Chain wax - yay or ney?

BikeGremlin

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Staff member
Only cyclists use wax for lubrication - no other industry does that.
Why?

I did some tests and discussed the pros and cons of using wax for lubricating bicycle chains.

My conclusion is that the low loads and speeds allow us to get away with an inferior, but cleaner lubricant.

The video showing and explaining the differences between wax and oil:


Relevant chain lubrication BikeGremlin website articles:

Relja
 
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A recent video by the OZ Cycle YouTube channel showing how to properly clean and wax your chain using molten wax (and full chain immersion of the removed chain):


Another nice video by the same channel showing how to make your own dripping wax (for applying without the chain removal):


I plan to make a video showing how long it takes to clean and lubricate a chain with oil, and show how clean/dirty it gets after a couple of months of commuting in "mixed weather" - just for a comparison.
 
I would be wary of Oz Cycle. He got me into chain waxing but his advice keeps changing. His recommended amount of PTFE per 500g wax has been reducing over the years from 50g to 25g and then 5g after a few 1000km riding ! The original commercially sold Ceramic Speed molten speed wax formula contained 5g of PTFE and worked perfectly. It was removed from their products for environmental concerns and the fact that Tungsten DiSulphide is a better lubricant ( lower friction ) .

Oz Cycles wax lube solvent has also changed over time. I've seen him suggest Isopropanol , White spirit / mineral turpentine and Ligroin. The commercial wax drip lubes mostly use wax emulsified in a water carrier so are better for your health. They are formulated to have a low enough viscosity to actually get deep inside your chain and not sit on the surface. Oz does not show this , just says things work and is accountable to nobody. Because he is not selling a product but just making money from youtube views he is not liable for false marketing.

Oz's one step chain waxing , i.e trying to make a cheap copy of Silca's StripChip is an even more interesting case. We have been having a discussion over at the zero friction cycling youtube channel on video
about what is in these oil thickening products. They are designed for cooking oil , not industrial lubricants which have a different chemistry. Only time will tell if Oz is correct ( wait until possibly autumn 2024 for ZFC to test ).

I can understand the appeal of Oz Cycle . The good chain waxing products are quite expensive or unavailable in some parts of the world. Even mediocre DIY chain waxes will have far better performance than most oil lubricants as long as you attempt to clean them, say every 150 to 300 km. Immersive waxing generally lasts longer between treatments than wax drip lubes.

In a way Oz Cycle is doing positive things for chain waxing, it's just that most people won't realise how much better the top commercial waxes actually are because they will try nothing else ! Of course if he makes a bad mistake he will never admit it and a lot of people will pay the price for it ( no consequences for him ).

If you want to see the horror of a used oiled chain being cleaned watch Youtube : ZFC Episode 3 Maintenance Part 2 . If you want to compare waxed and oiled chains Relja please strip the factory grease off both , apply the respective lubricants , run both chains for say 300km in the same conditions and then compare. In the case of the waxed chain , please make sure you clean all oil off the cassette , jockey wheels and chainrings, otherwise the oil will transfer back onto the chain and you will get an invalid result.
 
I would be wary of Oz Cycle. He got me into chain waxing but his advice keeps changing. His recommended amount of PTFE per 500g wax has been reducing over the years from 50g to 25g and then 5g after a few 1000km riding ! The original commercially sold Ceramic Speed molten speed wax formula contained 5g of PTFE and worked perfectly. It was removed from their products for environmental concerns and the fact that Tungsten DiSulphide is a better lubricant ( lower friction ) .

Oz Cycles wax lube solvent has also changed over time. I've seen him suggest Isopropanol , White spirit / mineral turpentine and Ligroin. The commercial wax drip lubes mostly use wax emulsified in a water carrier so are better for your health. They are formulated to have a low enough viscosity to actually get deep inside your chain and not sit on the surface. Oz does not show this , just says things work and is accountable to nobody. Because he is not selling a product but just making money from youtube views he is not liable for false marketing.

Oz's one step chain waxing , i.e trying to make a cheap copy of Silca's StripChip is an even more interesting case. We have been having a discussion over at the zero friction cycling youtube channel on video
about what is in these oil thickening products. They are designed for cooking oil , not industrial lubricants which have a different chemistry. Only time will tell if Oz is correct ( wait until possibly autumn 2024 for ZFC to test ).

I can understand the appeal of Oz Cycle . The good chain waxing products are quite expensive or unavailable in some parts of the world. Even mediocre DIY chain waxes will have far better performance than most oil lubricants as long as you attempt to clean them, say every 150 to 300 km. Immersive waxing generally lasts longer between treatments than wax drip lubes.

In a way Oz Cycle is doing positive things for chain waxing, it's just that most people won't realise how much better the top commercial waxes actually are because they will try nothing else ! Of course if he makes a bad mistake he will never admit it and a lot of people will pay the price for it ( no consequences for him ).

If you want to see the horror of a used oiled chain being cleaned watch Youtube : ZFC Episode 3 Maintenance Part 2 . If you want to compare waxed and oiled chains Relja please strip the factory grease off both , apply the respective lubricants , run both chains for say 300km in the same conditions and then compare. In the case of the waxed chain , please make sure you clean all oil off the cassette , jockey wheels and chainrings, otherwise the oil will transfer back onto the chain and you will get an invalid result.

Interesting points (make sense).

Some of my observations (please correct me where I'm wrong):

To me, it seems like the author does ride his road bike(s) a lot and is truly happy with wax. I see that as a great contrast to my impression/experience and thought it is fair to share it for the sake of objectivity and showing different opinions by long-time user(s).

The video tutorial about preparing and waxing the chain seems spot-on, and coming from a lot of first-hand experience - though I'm skeptical about whether PTFE makes any measurable difference whatsoever, regardless of the concentration/percentage (if you know of a better video showing the recommended chain cleaning and waxing method, please share).

The video about making "home-brew" dripping wax was an interesting hack to share - for those who need to lube their chain on the go, but won't pay the prices of the commercial dripping wax lubes (they seem to be quite expensive).

Relja
 
Oz does seem happy with his wax and it seems to perform reasonably well. I am still using my original batch of his original 50g PTFE in 500g formula so I can't compare it to the commercial waxes. Oz lives in a dry climate ( about 480mm annual rain ) that never sees ice and the roads will dry fast. This ABC news story on Oz Cycle tells you where he lives as well as other things ! Water is the enemy of nearly all chain waxes , particularly the wax drip lubes if they have not completely set solid ( they can wash off as well as collect contamination )

For DIY waxes , you need a food or pharmaceutical grade wax as normal candle wax has fragrance and other oil impurities that will make it more sticky. It's NOT a good idea to add white spirit / mineral turpentine as Oz Cycle has suggested for 'rust proofing' as it turns your wax into a dirt magnet.

I assume your saying Oz's chain cleaning tutorial was spot on ? He suggested petrol in his early videos and I wouldn't use that. White spirit is better as it doesn't leave behind any fuel additive residues for the methylated spirits to clean up. I kept cleaning with white spirit until the solution was clear. This shows the ZFC chain cleaning process.

You may find this section of the ZFC Waxed like a boss video useful for the application of wax drip lubes. Give your bottles of lube a good shake before applying ! The rest of the video has some good info but the useful bits are after this time.

The friction additives do make a difference. ZFC tested candle wax and you can compare the results on their lubetesting results webpage ( scroll down the page a bit ) . The solid additives fill the microscopic voids in the sliding metal surfaces and reduce direct rubbing between them which would create more abrasive metal particles and so on. He hasn't tested any immersive wax lubricants with PTFE so I can't comment on the effectiveness of any amount of that.
 
Only cyclists use wax for lubrication - no other industry does that.
Why?

I did some tests and discussed the pros and cons of using wax for lubricating bicycle chains.

My conclusion is that the low loads and speeds allow us to get away with an inferior, but cleaner lubricant.

The video showing and explaining the differences between wax and oil:


Relevant chain lubrication BikeGremlin website articles:

Relja
Hello Relja,

I'm new to your channel and it appears you have some great information to share. I'll certainly be watching all of your videos.

I did want to offer some additional information/corrections on this video.

1. Wax is used as a lubricant in many industries. Here's an industrial supplier https://www.klueber.com/us/en/products-service/lubricants/lubricating-waxes/

2. Chain wax for motorcycle use was marketed decades ago. I think I still have a can. I didn't think it worked better or worse than any of the several other spray-on lubricants I've used. The biggest problem I would expect for a wax lube on a motorcycle chain would be the low melting temperature. Not a problem on a bicycle.

I can assure you that paraffin wax is an excellent lubricant for bicycle chains when properly applied. I've found that the time I spend applying wax is well spent considering the time saved cleaning and the greatly improved chain life. If you've had poor results it may be due to the specific wax used or your application method.

The KMC quick links are good for 3 or 4 uses. After that, it doesn't take much for them to come apart. That said, I have one I've probably parted a dozen times and am still using it. I did have another well-used one come apart on my wife's bike when she reverse-pedaled. I strongly recommend avoiding reverse pedaling when using tired quick links.
 

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