Home / World According to Don / Chain Waxing

 Ok, this blog is more on the bike nerd side of things. It’s about the best way to lubricate a chain, which also happens to be the easiest. It’s called waxing, but it’s not from a bottle.  I use hot melted left-over candle wax.

A little history: Hot waxing chains is not new. I’m not sure when it started but I had friends in the 60s who did it.  My guess is it’s been around since chains were invented. The idea is you heat wax–I use a crockpot–put in a chain  for about 20 minutes, take it out, let it cool for about 5 minutes, and install the chain. For years my understanding was it kept the drive train clean, but it didn’t lubricate all that well. Then I read an article in VeloNews about chain lubrication. They hired a lab to test how long the lube lasted and how well it worked. What got my attention was that a waxed chain was up to 10 watts more efficient,  lasted many times longer, and  kept the drivetrain clean.

10 WATTS! That is what sold me. I sometimes use a watt meter and I know the difficulty of getting an extra 10 watts. At the time I was seriously bike racing and I said to myself, “I want those free 10 watts.” What I didn’t know is that if you wax your chain and change it at the proper intervals, you also don’t wear out drive train parts. I have four chains for my mountain bike. They all have between 3000 and 4000 miles on them. I have one cassette with close to 8000 miles on it, the derailleur pulleys also have 8000 miles on them. The chains show almost no wear on a chain measuring device. I save $200 to $300 a year on not having to replace parts. I save hours maintaining my bike because I never clean my chain or my drivetrain. Those photos are just after my ride today, I have never cleaned that chain nor that drivetrain.

I have been bragging about this to my coworkers for three years now, and now at Sunnyside we are waxing all of our rental bike chains. We are also going to offer this service to the public (you) for $10 a time. On a mountain bike one waxing lasts 7 hours, as compared to 2 to 3 hours for normal lubrication. What’s cool about this is that on a long ride your chain will be lubricated for the whole ride instead of half the ride. On a road bike one waxing lasts about 500 miles.

OK,  I can see a the wheels turning out there. Why not use a commercial wax based lube in a bottle? Well because in the same test that convinced me to wax my chain, the commercial wax-based lube came out on the bottom for durability and efficiency. Why is that? Well it’s simple. When you immerse a chain in molten wax, the inside of the chain gets lubed. When you apply a liquid wax to a chain, only the surface gets lubed. The inside of the chain is where the bushings are. If these are lubed the chain doesn’t elongate, which means it will not wear out the cassette, chainrings and pulleys.

A couple of more points of interest: This needs to be easy and simple. You will need a quick connect. SRAM chains come with them and KMC makes them for Shimano and Campagnolo. You really don’t need to clean your chain, or even wipe off the excess wax. You can even lube your chain with a traditional chain lube between waxings. All you have to do is wipe off your chain and throw it in the crockpot. The molten  wax will clean your chain for you.

OK, enough of this, time to go for another ride.

  1. A note to people considering this: set up ye olde chaine waxing station OUTDOORS, and preferably, a long ways from any open windows. It smells like something is burning! (signed, the Long Suffering Wifey)

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