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What is the word for "wet lube" in the German Language?

I don't speak German, but I found myself in Germany when I last ran out of bicycle lube. I went to maybe 6 bicycle shops in Berlin (where most people speak at least broken English), and they either said they don't sell wet lube or they looked at me like I was crazy when I said "wet lube."

Do Geramns not use wet lube? I do a lot of bicycle touring, so I'm not looking to apply lube every time it rains.

What do I say when I walk into a bicycle shop in Germany to get them to sell me wet lube?

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    I think the proper translation is "Regen-Fahrradkettenschmiermittel"
    – Michael Altfield
    Jan 31, 2022 at 21:35
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    At a guess, the people you spoke with heard "wet lube" as something redundant, like "wet water" Try asking for chain lube for rain, or for winter as appropriate?
    – Criggie
    Jan 31, 2022 at 21:52
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    In a bike-shop they should understand "wet lube". It is the Terminology that German cycle magazines use.
    – Carel
    Feb 1, 2022 at 9:06
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    The issue is that you are attempting to directly translate slang. Even in English I had no idea what you meant by "wet lube" until I read the comments. It is chain lube for rain or chain oil for rain. I know lubricating grease literally translates to lubricating fat, but oil is oil.
    – Max Power
    Feb 9, 2022 at 4:36
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    I have just queries on the German chat if this would be acceptable on their site. Given the technical component of chain lube, it could go either way IMO. @MaxPower Oil is oil but not all oil is good chain lubricant.
    – Criggie
    Feb 9, 2022 at 7:48

5 Answers 5

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Kettenöle Dry or Kettenöle Wet will be understood by any bike shop in Germany. Now there are Dry Fluids in the German market, which are not the same, but the way to make the distinction: you want Allwetter, which includes both wet and dry conditions.

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    So, wet and dry in this context would be understood as loanwords, including by Germans with limited English?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Feb 3, 2022 at 14:37
  • @WeiwenNg Worst comes to worst, splash the salesperson with a little bit of water if needed to get the point across :D
    – MaplePanda
    Feb 3, 2022 at 18:25
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    There are times, when I lived in Germany, I could swear half the language had been infiltrated with English. Yes, mixing German and English often works. Sometimes, it doesn't - and that's usually pretty funny in German.
    – LarryG99
    Feb 4, 2022 at 15:03
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You can just say the generic Kettenöl = chain oil. This is what, e.g., the green Finish Line lube uses. Unlike the dry red one which is Trockenschmiermittel - dry lubricant. However, that means it is a lubricant that is itself dry.

A liquid-based lubricant that is intended for dry conditions would have to be phrased directly as a "a lubricant for dry (weather) conditions" - e.g. as in Michael's answer for oil-based lubricants. If not oil-based I would use Kettenschmiermittel instead of Kettenöl.

@cbeleites unhappy with SX offers Kettenwachs - a chain wax. That is a special type dry lubricant - it may be applied using hot waxing or it may be applied in a solution (the solvent evaporates).

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    Short, but exactly to the point. Wet lube is the standard stuff: Kettenöl. Dry lubes are by far not as common. When asking an experienced mechanice for Trockenschmiermittel one might risk to get graphite or MoS2 spray. So emphasise it is for the chain.
    – gschenk
    Jan 31, 2022 at 23:49
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    Note that (at least e.g. for the Finish Line or Muc-Off products) both wet and dry lube are strictly speaking "Kettenöl" because they are both based on synthetic oils (plus other stuff). If you want to emphasize that you want a lube optimized for wet conditions in a single German word you could use "Allwetter-Kettenöl". Muc-Off translates their wet and dry lubes as "Kettenöl für Nässe" und "Kettenöl für Trockenheit", respectively.
    – Emil
    Feb 2, 2022 at 12:25
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    (Being German and looking outside the use of a bike lubricant that works only in dry conditions seems,err, somewhat limited to me... so, yes, wet lube is just standard Kettenöl) However, dry lube = a lubricant for dry conditions is not Trockenschmiermittel in German. The trocken (dry) in Trockenschmiermittel refers to the lubricant itself rather than the conditions, i.e. lubricants like graphite powder or talcum [replacement powders] for tires. Dry lube is Kettenwachs (literally chain wax) in German. Feb 8, 2022 at 15:15
  • I have to admit I was the only one in our class who chose (and basically had to choose) to do the maturity exam from English, instead of German, despite learning German much longer. But the state of the lube usually coincides with the weather it is meant for. So those that are themselves dry do not have much chance for wet weather. But some dry lubes are dispersed in a fluid that later evaporates. That normally requires something oily and sticky. In Czech suché mazivo would also be dry itself. Feb 8, 2022 at 15:42
  • @VladimirF that may be in English. But in German it would always be understood like cbleites explained as reference to the lube's condition, not the weather condition. Feb 10, 2022 at 12:20
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I’d just ask for chain oil for wet/damp weather. I.e. „Kettenöl für nasses/feuchtes Wetter”

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Here is a recipe for finding the answer to this kind of problem.

Google: largest bike shop in Germany.

Before the first link, we're duly told that there is a "fahrrad.de" (Fahrrad means bicycle).

Google again, but this time limiting yourself to the results from that particular web site: wet lube site:fahrrad.de.

The first result comes out as: (Muc-Off) Wet Lube Kettenöl für Nässe 120 ml (nass means wet; it gets conjugated here in the accusative).

So a good bet is to ask for Kettenöl für Nässe.

For a full sentence, try Haben Sie Kettenöl für Nässe, bitte?, but from my experience it's more likely that the seller will detect it might be easier to converse in English and will reply accordingly.

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  • nass means wet, it gets Conjugated for accusative here: only half-true: nass means wet, yes. But here it's die Nässe, i.e. a noun (though you're right, it's in accusative form). It's not an adjective though, it's the noun wetness Feb 10, 2022 at 8:10
  • @infinitezero I suspected as much, but it was too hazy. So this is equivalent to saying in English "a Competition for the young Fellows" and then replacing it with the more concise "a Competition for the Young"—except of course that the shift is more subtle because we don't capitalize nouns in English, but, in English as in German, we replace the adjective + noun with what is called an adjectival noun (or something of this sort); is that about right?
    – Sam7919
    Feb 10, 2022 at 15:19
  • Not quite. Die Nässe really is a distinct noun, just like wetness is a distinct noun and wet is an adjectiv. The nominalised adjective would be "das Nasse". So it would be "Kettenöl für Nasses" if you wanted to go with an adjective. However, that 1) sounds odd and b) would mean if intend to lube something wet with it. As in Michaels answer, if you use it as an adjective togehter with a noun it becomes clearer "für nasses Wetter". Feb 10, 2022 at 15:42
  • für Nässe is a totally correct option. Feb 10, 2022 at 16:25
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This question was migrated from the Bicycles SE to the German language SE. People reading this answer: I do not know any German, so a lot of what follows below was derived from Google Translate. Do note the technical information discussed in the next paragraph, as it may be helpful; I've tried to make it easier for a lay audience to understand.

In bicycles, we normally speak of wet (chain) lube and dry lube. "Wet lube" in English tends to refer to oil-based drip lubricant. In contrast, a "dry lube" is typically understood as a drip lube which is based on wax suspended in or dissolved in a solvent. When the solvent evaporates, the chain is relatively dry. (Note that waxes are solid hydrocarbons, i.e. they're like oils in many respects but the hydrocarbon chains are longer, such that waxes are solid at room temperature). Wet and dry here don't necessarily distinguish between weather conditions, but wet lubes do tend to do better in wet conditions than dry lubes. (However, not all wet lubes may be as good in wet weather, and some dry lubes can take a bit of rain.)

This paragraph is a technical note for cyclists (remember that the question was originally on the Bicycles SE, so German SE readers can skip to the next para). One thing that people may not appreciate is that riding in the rain is pretty hard on the bicycle. The chain is getting doused in water, which tends to wash away lubricant. Additionally, you're getting road spray, which has dirt suspended in it, onto the chain. The dirt combines with any residual lube to act as a grinding paste. So, unfortunately, it would actually be better to clean the chain and relube it after it rains. It would be better to do a full clean (e.g. use a chain cleaner or take the chain off to clean it), but you also do not have to let the perfect be the enemy of the good; if you are pressed for time, you could just wipe the chain down and lubricate it.

I don't know German, and I would definitely defer to a German speaker here. In general, if you don't use exact terminology in a foreign language, the listener may be able to deduce your meaning from the context, although the finer points are obviously harder to convey. Tour Magazine is a prominent German road cycling magazine. This article appears to discuss lubricant testing. The headline is:

30 Kettenöle, Wachse, Schmierstoffe für Rennradketten

Ketten appears to refer to chains, and öle to oil, so Kettenöle would likely be understood similar to a wet lube in English, with the caveat that we don't know if the listener would be able to discern your intent for a rainy conditions lubricant. Google Translate renders "Wachse" as "waxes", and "Schmierstoffe" as "lubricants".

I don't know if German-speaking listeners make a distinction between lubricants in general (e.g. schmierstoffe or similar words) and oils (e.g. kettenöle). In English, I would probably think of lubricants as the general category, and wet lubes (again, they tend to be oil based) as the most common type of lubes, dry lubes as another type, and waxes as a subset of dry lubes (or it's also valid to think of them as distinct).

Without knowing German, I can tell that the word/phrase you proposed in the comments contains the word for rain. I can't comment on how it might be interpreted by someone who speaks German and not English, but it could suffice to start. You might also try using Google Translate in the store, but I suspect you might want to try to input as simple English as possible. For example, "lubricant for wet conditions" would come out as "Schmiermittel für nasse Bedingungen". This sounds like it might be wordier than necessary, but hopefully a German listener would be able to determine the intent.

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    The problem with using dry lube in the rain with the intention of reapplying afterwards is that the lube gets washed off partway through the ride and you have to complete it with a wholly unlubricated chain.
    – MaplePanda
    Jan 31, 2022 at 22:47
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    "bicycle lubricant or oil for use in rain" is not difficult to convey, just avoid sub-culture slang like "wet-lube".
    – Max Power
    Feb 9, 2022 at 4:43

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