top of page

Bike chain wax: our complete guide to chain waxing and how it can improve your cycling performance

What are the benefits? Is a waxed chain worth it? Is a waxed chain noisy? How do I wax my chain? We answer your questions and share our pro tips.

Waxed chain guide

Have you noticed how drip lubes are marketed everywhere? It’s probably because they are so easy to use and available. Even if you have next to no experience you can figure out how to drip the lube onto a chain and wipe it off. It’s a popular approach for obvious reasons.


Why use wax instead? Short answer is, waxed chains improve performance. Studies in controlled environments have shown waxed chains increase Watt output. For example, a study by Friction Facts found that waxed chains saved around 3 watts of power compared to a non-lubricated chain. It means you cycle faster. The difference between winning and losing.


We’ve been riding with waxed chains for the past few years and are big fans. Yes, they improve performance. But waxing also improves the life of the whole drivetrain, gets rid of all the faff with cleaning and is much more sustainable.


In this guide we’ll dive into everything you need to know about chain waxing. We’ll describe the benefits of bike chain waxing, do some myth-busting (“are waxed chains noisy?”) and breakdown the waxing process into a simple three-step guide. By the end you’ll learn why cyclists are choosing to wax their chains, how to apply chain wax, how long chain wax lasts and when to re-apply.


Content


What is chain waxing?

Chain waxing is a relatively new approach to lubricating a bike chain and drivetrain. It can be done in a few simple steps. First, it involves removing the factory grease from the chain so the wax has a clean surface to stick. For the next step the chain is completely submerged in a wax blend, such as our Super Slick Chain Wax. Finally, the chain is left to dry. As the wax dries it hardens and creates a shell that protects the chain and drivetrain components from grit and mental-on-metal contact that is more efficient and sustainable than drip lubes.


Is a waxed chain worth it?

One of the main reasons cyclists wax their chains is the performance gain. While the boost from waxing will vary from chain to chain, riders will typically get a 2-7 watt (at 250 watt power output) increase, equivalent to a 0.8-2.4% improvement in drivetrain efficiency.


The second reason is more practical. Waxing repels grit unlike drip lubes which seem to coat the whole drivetrain with dirt at the first sign of road.


We sat down and spoke to Anita Krelle, a semi-pro cyclist and friend of ours, currently living in New York, who was pretty emphatic. “Drivetrain lifespan savings are massive,” Krelle told us. She explained why grit doesn’t stick to the wax, which creates a physical barrier to reduce wear from metal-on-metal contact. A regularly waxed chain can last up to 15,000km (9,320 miles) before reaching 0.5mm wear on a chain checker. “If you’re not getting 5,000km+, you need to make better choices!”


With the high cost of new drivetrains, tripling or quadrupling the lifespan of chains, chainrings, cassettes, and derailleur pulleys through waxing can mean huge savings.


Because waxed chains are much cleaner this also means more time on the bike and less time spent declogging the dirt and grime. There is also a wider sustainability dimension. If you take a look at the ingredients on a bottle of lube you’ll find a list of harmful chemicals (e.g. naphtha, kerosene and aliphatic hydrocarbons) that are no good for the planet. Wax, on the other hand, is a more sustainable alternative.


Are waxed chains noisy? I also asked Krelle about her experience. “It’s usually a sign that the wax is wearing off”. She explained how noise doesn’t mean wear and tear, but she would usually re-wax. This chimes with our experience too. If the chain is nosy after a fresh wax it’s most likely a common mistake of taking the chain out of the slow cooker when the chain and wax are still hot - which causes most of the wax to run off the chain.


What is chain wax made from?

Chain wax is a combination of a wax blend with lubricant(s). For our Super Slick Chain Wax we have chosen two high quality nano-scale lubricants with different degrees of micronisation in Tungsten Disulfide (WS₂) and Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS₂). These act not only as lubricants, but will actually transform the surface of the chain, filling all the tiny crevices in the metal with highly lubricious and wear-resistant particles. Some companies choose to use Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as a lubricant, which is cheaper but does environmental harm as it takes hundreds of years to break down.


Check out our Super Slick Chain Wax.



What do I need to wax my chain?

To get started you will need:

  1. Bike chain. The Shimano Dura Ace HG-901 (243g) is an excellent lightweight option.

  2. Slow cooker

  3. Small piece of aluminium foil

  4. Coat hanger

  5. Wax, like our Super Slick Chain Wax. Our Super Slick wax combines our wax blend with two high-quality lubricants, Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS₂) and Tungsten Disulfide (WS₂).

  6. Mineral spirits/degreaser

  7. Methylated spirits

  8. 2x plastic container with lid


Wax chain guide
Lukas gets waxing in the kitchen

How do I wax my chain?

Step 1: Degrease Chain and Bike Drivetrain

The first thing you need to do is clean off the grease from your chain and bike drivetrain. I’m talking, getting in every nook and really cleaning it. It needs to be spotless because otherwise any lingering grease will mix with the wax making it harder for the wax to stick to the chain. In our experience it helps if the chain is brand new because the factory grease is easier to get off than properly caked-on road grime.


To degrease your chain, put it in a plastic container. Cover the chain with mineral spirits or a degreaser. Secure the lid and shake for a few minutes. The liquid should blacken as all the grease and dirt comes off.


Remove the chain from the container and rinse with water. At this stage it’s worth checking if the chain is clean enough to wax. One way to do this is by running a clean rag or paper towel over it. If there is any grease or dirt left then it needs a second bath. Repeat the previous step. Sometimes a chain can take 2-3 baths before it’s properly clean.


Now follow the same process with a methylated spirit. Put the chain in a second plastic container. Add the methylated spirit. Close the lid and shake.


Remove the chain and leave it to dry.


Waxed chain guide
Removing factory grease with methylated spirits

Step 2: Wax your Chain

Okay. Once the factory grease is off, the next step is the waxing. It’s time to bring out the slow cooker. Pour in our Super Slick Chain Wax (the wax blend, Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS₂) and Tungsten Disulfide (WS₂)). The quantities are 500g, 15g and 15g respectively. Stick to these ratios if you want to use a smaller amount but make sure you have enough in the slow cooker to cover the chain entirely.


Turn the slow cooker to its low/medium setting. We usually put the chain in at this point because as it heats the metal expands helping the wax get inside the rollers and pins. This is where it is needed most and why (badly) waxed chains can be noisy.


The wax should melt within 30-45 minutes. Move the chain around in the wax using an old clothes hanger. Then hook the chain with the hanger and take it out of the slow cooker, catching any drips with a small piece of aluminium foil.


Leave the chain to dry for 20 minutes.


Waxed chain guide
Tungsten Disulfide (WS₂) - a high-quality lubricant in our Super Slick Chain Wax

Step 3: Fit the Waxed Chain

After 20 minutes the wax will have dried and the chain will be very stiff. One can opt to either break the wax on each link by hand or break the wax on a few links, enough to be able to thread it through the drivetrain and then break-in the rest of the links pedaling through on a work stand or with a short cycle. Once you have done this the chain can be installed on the bike.


How long does a waxed chain last? How often do I need to re-wax my chain?

Your waxed chain should give you low-friction pedaling for about 300-400km in dry weather. If it starts to make noise it’s time for a rewax. Cycling in the wet is a different story. After a wet ride, you’ll want to dry the chain after cycling and it will need re-waxing sooner.


If you often cycle in the wet, what many cyclists do is wax multiple chains from the start. Then when one needs waxing it’s just a matter of swapping it out. This approach pays off as waxing a few chains in one go is more efficient and it avoids any delays when one needs re-waxing.


Final thoughts

Wax chains won’t be for everyone, but if you cycle regularly then the extra effort in waxing is worth it for the time you save in cleaning. The environmental damage caused from using drip lubes will also be a factor for many people, and waxing is a sustainable alternative. For cyclists who compete the performance boost could be all the difference between winning and losing making a waxed chain an essential upgrade.



Super Slick Chain Wax
Our Super Slick Chain Wax


Comentários


bottom of page