For the Non-Believers in the Crowd (Chain Waxing Revisited)

500 Miles

The above photo shows the untouched/unwashed drivetrain of my primary commuter after approximately 450-500 miles. I live in one of California’s central valleys, so our winter conditions are nothing like they are up north or back east—in other words, our winter conditions are not much different than our summer conditions in terms of road grime—but still, you have to admit, that’s an unusually sparkly drivetrain for nearly 500 road miles and zero maintenance.

How do I do it? Wax. Here’s the method:

  • Plug in the crockpot. If you don’t have one, they can often be had at thrift stores for under $5. It should go without saying, but please don’t use a crockpot for cooking food that was previously used for chain waxing.
  • Drop in the wax. I like an 8-to-1 mixture of pure paraffin to pure beeswax. I buy 4 lb. blocks of paraffin and cut them into 4 pieces (16 oz. each), and I buy 1 lb. blocks of pure, unscented beeswax and cut them into 8 chunks (2 oz. each). Drop in one chunk of each.
  • Go start the coffee brewing while you wait for the wax to melt.
  • Carefully place the chain in the fully-melted wax. Make a little hook from a wire coat hanger and thread it through one end of the chain to make it easier to remove later. Save the wire for next time.
  • Go drink your cup of coffee while you wait for the wax to penetrate your chain (give it 20 minutes).
  • Remove the chain from the wax and wipe the excess with a rag.
  • Reinstall the chain.
  • Enjoy a smooth, quiet, and clean drivetrain until next time.

The total time involved is around 30-40 minutes (most of that is waiting for the wax to melt), but the total amount of labor is no more than 5-10 minutes. The beauty is that no toxic chemicals are used in the process, the wax can be used and re-used multiple times, cleaning and lubing are combined into one process (the hot wax melts out your old wax, taking any dirt away with it), and your drivetrain and pant leg will remain spotless (assuming you’re not riding through snowbanks and mud, in which case you’re on your own). I’ve been getting 400-500 miles between re-waxes—your mileage may vary.

If you’re waxing your chain for the first time, you’ll need to completely and thoroughly strip your drivetrain of any existing lube. You can read more about how to prep your oily drivetrain for the waxing process in my original post on the subject. In that article I also mentioned using a double boiler as an alternative to a crock pot—don’t bother. The crock pot method is cheaper and easier.

51 Responses to “For the Non-Believers in the Crowd (Chain Waxing Revisited)”

  • Karl McCracken (twitter: @KarlOnSea) says:

    Alan – I’m a believer! After your first post, I tried this on my fixie, which is now my regular winter commuting bike. Chain waxing IS a bit of a faff, but having a bike that won’t leave a greasy smear over anything ti touches is worth the effort.

    I didn’t even bother with new wax – just melted down a bunch of candle stubs that we had around the house.

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  • Brian C says:

    Alan:
    OK I am really, really jealous. I have used wax in the past, but our climate here (pacific northwest) is just too wet, so I have gone back to conventional oils. I do remember how clean the drivetrain was using wax in the summers though…

    And I believe will have me seriously contemplating one of the new shimano 11-speed internal hubs when they come out (I put an 8 speed on my wife’s new bike, but it just does not quite cut it for some of our hills). And the belt drives appeal for the same reason…

    Brian

  • Kevin says:

    Interesting. My question is how well does work in the colder climates where most of the winter is below freezing.

  • David says:

    I’ve been using White Lightning’s Clean Ride for years and find that it provides a similar level of drivetrain shine with better lubricity than paraffin at a fraction of the trouble of removing and soaking the chain in molten wax. This is particularly true in the PNW, where you need to clean the chain thoroughly before soaking in wax. With the Clean Ride, you just wipe the grime off with a rag (with the chain still on the bike), squirt some new lube on the chain, and then wipe off the excess. It takes about 5 minutes.

  • Alan says:

    @David

    I’m glad to hear White Lightning is working well for you. I’ve never had much luck with it and always found it gummed everything up too much for my tastes. Perhaps I wasn’t applying it properly…

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Kevin

    “My question is how well does work in the colder climates where most of the winter is below freezing.”

    I can’t definitively answer that question. Waxing worked well for me in Seattle, but it sounds as if you’re talking about much colder conditions. Why don’t you give it a try and let us know how it goes?

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Brian C

    Have you tried adding a teaspoon or two of Slick 50 to your wax formula? That worked pretty well for me when I lived in Seattle and commuted through the winter.

    I too am on the hunt for a belt drive bike. I’m hoping to have a belt drive 11-speed before the year is out.

    Alan

  • Marc T. says:

    A clean un-lubricated chain will last longer than an lubricated dirty chain…i don’t think wax is a good lubricant because once it is pushed out of the way by the tight fitting chain links… it does not flow back to where it was… but waxing a chain , unlike wetter lubricants keeps the chain clean… wax does not attract dirt causing the illusion of an effective lubricant… whereas a substance that actually lubricates better will retain grime because of its viscus nature… I mean, would you melt wax and and pore it into an auto mobile engine instead of oil?… not a chance… why? because wax it is not a lubricant… but a clean chain is always good…

  • Jonathan says:

    This is amazing. I think I am going to try it. I really like the look of a clean drivetrain and this will make my LHT look brand new and shiny longer.

  • dwainedibbly says:

    Thanks for the post, Alan. I used to wax chains back in the 1980s when Mrs Dibbly & I used to ride ~200 miles/week. I haven’t done it since we got back into cycling a few years ago. After we moved from north Florida to Portland last summer, a bike shop employee (where they sell chain lube, hmmm…) told me that waxing was a bad idea in the Portland climate. I recently heard about adding beeswax and/or Slick 50 to the parafin, and I think I’m going to give it another try. I even still have my old double-boiler, believe it or not.

    If I can find some Slick-50 I’ll give that a try. too.

    BTW, we used to get incredible life from chains & freewheels, even on the tandem.

    In a few years, when belt drive “chain” rings & sprockets are more readily available, I’ll try that.

  • Alan says:

    @Marc T.

    ” I mean, would you melt wax and and pore it into an auto mobile engine instead of oil?… not a chance… why? because wax it is not a lubricant… “

    Wax may or may not technically be classified as a “lubricant”, but experience and substantial anecdotal evidence indicate that waxed chains last as long as, and in many cases much longer than, chains lubricated with oil-based products. For me, the ease of use, cleanliness, and longer chain life associated with chain waxing are what really matter.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @dwainedibbly

    Please report back and let me know how it goes for you. Two of our car-free friends in Portland started waxing their chains after reading my first article on the subject and they’ve been having good results so far.

    Alan

  • Joseph E says:

    I will have to try this on my wife’s bike, which has only a partial chainguard, and usually will not be ridden in rain or freezing conditions.

    But I love my Breezer’s chaincase. I still haven’t touched the chain after 1000 miles, and it’s working fine and looks pristine, despite riding in rain and freezing fog for the past month in southern Oregon.

    So what’s the big deal with a belt driver? Sure, it looks “simpler” than a chaincase, but what with breaking open the rear triangle (requiring a specifically-designed frame) to remove the rear wheel, it is no easier to fix a flat than with a chaincase, and the belt is much fussier to adjust than a chain.

    Millions of people in Europe, Asia and around the world are riding bikes with full chaincases thrue all sorts of weather conditions, and they can look very beautiful on the right bike. More North Americans should consider them.

  • kfg says:

    \would you melt wax and and pore it into an auto mobile engine instead of oil?\

    No, but I’d wax a shuffleboard table. I wouldn’t pour water an automobile engine either, but it works great on a Slip ‘n Slide.

  • The-milkman says:

    I’m converted!

    I converted all my bikes (which are recumbent) over to this waxing system and don’t think I’ll be going back to the oily ways. I can now load any of my bikes into my car, grab my chain with bare hand, drag my leg across, without worry of an oily mess. I converted all my chains over this past summer and have logged some heavy miles, I’m keeping a close eye on chain stretch and plan to report the results when known. I’ve been re-waxing about every 400-450 miles and have started adding the 1/8th bees wax which really does keep the “flecking” of the paraffin down to a minimum. Even my 10-11′ long recumbent chains are a breeze now that I have a system in place, I can only imagine the ease of a single length chain. I’ve been using a disposable aluminum tray for my wax which I place inside an old roasting pan of water, essentially a double boiler, I’ve attached an image below but not certain if it will show. I should also mention I’m located in the San Francisco east bay which enjoys similar weather conditions as you…..

    [IMG]http://i855.photobucket.com/albums/ab116/the-milkman/Chainwaxing.jpg[/IMG]

  • Marc T. says:

    @ Alan… right… keeping the chain clean is the #1 method for long lasting chains… i like the idea of waxing because it keeps it clean… Sheldon Brown said a chain will never be effectively lubricated as well as when it is new… he recommends not lubing a new chain for hundreds of miles because we can’t put a better lube on a chain than the manufacturer can while the chain is being assembled. Do you remove the manufacturers lubricant on a new chain and then wax it? have you ever waxed a new chain without removing factory lube? how many total miles do you get from a waxed chain before it is out of spec? that would be the litmus test for chain lubricants… not a clean chain riding around the suburbs of sacramento… thats easy to do.

  • Stephen D. says:

    I really want to use and like this method, but haven’t have great results lately.

    In the 1980′s this was the only technique I used on my Trek 720′s drivetrain. I used pure paraffin. I would get wax flaking for the first few rides, and then it would stop. Also, the drivetrain was VERY quiet and would gradually get noisier as the wax wore down.

    Twice I’ve used this method (inspired by EcoVelo) on my SRAM 10-speed chain, once with pure paraffin and then with the 8-1 paraffin to beeswax mixture. Both times the chain felt stiff and balky when shifting. It was also relatively noisy compared to an oiled chain.

    So I’m wondering what’s going wrong. Possible ideas – not giving the waxed chain a long enough break-in period? Not getting all the excess wax off with a rag when hot? Should I loosen up each individual link by hand before reinstalling it on the bike? BTW adding the beeswax seemed to make the chain very stiff. No chance of rain here in So Cal, so wet weather is not an issue.

    Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Currently using Dumond Tech.

  • Rider says:

    I used wax on my chains for a number of years. Used a crockpot, as advised here, and put a mashed-up wire coathanger in the bottom of the crockpot to keep the chain out of the crud that sinks to bottom after the chain makes a few visits to the wax.

    I liked the super-clean drive train.

    Eventually, I found it to be a bit of a hassle, and I also found that my chain didn’t last long. YMMV.

  • sindandune says:

    I use Green Oil Chain Lube, and it works like a treat. I live in The Netherlands BTW, where the weather is unforgiving.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Marc,

    “Do you remove the manufacturers lubricant on a new chain and then wax it?”

    Yes. Even when I was using ProLink, DuMonde, etc., I’d always strip the factory goop first.

    “Have you ever waxed a new chain without removing factory lube?”

    Nope. That would be a mess.

    “how many total miles do you get from a waxed chain before it is out of spec? that would be the litmus test for chain lubricants “

    That’s certainly an important factor, but ease of use, cleanliness, and performance are others.

    “not a clean chain riding around the suburbs of sacramento… thats easy to do”

    A chain doesn’t know whether its in Sacramento, Seattle, or Timbuktu… :-))

    Seriously, I rode waxed chains in Seattle for a decade and got excellent life out of them. On old 7 and 8 speeds I’ve gotten upwards of 10,000 miles, though on newer 9- and 10-speed chains, life expectancy is naturally less. I had around 5,000 miles on my last chain before it went out of spec.

    It’s difficult to compare chain life outside of controlled conditions because lubrication is only one factor contributing to longevity. The quality of the chain, the width of the chain (6,7,8,9,10 speed, single speed, etc), the type of drivetrain (derailleur versus SS, fixed, or IGH), and local conditions, all play an equally, if not more, significant role.

    For extreme conditions, a heavy oil-based lube is best. Back in the 1980s I rode single track on the Olympic Peninsula through a few winters and about the only lube that withstood those conditions was Phil Tenacious oil.

    You should give waxing a try and let us know how it goes for you. It’s a simple thing and you may really like it.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Stephen D.

    “Any thoughts greatly appreciated. Currently using Dumond Tech.”

    It’s hard to say for sure what’s going on. The only thing I can figure is that it’s an issue with the tight tolerances of your indexed 10-speed drivetrain. On my 9-speed friction drivetrain, there’s essentially no break-in period and the chain runs virtually silent for the first 100-200 miles. On my 8-speed drivetrains, waxed chains are even smoother and quieter, with zero break-in required. Perhaps the tolerances on these new drivetrains are so tight that wax is simply not an option. I’d love to hear from any others who have tried wax on their 10-speed drivetrains.

    Alan

  • David says:

    Alan,
    FWIW, the key to keeping the White Lightning treatment from gooping up is to degrease the chain when it’s new or when you first convert over to WL from oil and thereafter to wipe off the excess WL immediately after you apply it, while it’s still wet. The only parts of the chain that need lube are internal so the stuff on the outside serves no purpose anyway. Degreasing the chain the first time can be done in the traditional manner or you can use the WL as the degreaser by applying a generous amount for the first two or three treatments.

    To apply, I put the chain on the biggest rear sproket and turn the pedals with one hand while I squirt the WL on to the rollers just at the top of rear sprocket. Judging from the number of applications I get from a bottle, I usually use about 1/3 ounce per application before the chain saturates. If you listen carefully as you turn the pedals, you’ll hear a change in the sound of the chain as the lube saturates all the internal voids and starts to leak out.

    To wipe off the excess, I just put a little forward pressure on the pedals with one hand to tension the chain and use my other hand to wrap a clean rag around the upper ~6″ section of chain behind the chainring and wipe back and forth. Then I turn the pedal backwards by 6″ and repeat until I’ve hit the whole chain.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Joseph,

    “So what’s the big deal with a belt driver? Sure, it looks “simpler” than a chaincase, but what with breaking open the rear triangle (requiring a specifically-designed frame) to remove the rear wheel, it is no easier to fix a flat than with a chaincase, and the belt is much fussier to adjust than a chain.”

    Not to pick nits, but the frames on belt drive bikes only need to be opened to change a belt, not to remove the rear wheel. Considering that, changing flats on belt drive bikes is a little easier than changing flats on most bikes with chaincases (depending upon the design of the case).

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/01/05/civia-belt-drive-installation-and-adjustment/

    Regarding belt adjustment, you are absolutely right; they require more precise adjustment than chains. With a gauge provided by Gates it’s not that big a deal, but it is one more gadget to carry around in your bike bag (I definitely don’t need more gadgets… LOL).

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @David

    That’s super. Thanks very much for sharing your approach. If I tire of using the crock pot, I’ll definitely give your method a try.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • The-Milkman says:

    @ Stephan D

    The first few times I’ve waxed I let the chain sit in the wax too long after removing from the heat and had way too much wax build-up. I now remove much sooner which means a thinner coat of wax. I’ve been removing my chain from the wax with a pair of disposable rubber gloves and move to newspaper for cooling. I have noticed the bee wax has made the chain stiffer than the straight paraffin, but only temporarily.

  • Jack says:

    So I’m wondering…….

    Is “what’s good for the goose, good for the gander?”

    Could I do this to my pedals? Jockey wheels? Derailleurs?

    I’m thinking, “clean is clean” and the easier the better.

    Thoughts??

  • CedarWood says:

    @ Kevin,

    It’s been below freezing quite a lot this winter, and I’ve had zero issues with the waxed chains in our stable. Snow does not stick to the chain, rings or cogs, preferring to build up in the derailleur.

    Now, why does my drivetrain become covered with black wax flecks shortly after installing the freshly waxed chain? I’m quite fastidious about degreasing both chain and rings/cogs/derailleurs with El Duke, so don’t see how it could be grease/oil. Maybe I’m missing something.

  • Alan says:

    @CedarWood

    Once your drivetrain has been degreased prior to the first application of wax, it shouldn’t need to be degreased again; the hot wax should take care of flushing out the old wax. Just guessing, but do you think the wax is picking up residue left by El Duke? El Duke rinses fairly clean, but my understanding is that it’s a soybean oil-based product, so it could be leaving some residue.

    That said, it’s normal to get a little bit of flaking during the first few days after an application.

    Alan

  • Marc T. says:

    im not sure what you think wax is doing for a chain except minimizing grime the chain picks up. i cannot wrap my head around wax minimizing friction between metal parts for more than a few turns… as for Sacramento. i lived and biked there for 20 years and did not even know a chain got dirty till i moved to Humboldt county. These condition gives new meaning to bike maintenance for me. you can almost see chains and brake pads deteriorate before your eyes. Chains and brake pads in Sac, for me, lasted years with minimal attention. none the less, i will be waxing my next chain for a pseudo controlled experiment. Ill let you know when and if im a converted believer. thanks for the info… it is appreciated to have an experienced sounding board for bike maintenance.

  • Alan says:

    Marc,

    There is a long tradition of using wax as a chain lubricant: here’s an article from the 1992 (though it goes back much further) http://www.ecovelo.info/images/rivendell-1992-wax.pdf , and at least two of the most popular modern chain lubes use wax as their primary lubricant (Boeshield and White Lightning…. there are others). There is also lots of anecdotal evidence that chain waxing significantly increases chain life, at least for some people, in some conditions. Whether it will work in Humboldt is an open question, but if the climate is anything like Seattle, I suspect you’ll have good results. On the other hand, if you’re riding off road in mud, you’ll be better off with a heavy wet lube.

    Both Sheldon Brown and Jobst Brandt vehemently warned against lubing a dirty chain, yet the instructions included with many modern lubes suggest doing exactly that (many suggest applying lube to the dirty chain, then wiping clean with a rag, which delievers dirt to the inside of the chain and only cleans the outside). Applying liquid lube to a dirty chain carries the dirt inside the chain, creating an abrasive mixture that wears away at the internal parts of the chain. For those who prefer to use liquid lubes, the solution is to degrease the chain before each application of lube. Of course, this is probably impractial for most people, hence the directions to “squirt and wipe”. Even the popular wax-based lubes such as Boeshield and White Lightning use a solvent to carry the lube to the inner workings of the chain, and require stripping the chain before each application for best results.

    Of course, we’re giving all of this waaay too much thought…LOL. The method most people use is to squirt a little oil on the chain when it starts making noise and call it good. Doing so will result in a dirtier bike (most people don’t care), and chain life is likely to be significantly reduced, but it’s my guess that many people would rather just replace their chain and cassette more frequently than take part in the rituals we’re discussing.

    Alan

  • Dave says:

    Ok, so I can see that the chain and cassette are pretty clean, but so is everything else. I don’t think that my bike was that clean when it was new. I can’t even ride one leg of my commute without a layer of dust, dirt and crud getting on every forward facing surface. The hubs just get filthy all around. And that’s on a dry day. If there are any puddles or water on the road my bike gets a film of caked on sludge. I’m not Pig-Pen and my commute is primarily paved roads and paths. But my bike gets dirty and the dirt gets into all the nooks and crannies. If I when through the process of removing the general grime off of my bike to the same level of detail as your bike, I think that my drive train would end up getting pretty clean looking too.

    I’m not doubting that the waxed chain doesn’t generate the black goo that an oiled chain does. However, if you’re going to show a picture of a “dirty” waxed drive train then I want to see dirt. I want to see what it looks like after a couple hundred miles of being ridden hard and put away wet. Because that’s my real-world condition.

  • Alan says:

    You’re looking at it, Dave; that’s about 450 miles of commuting in NorCal with a waxed drivetrain. I’m sure if I was in Minnesota or other parts north, it would look much different (though my bikes didn’t look nearly as bad as what you’re describing when I was winter commuting in Seattle).

    For the record, this same bike was ridden with an oiled drivetrain for awhile (ProLink and Dumonde Tech) and it never looked like the above photo, so waxing does, in fact, make a significant difference to the overall cleanliness of a bike (along with full-coverage fenders and mud flaps, which are even more important).

    Alan

  • CedarWood says:

    @Alan,

    After the El Duke, I strip residue with straight dish detergent and a toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly, hang to dry, and wax. Maybe one of those products is leaving a residue, in which case I should plunk a blackened chain directly into the wax and see what happens.

    This isn’t just a few flakes after re-waxing; our drivetrains are constantly caked with these black flakes. The only time they look like yours is just after cleaning, but the first ride starts the ugliness over again.

  • peteathome says:

    I went through a paraffin phase about 15 years ago but it just didn’t seem to work well.

    I used a double-boiller – an empty coffee can sitting in a pot of simmering water – to melt the paraffin. I didn’t add anything to the paraffin. For the first wax dip, I would completely strip the chain in a kerosene bath, completely dry it, then simmer it in the molten paraffin for about 15 minutes. When done, I’d let the paraffin cool down and snap the coffee can lid on, ready for the next use.

    It certainly kept my chain clean. However, after about 15 minutes of riding in the rain my chain would start to squeek and the shifting would get poor. Even without rain, I found the chain noisy and the shifting degraded within 100 miles.

    Even though I found the wax treatment a lot easier than what I used to do – strip the chain in a kerosene bath and then relub – it didn’t last long enough to be worth it.

    I don’t know why my results are so different from everybody’s. Maybe it needed the beeswax or some other additive?

    I’ve finally settled on “rock n roll” lube. It’s a self cleaning lube that keeps my chain pretty clean if I carefully wipe it off after an application. Not as clean as straight wax, but it does completely clean up every time I reapply. And it seems to last a pretty long time on my chain.

  • Fergie348 says:

    Here’s one problem, not for Alan obviously but for some I’m sure. Many modern 10 and 11 speed chains are connected with a master link or replacement pin that can only be used once. The replacement links or pins are almost comically expensive.

    With Shimano’s hackneyed flanged replacement pin, the 9 and 10 speed pins are sometimes upward of $10 *each*. The SRAM master links are reusable for their 9 speed chains but the 10 speed chain links are one install only, so need to be replaced every time you remove and reattach the chain. And they’re $15 or more per set! I don’t have any Campagnolo chains, but given the rest of their pricing I shudder to think what replacement pins or links cost for them..

    Solution? Wippermann chains. They all come with reusable master links, even the 10 speed models. Wippermann chains cost more than Shimano or SRAM chains but they last longer (in my experience from 20 – 50% longer than the equivalent Shimano or SRAM chain), and they are easily removeable and replaceable without expensive spare parts. I think the ‘one use only’ replacement pins or master links is a subtle scam to sell more small, high profit skus.

  • Stephen D. says:

    @Fergie348

    As a veteran SRAM 10-speed chain owner, I’ve found that I can re-use the master link a few times without any problems. I probably throw the link away after, say, three uses, but they have never failed. If I’m re-using a master link and am out for a long ride (50-75 miles) I’ll usually take a new, in package, link with me.

    Here has been my best source for low cost replacement links at $2.99 each. I bought 10 of them last order: http://www.utahmountainbiking.com/shopmiva/components_chain.html

  • Roland Smith says:

    According to this study, lubrication had no big effect on bicycle chain efficiency, and the role of lubricant is mostly to take up space so dirt can’t get in.

    That would make a good case for the paraffin treatment, since it doesn’t attract dirt much (as indicated by Alan’s pictures), and oils are more like dirt magnets!

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Roland. I’ve seen that very interesting study before.

    Jobst Brandt’s article on Sheldon’s site supports the same idea from a different angle:

    “Only when a dirty chain is oiled, or has excessive oil on it, can this grit move inside to cause damage. Commercial abrasive grinding paste is made of oil and silicon dioxide (sand) and silicon carbide (sand). You couldn’t do it better if you tried to destroy a chain, than to oil it when dirty.”

    Jobst doesn’t like wax, but the concept is the same: dirt getting inside is what destroys chains.

    Alan

  • Jay in Tel Aviv says:

    Thanks for what looks like a great idea.

    I’m about ready to replace my chain and cassette and I’m tired of dirty oil getting on my my hands and clothes.

    Sheldon Brown says not to use any lube on a new chain until the factory stuff wears off. OTOH it seems like a good opportunity to avoid the initial cleaning you describe. What do you think?

  • Bucky says:

    I’m intriged and willing to give this a try. Am I correct that you would still need to use a traditional lubricant on the derailleur jockey wheel bearings and other piviot points?

  • Alan says:

    @Jay

    You’ll want to strip the chain completely of the factory goop before the first application of wax.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Bucky

    Very lightly lube the pivots and wipe off the excess. Most pulleys used sealed bearings. If yours are sealed, oiling them from the outside will only attract dirt and possibly compromise the seals. You’re better off leaving them alone until they get dry, at which point you can open them up and repack with a light grease.

    Alan

  • Roland Smith says:

    On motorcycles, o-ring chains have become standard years ago. The o-rings between the inner and outer plates keep the lubricant contained between the pins and the bushings.

    Has anyone ever come across an o-ring chain for bicycles? It seems like a good idea. Of course if would only work with pressed-in bushings, not with a bushingless design.

  • pdxcmuter says:

    Here’s my experience riding waxed (paraffin) year-round in Portland, OR:

    I own one bicycle. I use this bike as my daily commuter (~12mi roundtrip), my weekend exercise rider, camping, touring, grocery-buying, etc. I generally just change the accessories like racks and panniers (or trailer) to fit the job. I run a standard Shimano 9sp drive-train with a SRAM chain. Generally, I replace ~3 chains per year and ~2 cassettes with chain-rings give or take.

    My motivation for trying wax was wanting a clean drive-train and longer-lasting chains. The wet lube I’ve used is generally either Finish Line Cross Country or Dumonde Tech Original. Sometimes I would use lighter varieties in the summer months.

    I used the method pretty much defined above. I always had the flaking problem followed by lots of dirt build up. Generally, I would last about a week before shifting suffered and squeaks started. My work commute is 100% urban with a combo of on-street bike lanes and regular rodes. No off-street or car traffic separated paths. I tried used chains and brand new chains. Mostly the performance was the same. In the below freezing temps, the gummy build-up would start quicker. During the down-pour winters, it seemed a little cleaner than my previous lube & wipe method, but definitely did not feel more any smoother or last longer. During very warm days of summer (~85-95f), I could not keep my bike locked up outside at work very long because it seemed like the wax would literally melt away by quittin’ time.

    For all the trouble of waxing, my experience has been to continue using thick lubes instead of wax. I did not try any wax additives or anything like that though. As an aside, during a particular wet spring (even for Portland) this past year, the only lube I could get to last through the week was Phil Wood Tenacious Oil. I really hate using that stuff because it is so thick.

    I really think the wax vs. oil performance debate comes down to what kind of riding you’re doing and in what kind of climate. YMMV.

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  • Ed says:

    Funny thing is with all this chain maintenance I’m using a belt drive and have been using it daily for commuting for 2 years (12km a day) only during 3/4 of the year when it snows i’m done for the year until it melts again. I also do charity and fun rides with my little bike (usually 60km stints here and there). After 5000km’s so far, all I did was hose off the rubber belt (gates brand) when it was raining and during the dry days I do nothing do it. Never had to change the belt yet for wear and my sprockets are still in great condition. I live up north in Toronto Canada where the weather when I bike ranges from 35C (95F) all the way down to -5C (23F). I don’t think I can ever go back to a chain drive bicycle after this. to me it’s the commuters best friend.

  • Alan says:

    Ed,

    I just moved to a belt drive bike as my main commuter. I’m looking forward to the low maintenance and ease of use.

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Alan

  • Frank says:

    A couple comments: First, I think the wax lube is really great for folding bikes, since you’re much more likely to come into contact with the chain when folding, unfolding or carrying the bike.

    Second, I’ve been using a wax lube (with a little oil mixed in) for many years. But I learned to do it on the bike. I use a propane torch on low flame to slightly warm the bottom 10″ of the chain, then I use a chunk of the hardened wax/oil mix as a crayon, scraping the wax on. I re-warm until I see the wax melt and flow into the chain. Backpedal 10″ and repeat until done, then wipe off excess with paper towels. I use a foot-square piece of aluminum sheet to protect the tire and chainstay from heat.

    I like this method. It’s quick (less than 10 minutes per bike) and there’s no need to break the chain. The oil in my mix makes it not quite as clean as your photos, but way cleaner than any other lube. Excellent for my commuting bike!

  • Rudy and Kay says:

    Just got an e-mail from you folks at ecovelo . . .
    We are avid tandem riders. So far have pedaled TWOgether for over 230,000 miles (yup, right amount of zeroes).
    Been using the hot wax method since the mid 1970s! Did fool around a couple times with other lubes but quickly returned to hot wax.
    Worked good when we lived in Michigan, year round. We used to ride when it was 20 degrees and dry in wintertime.
    Then got smart and moved to Tucson, Arizona back in 1978.
    Waxing works great and especially in our very dry climate.
    Get a minimum of 6,000 miles out of drive train chain and at least double/triple that on cross-over chains on our tandem(s).
    Have an old electric burner that we plug in and stick outside. Coffee can with a couiple small blocks of paraffin. Once parafin melts, drop in the chain for about 10 minutes or so. Retrieve chain utilizing long handled pliers and hang it up to drip over chunk a cardboard. After it cools a bit, wipe it couple times with dry rag to get off some of the wax on outside of the chain links. Re-install chain . . . super smooth/super quiet! A few flakes can be found on chainstay, but having a carbon fiber tandem, they don’t really show; just wipe ‘em off!
    Someone suggested adding a bit of graphite to the wax; tried it but made no dscernable difference.
    At the slightest squeak of a chain we re-wax.
    We are now on our 5th tandem and exclusively use hot wax.
    Why? Because it works, is eco-friendly and keeps them chains a’movin quietly!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

 
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