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.