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Thread: Waxing the Chain

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    Default Waxing the Chain

    As per thread subject, does anyone have experience with waxing a chain with parrafin wax instead of using lube? I'm interested in hearing all opinions, for and against.

    As mentioned in a different thread, I don't typically get great life out of my drivetrain. My 11s chain will read 0.75 wear typically around 1200 miles, which I would like to extend just a little bit to save some money. I've read interesting "things" (read: propaganda) about waxing a chain instead of lube - stays cleaner longer, a little more efficient than lube, etc - and I'm also aware that it take more effort to setup initially. One of the major aspects of my chain wear is my not-so-consistent cleaning routine, so I am definitely intrigued by the idea of the chain staying cleaner longer.

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    I don't use parrafin but I have been using wax lube (Ice Dry, White Lightning) for years. Mostly I use it because it is much cleaner. I have a recumbent with a long chain that tags my calf. And a Bike Friday that all but requires handling the chain when unfolding.

    I get more than 4,000 miles out of my chains but three of them are on bikes with 8- or 9- speed cassettes. (I change the cassette when I change the chain.)

    Could it be that 11 speed chains just don't last as long as 8- or 9-speed chains?

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    I've been using Finish Line ceramic wax lube on my 11-speed Ultegra bike. Chain was fine to about 4,000 miles, and when I changed it, the original cassette still worked fine (a first for me). Only caveat here is that this particular bike has only been rained on once.

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    I've never bothered with wax, as my understanding was that it doesn't work in wet conditions.

    I hadn't heard that it extends chain life. But I guess if it is better able to keep contaminants out of the chain bushings, then it would (?) Of course, if it just washes out in the rain and lets in grit, then it is probably worse than other lubes for the life of the chain/cassette.

    1200 miles to reading 0.75 seems a little short, but 1200 to reading 0.50 (or just over) is about what I was getting when I was trying to change out chains religiously (and that is when I would change them). Right now I have 4800 miles on my commuter chain (and 4800 miles on the cassette). I expect I'll change the chain & the cassette at around 6k miles. The only degradation in performance is that the chain drops off my 1x setup more easily; that is my N/W (X-Sync) front ring at fault, by the looks of it. That ring has almost 10k miles on it, though, so I'll be replacing that too when I swap out the chain & cassette.

    So, basically, I could use 4-5 chains and get ~6k miles out of a cassette (I've never gotten much more than that) or I could use 1 chain and get basically the same mileage. Maybe there's a 1,000 mile difference. But I'm saving ~$75-100 in chains; 1k miles on a cassette is worth a lot less than that to me. (I'm buying XG-1175 cassettes, which are pretty fancy, but which I've been able to buy for sub-$100 as barely-used take-off items.) If shifting performance degraded (beyond the typical no-longer-new feeling) with the chain/cassette age, I'd probably be inclined to go back to a tight chain-changing schedule.

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    There are 2 methods of applying wax to a chain.

    The first is the least involved: buy a wax-based liquid lubricant like Rock'n'roll, White Lightning, etc. Follow the instructions on the bottle and you'll likely get a cleaner chain than most oil-based lubricants. When properly applied to a completely clean new chain, wax based lubes (especially those for wetter riding conditions e.g., R'n'R Blue) are no better or worse than oil-based lubes in the wet, imho.

    The second method of applying paraffin wax (with or without friction modifiers, like powdered Teflon) is much more involved. This is the "old school" chain wax method. First, the (new only - don't bother doing this to an old!!) chain needs to be cleaned really well. First, soak in degreaser, then scrub. Then, clean with acetone. Then, place the chain in a low temperature oven (about 250 degrees) for an hour or two. Then, after the chain has cooled to room temperature, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth. Dip the chain into the liquid/melted paraffin (a small crock pot works well as the wax vessel) and hang the chain to set. Gently wipe off the excess wax, and install the chain. To "top up" the lube, simply draw the chain through a clean microfiber cloth, then draw the chain over a solid bar of paraffin wax.

    The key to wax lubes (and most of the "newer" light/high performance oil-based lubes like Silca NFS, Du Monde Tech Pro, Smoove, etc.) is to start with a super-duper clean chain. Most new chains ship with a coating of light grease. This grease is more of a rust inhibitor than a lubricant. It also keeps most chain lubes from bonding with the metal of the chain. So, cleaning off the grease completely will generally give better results with any lube.

    There's also been a lot of interesting research into both the durability (decreasing chain wear), and performance (decreasing friction) - a quick google search for 'Cycling Tips Chain lube test' and 'Friction Facts' will be a good start.
    Last edited by Harry Meatmotor; 08-06-2018 at 10:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Meatmotor View Post
    There are 2 methods of applying wax to a chain.
    a quick google search for 'Cycling Tips Chain lube test' and 'Friction Facts' will be a good start.
    That lead me to some interesting articles! It really makes me want to check out the parrafin wax route, if only as a trial basis. Any experience with a pre-mixed one like Molten Speed Wax versus a "homemade" recipe of parrafin plus additives?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Meatmotor View Post

    The key to wax lubes (and most of the "newer" light/high performance oil-based lubes like Silca NFS, Du Monde Tech Pro, Smoove, etc.) is to start with a super-duper clean chain. Most new chains ship with a coating of light grease. This grease is more of a rust inhibitor than a lubricant. It also keeps most chain lubes from bonding with the metal of the chain. So, cleaning off the grease completely will generally give better results with any lube.
    So what is the best degreaser for getting rid of the stuff chains are coated with for shipment?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Meatmotor View Post
    Most new chains ship with a coating of light grease. This grease is more of a rust inhibitor than a lubricant. It also keeps most chain lubes from bonding with the metal of the chain. So, cleaning off the grease completely will generally give better results with any lube.
    I've had someone absolutely swear to me that the stuff on new chains is the best lube around. (No joke or sarcasm on my part. Maybe there was on his part and I just missed it.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tania View Post
    I've had someone absolutely swear to me that the stuff on new chains is the best lube around. (No joke or sarcasm on my part. Maybe there was on his part and I just missed it.)
    Yeah, that was the opinion of the late Sheldon Brown:

    New chains come pre-lubricated with a grease-type lubricant which has been installed at the factory. This is an excellent lubricant, and has been made to permeate all of the internal interstices in the chain. The chain and this lubricant need to be warmed during application.

    This factory lube is superior to any lube that you can apply after the fact -- well, unless...see below.


    Some people make the bad mistake of deliberately removing this superior lubricant. Don't do this!


    The factory lubricant all by itself is usually good for several hundred miles of service if the bike is not ridden in wet or dusty conditions. It is best not to apply any sort of lube to a new chain until it is clearly needed, because any wet lube you can apply will dilute the factory lube.
    As well as KMC's (http://kmcchain.us/faqs/)
    Yes, all chains have been pre-greased at the factory and are ready to ride right out of the box (some chains must be fitted to length according to your bike’s exact specifications). If you feel that there is too much grease, use a towel and wipe off excess grease from the plates only, avoiding the rollers. For more information on chain maintenance please look at our chain maintenance guide located on the home page.
    Last edited by hozn; 08-06-2018 at 12:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett L. View Post
    That lead me to some interesting articles! It really makes me want to check out the parrafin wax route, if only as a trial basis. Any experience with a pre-mixed one like Molten Speed Wax versus a "homemade" recipe of parrafin plus additives?
    There was an interesting Cycling Tips podcast on this (w/ one of the guys from Friction Facts, I believe).

    I remember a study that Velo did awhile back that was enlightening. Well, all I really remember is that Rock-n-Roll gold was an excellent lube (not as fast as paraffin wax but also way less of a pain to put on and holds up to normal riding conditions.)

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