Chain Waxing Tutorial


#1

We’ve mentioned our chain waxing process many times on the podcast. It saves you valuable watts, lasts a long time in harsh conditions, keeps your chain clean and doesn’t get greasy, and frontloads maintenance so that you don’t have to clean and lube your chain every day. so here’s a walkthrough!

Note: There are plenty of ways to go about this, but this is the best way we’ve found. It’s also a potentially dangerous process, so undertake at your own risk.

Equipment

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Brand New Chains
A new chain has a ton of grease on it that can be difficult to remove, but other than that, it is a more straightforward process than waxing a used chain.
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Step 1 – Preheat the Wax
A crockpot and wax can take a long time to heat up, so turn the crockpot on high about 2 hours before you intend on undergoing the waxing process.

Step 2 – Remove Chain
Remove it from the bike by using Chain Pliers to remove the quicklink. At this point, we prefer to throw the links in the trash, but you can take the risk of reusing it. Certain brands claim to have reusable 11 speed links, but I have had bad experiences with them breaking after reuse. When it comes to your chain, better safe than sorry definitely applies, and once you get to 12 speed, it’s absolutely not worth it.

Step 3 – Stripping
We’ve found repeated baths in mineral spirits does a great job of removing OEM grease. Pour the mineral spirits into a mason jar or similar container, and agitate for about a minute. Let the chain sit for another minute, then pour out the mineral spirits. Repeat this process until the mineral spirits is perfectly clear and seems unchanged from when you pour it in. In most cases, this seems to take 6-8 baths. I usually rinse the chain under water and let it dry after this, but that isn’t absolutely necessary.


Step 4 – Waxing
Make sure the wax and graphite is well mixed by gently stirring the wax until it appears uniform in color. Use the guide hooks to carefully lower the chain into the hot wax, being careful not to splash. Once the chain is in the wax, use the guide hooks to agitate the chain for about 30 seconds, or until no bubbles appear on the surface of the wax. Once again, be careful on this step. The wax is really hot.

Take the new quicklink that you plan to use and carefully dip it into the wax with the guide hooks.

Let the chain and links sit in the wax for a few minutes before using the guide hooks to carefully lift them out of the wax, making sure there are no tangles in the chain. Once it is out of the wax, hang the links and chain in a spot to let them air dry. Take note that this process will make a bit of a mess with wax dripping everywhere. Let the chain dry until it is completely cool to the touch and stiff. This often takes at least 15 minutes.

Once the chain has cooled sufficiently, use your hands to break every link of the chain loose. This step is optional, but I find it makes reinstalling the chain much easier.

Step 5 – Reinstall Chain
Properly thread the chain back through the derailleur and around the chainring/cassette, then install the new quick link. Note that it may be difficult to get the quicklink to snap into place because the added thickness brought on by the wax. In this case I just pinch the quicklink from both sides with firmness to try to get the pins to slide into proper position.

When installing the quicklink, I find it helpful to install it on the portion of the chain that is above the chainstay. This allows you to get it properly in place, then hold the brakes and press down on the pedals with your foot. You’ll know the quicklink is properly installed when you hear and feel a big “thunk” as it goes into place.

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Used Chains
The process is the same as the above, but with added cleaning steps. We’ve noticed a decrease in the wax’s durability on used chains vs. new chains, but we’ve also noticed a direct correlation between how thorough a cleaning has been and how long the wax lasts.
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The additional tasks you will need all fall into Step 3 – Stripping. We’ll break that step down into smaller pieces below.

Before using the mineral spirits, thoroughly clean your chain with a degreaser like Simple Green and a brush, or whatever chemical and process you prefer to use.

Once the chain has gone through a typical cleaning, put it into a sonic cleaner and follow the unit’s instructions.

After that, proceed with the mineral spirits bath process from above.

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Previously Waxed Chains
If a chain has already been waxed properly, it is likely very clean and relatively grime free. As such, it may not need the cleaning process of used chains. However, if it has become dirty, we’ll cover that process below as well.
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For previously waxed chains that just need a refresh, clean the chain with water, then put it into a pot of boiling water on a stove or hot plate to melt the wax. Keep in mind this will stain a pot, so make sure you don’t care about it. After this, give the chain a few baths in mineral spirits to make sure it is clean, then commence the waxing process.

If the chain has become dirty, clean your chain with a degreaser like Simple Green and a brush, or whatever chemical and process you prefer to use, then follow the boiling process above, then the sonic cleaner process, and finally into the mineral spirits process.


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#2

Been waxing my chains for the last two years. Will never go back to using the Snake Oil!


#3

FWIW, even if you aren’t waxing, strip the chain before you apply lube. Otherwise, the factory grease interferes with the lubricant penetrating the chain.

Basing that on experience and a video Shane Miller did a while back where he tested some supposedly super lube that showed up under black light. He did a light cleaning and you could see the lube just speckled over the surface due to factory grease.


#4

How much of a mess does wax make on floors when used on the trainer? Am I going to be picking up all kinds of wax around my setup?


#5

You read my mind!! I bought all the gear today. I’m waxing on Monday!!

Thanks for the tutorial.


#6

You get a small amount of wax flakes coming off the chain for the first 20 miles or so, but if your trainer is on a mat it shouldn’t be a problem.


#7

I think waxing is the best thing since sliced bread. I routinely get about 500 miles out of a waxing on my road bike. I pretty much only race my MTB but I can attest that it made it through the Tahoe Trail 100 without so much as a squeak, where usually it sounds like your drivetrain is coming apart after about 30 miles.


#8

Goodwill can be a good place to get a cheap crockpot for this. I do get some flaking off of wax on the trainer, but it’s the the garage so it’s easy to clean up. A mat inside would handle this as well too. I really like how clean it keeps the chain and whole drivetrain - you don’t get all dirty if you need to mess with a chain.
I’m still on 10 speed, and have had no issues with the KMC reusable quick links, riding road and on the trainer. I can see MTB being harding on chains than road.
Getting the factory lube off the chain can be the hardest part.


#9

If I have been using regular lube on my bike up until now, is there anything I need to do the the cassette and chainring? Just a simple cleaning of them while still on the bike with a degreaser? Or is it necessary to remove and put in a bath of some degreaser or mineral spirits?


#10

Definitely want to clean them thoroughly, and I’d use a degreaser of some sort.

Nate has waxed his cassette and chainrings before. I believe the gains are minimal, but every bit helps, eh?


#11

Thanks for this. Can you do a leg waxing tutorial next?


#12

One tip I saw online was to let the wax cool to about 55C before removing the chain. The reasoning was that if the wax and chain were too warm, the wax tended to run out. At about 55C (you will see a skin forming on the wax pot) the wax hardens almost immediately as you pull it out. The drawback is that there is a lot of excess wax that comes off. For me I run straight paraffin so it’s cheap but what a mess.


#13

Just had a first look on eBay at sonic baths. What size do people use to be able to clean other bike parts too? They appear to do from 400ml upwards. Are these cheap ones any good?


#14

Just had a first look on eBay at sonic baths. What size do people use to be able to clean other bike parts too? They appear to do from 400ml upwards. Are these cheap ones any good? > Blockquote

I have this one and it works great: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B06Y2Q77KH/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


#15

For those in the US, this harbor freight one seems to work pretty well:


They always have 20% off coupons too, for those unfamiliar with Harbor Freight.
This is large enough to fit most road cassettes as well. I used this more cleaning everything before waxing - now that stuff is waxed, things stay quite clean.


#16

I use this one: James Products Ultra 8020 High Spec Built-in 80 watt heater Ultrasonic Cleaner https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0054QHOI6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_Xe6TBbW99P8BC

I specifically chose it to fit full cassettes with no issue.


#17

I am new to this so I apologize in advance for my ignorance, but at the end of all this the chain is “dry”? The reason I ask is my 1 year old is always touching my bike on the trainer and gets his hands all greasy from touching the chain.

Also how much wax gets put in the crock pot? It seems like it would need a lot to submerge the chain. And then does the extra wax harden and then get reused or is it a one time use?

Is there a type of bike this is best for (ie mountain biking, tt, Road, etc)? Or are the benefits pretty universal?

Sorry again for my lack of knowledge, I hear you guys ya talk about it on the podcast but never really understood it.


#18

I use 1/2 pound at a time in a small crock pot and get multiple uses from that.


#19

yup, chain is dry. You need a pound or so of paraffin wax. I just leave it in the crock pot and melt it multiple times. I don’t do the ‘molten speed wax’, just straight paraffin, although I have experimented with adding ptfe powder.

here’s the friction facts recipe for wax:

I left out the molybdenum disulfide as it is black and would make the chain not as clean.


#20

To add I use pre formulated Molten Speed Wax on my race chain and my own mix of wax, PTFE powder and molybdenum disulphide on all my other chains.

Initially it seems like a lot of work but once set up it’s a pretty easy routine. I have a few chains and usually do 3 or 4 on the same day. It takes a while but it’s not like it needs constant supervision so I pick a day I’m around at home and get on with other things that need doing periodically cleaning, swishing and dipping.