    Of course they are repackaging commercial grease! Phil Wood, Park, Finish Line, Pedros, etc. don't have their own refineries, they buy from major makers and select greases suitable for bicycle use. They are "hiding" the source since they don't want everyone going out and buying directly.

    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    But there are reasons to want to know this stuff: park's grease is, according to the msds, a polyurea based grease. There's nothing wrong with that, but polyurea greases have horrible compatibility with all sorts of common grease.
    Not a problem. Don't you thoroughly clean your bearings before you relube them? I certainly do so mixing incompatible greases, even if it was a problem, isn't going to happen.

    In every one of these "What's The Best Bike Lube" threads (and there seem to have been a lot of them lately) someone overthinks the demands, requirements and cost of bike grease. The demands are low and the cost negligable.

  15. #15
    Sir Fallalot wroomwroomoops's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I don't use lubricants I can't get spec sheets for.
    I like your position. Seriously.

    And such attitude should be even more important when it comes to food and cosmetics - people should have the right to know what they're eating or putting on their (or their children's) bodies.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Of course they are repackaging commercial grease! Phil Wood, Park, Finish Line, Pedros, etc. don't have their own refineries, they buy from major makers and select greases suitable for bicycle use. They are "hiding" the source since they don't want everyone going out and buying directly.
    well, they won't sell any to me. I'd probably buy park grease, since my LBS sells it, I like them, and it's a tiny amount of money. I really doubt it would cost them any sales; anyone who'd look at the spec sheet and say "That's XYZ oil's ABC 150!" is likely to know what they want from a grease. And the people who are too cheap to pay the premium aren't using ti anyway.

    I get, read, and comprehend spec sheets for all sorts of stuff that most people don't bother with.

    (For the record: I use Lucas Oil "xtra-heavy duty" grease. It's a shear-stabilized polyurea grease, with a fairly low viscosity base oil. It's even green. It's perhaps a bit more prone to washout than I'd like. but it's the grease I use on the assorted bits of equipment I put grease into, so it's in my grease guns. )

  17. #17
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    For bicycle use there is probably about .001% difference between the best available and something comparable to most cheap automotive greases from what I have been able to determine. The most important thing is that you just have some sort of grease present in your bearings, etc. and everything will last a long time. If you are going to set the world hour record or you're a professional TT specialist you might want to look into using light oil in your bearings to reduce drag but for the rest of us there is not much to gain.

  18. #18
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    Ridden Sydney to Kabul using moly grease

    I rode from Sydney to Kabul (through Indonesia, Malaysia, and cheated using a plane from Bangkok to Calcutta) and carried a supply of molybdenum disulphide grease. It always seemed to do the right thing for me, resistant to rain and long distance. I also bought high quality bearing balls with plenty of spares to help me last the distance. That was thirty five years ago, and the bearings provided with bicycles have improved since then, so my old trips to the bearing shop are no longer needed, though at the time I replaced all bearings with the best from the bearing shop.

    For the last five years, I continue to ride 160 km or more to work each week, and am surprised at how unreliable my bicycle is unless I maintain it myself. My cables last much longer when I lubricate them with moly grease, though most of my other bearings are sealed now. Bicycle mechanics see its black colour on my cables and imagine some strange contamination, cleaning it away to give me a shorter cable life.

    Though I am an electrical engineer now, I was an apprentice mechanic for a couple of years, where I became acquainted with the virtues of molybdenum disulphide grease.

  19. #19
    \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ SumoMuffin's Avatar
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    I've been using Valvoline automotive grease. It's composed of 12-hydroxy-lithium-stearate, with molybdenum disulphide. It works reasonably well, although it's a bit thick and sticky. It also smells bad and has a nasty brown colour. I have a feeling that now since it's colder this stuff is too thick. I'm going to try switching it out for some white lithium grease (WLG). WLG is much thinner, but also much slicker, I think it would work well in cold conditions. I've used it before on a bike that I sold, and it definitely seemed faster. Although, ive heard that it needs to be changed out often because it's so thin. Anyone else change their grease based on weather?

    On another note, one of the bikes I got had a really slick and sticky yellow grease packed i the hubs. This stuff was awesome, I dont know what it was but I have a suspicion it was "bike" grease, maybe the polyurea stuff.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by SumoMuffin View Post
    I've been using Valvoline automotive grease. It's composed of 12-hydroxy-lithium-stearate...
    That's just the "soap" component referred to above in dscheidt's first posting.

  21. #21
    \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ SumoMuffin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    That's just the "soap" component referred to above in dscheidt's first posting.
    Yep, although I think the 12-hydroxy makes it a bit different from regular soap greases (WLG for example). The hydroxyl group should improve the heat resistance of the grease, also making it thicker.

    This article also claims that most manufacturers also add synthetic oil to the mixture, which accounts for the brown colour and nasty odour.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_12-hydroxystearate

    I wonder if adding some sort of oil to the grease would make it less sticky and thick and thus better for bicycles.

  22. #22
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Door #3, here .. waterproof ... Marine , boat trailer wheel bearing grease.
    Was the Go To stuff in the bike-shops when I, and MTB's, were young.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Ira B's Avatar
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    I concur with the first several posts.

    Under normal use and if you properly service the bearings there is no significant difference in effectiveness between the types of grease.
    What does make a significant difference in wear reduction and effectiveness is the tenacity and thickness. Too thin and the grease tends to work out of and away from the bearing leaving it too dry and sometimes leading to messy squeeze out. Too think does add a slight amount of drag/resistance in the bearing although I doubt 99.9% of riders would ever notice the difference.
    For all but actual racing and track bike applications go for the thicker grease. It stay where it belongs better and also help keep water out.
    Yep, THAT Ira

  24. #24
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    I use Castrol Pyroplex-blue. Very water resistant. It has metal additives that are activated by water, so it actually resists washout better when water gets into the bearing. Its spec'd for wheel bearing use. Very sticky, too. Find it at Pep Boys.
    Another great grease is Mystic GT-6 (low temp) in the green tube. Also pretty water resistant. Find it at Wal-Mart.
    Moly fortified lithium grease is intended for extreame pressure conditions but are not particularly water resistant, which I think is the most important property for bike bearings.

  25. #25
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Door #3, here .. waterproof ... Marine , boat trailer wheel bearing grease.
    Was the Go To stuff in the bike-shops when I, and MTB's, were young.
    +1 Marine grease.

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