My adventures in chain waxing: goals, reviews, suggestions...

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aosjimzaw
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2020 9:29 pm

by aosjimzaw

Hey everyone,
Thought I’d share with you my past, present and future experiences with waxing chains. Just skim down to the products if you don’t care for introduction where I describe what I’m looking for with waxing.

Some background about me: I do only road and don’t generally ride in the rain. I was spinning about 7-900km/month on my bike until this May, now I switched up to 1200-1500+ km/mon and plan to keep it this way as long as I can. I am training my way to decent rankings in major European ultra-endurance events. This means that WAXING must above all accommodate two criteria for me: quickness (or easiness, if you prefer) of application and longevity. A third criterium—slightly less important but not that I overlook—is maintaining system clean. I can’t stand for the life of me black gunky drivetrains. Then honestly, I do not care about watt savings at all: even if they were there, how could I ever tell myself? Same goes with chain deterioration, but here it’s because I’m too lazy and unanalytical to keep track of wear rate divided by km ridden and stuff.

Now, I have a long, awkward and frustrated history of waxing experimentation behind me, and if I look back at how much money and time of my life I have wasted doing and buying all sorts of concoctions, I do see why non-waxers’ main argument is that it’s too fussy to bother. But I haven’t resigned yet finding that sweet spot between quickness, longevity and cost.
I dedicate this topic to reports, suggestions, reviews … that bring me closer to this goal. Everything I’ll write is simply my honest opinion about stuff I’ve tried and will try. I understand writing about waxing can get extremely nitty-gritty and detailed, to the point of Zero Friction analysis. Not me, here I’ll keep it real-life-only, empirical and short. I count to update the topic with new posts as I try different products, brews, and solutions in different contexts (training, training in longer rides, bikepacking, racing…). Bear in mind, what I’m writing refers to what I find works for me: I won’t go guessing how something might work for someone riding less/more than me, how anyting would change if keeping a chain dedicated to racing, etc.

I’ll start with past solutions in rough chronological order, beginning with
SQUIRT
Pretty cheap (is it the cheapest of waxing?). I brought it with me for my first bikepacking trip in summer ‘19, about 200km/day. It was always very noisy after the first two hours and I needed to reapply it every evening when stopping as it wouldn’t go past the 200km mark: poor. Add the famous build-up of soft dark gray residue and it’s a simple no for Squirt. I also found that of the five that I've been rotating on the bike, the chain that underwent Squirt for this trip has been the quickest and only to wear out past the 0.5 point of Parktools indicator.

MOLTEN SPEED WAX
Good but way too much time consuming to work. MSW exemplifies what is true of all bathing solutions: they’re the best as far as I can empirically tell, but the hassle is close to unbearable. I could push an MSW treated chain for 300, maybe 350 km and it was perfect on the bike until the very last kms squeezed, but I was working my five chains once about every 45 days and each time it took me a good size of an evening (say 3-4 hrs) for the whole process and mental preparation starting a couple of days before. (Yes, mental preparation. Like, bathing chains is scary stressful for me…).
Also rather expensive, if following usage advices from producers (plus intl shipping and customs from USA to EU).

HOMEBREWS
Then the time came when I decided it was worth a shot emulating MSW recipes on my own, mostly because it was cheaper and sounded like more fun.
Best I did was wax + 10% Sex Wax for surfers + 7% Teflon powder + 1% molybdenum powder. Were I to make a new batch I would skip on moly as it made it unpleasantly black—just a visual matter. This was actually quite good and I found I could push a chain even for 400-430 kms. Better than MSW, but bathing kept being annoying.
So I tried adding 1/5 naphta to 4/5 of the above recipe to apply it as a drip. Made it quicker—though I still had to heat the thing stored in a Squirt bottle to 60-70°—but nowhere lasting as long as the bathing running dry at about 300km plus proved unusable for ultra-endurance for two reasons: mineral spirits needing at least 7-8 hrs to evaporate on a still chain and impracticality of heating the bottle while not at home. Also, lots was needed and more than half was just dripping off the chain: I was collecting and putting this excess back in the bottle once done, but that was one more hassle in the process.

BANANASLIP ALL WEATHER TUNGSTEN
Bought and applied this yesterday, rode it today. VERY VERY impressed.
I cleaned thoroughly everything that chains touch on a bike and chains themselves the best possible way so to apply Banana on an immaculate system (chains: three baths in white spirits and last one in 99% alcohol, then evaporate; drive system: hairdryer melting wax and capturing it with cloths). Applying it was super easy and only four drops dripped off the chain. It took me 3:30 minutes and very little came off when I damped the chain with a cloth five minutes later as instructed. I might even skip damping at all next time.
4 grams went from bottle to chain (66gr to 62): if assuming 1gr is roughly 1ml, then 11-12 applications are possible out of its 50ml bottle. Assuming the numbers producer provides (roughly 300km in dry conditions), it means that a bottle lasts about 3500km. At 11€ a bottle on amazon, that means 5€ / month for me. Still not very cheap especially compared to traditional wet, but I can handle that.
Rode on it today for 160km all flat. Chain was very quiet to noiseless (funnily, noise didn’t just increase with the ride, rather panning in and out). The times when it was noiseless amazed me. It still has quite a bit to give, tomorrow I’ll ride for 130-150km more and see how dry it will feel after. Shifting (Sram Red Etap 11s) also improved from previous homebrewed drip wax&naptha, being… snappier, less spongy and dragg-y.. hard to describe but it’s a nice plus. The chain assumes a glossy appearance; cassette and chainset are left very clean, much more than with moly-treated wax. No flaking and if touching the chain only little dark grey residue sticks to fingers that easily goes away.
Since it dries off in less than half an hour when applied, it can handle bikepacking and ultraendurance just right, the time of a power nap is more than enough to have it ready.
Oh, the stuff smells like freaking chemical banana scent. God, why…

ABSOLUTEBLACK GRAPHENLUBE
Yes you’ve read correctly, no I’m not rich and yes I’ve been crazy enough to buy a 140ml bottle. I did for a sole reason: Zero Friction saying on his preview that longevity is beyond belief. Even if it is just half as much as producers state (i.e. 900-ish km against stated 1800 in dry conditions), this would be a game changer while racing ultraendurance.
But hold on: it should arrive on Tuesday and I will only try it on a bikepacking tour mid-August.


Wrap-up for now: if your lubricating list of priorities matches mine (easiness of application plus longevity plus cleanliness set against price), right now Bananaslip might be the best overall solution. I’m eager to try Graphenlube and will keep you posted.

by Weenie


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Lewn777
Posts: 1153
Joined: Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:35 am

by Lewn777

I put my experiences in another thread, didn't get much interest but here it is:

1. Product used = Molten Speed Wax.
2. Chain preparation and cleaning method = OZ cycle.
3. Wax application method = hot wax using crock-pot at 200 degrees, swishing about for 30 minutes.
4. Reapplication = Every 500kms or so with top-ups of Smoove when needed.
5. Chains used = SRAM Red 11 speed x4 (Normal service life is 2000-3000km).
6. Measuring method: Park tool gauge.

Chain 1
Lasted a woeful 1500kms when used in the winter February and March, and that's to the 0.75 measurement. Conditions were very wet. Wax seems to get washed off chains even between the links and sometimes chain can even start to rust after a heavy downpour.

Chain 2
March-April a bit drier, lasted 2000kms to 0.5 measurement and was over 0.75 on about 3000kms.

Chain 3
Super dry and sunny May easily lasted 3000kms to 0.5 measurement and did total of about 5000kms, probably could have gone longer.

Chain 4
Mixed conditions showery June/July lasted 2500kms to 0.5 now, expect about 4000-5000kms.

The conclusion
This is only the anecdotal findings of one person and not a scientific test. However I feel the positive attributes of chain wax have been a little overplayed and the negatives underplayed. This is an easy mistake if you live in a dry climate where wax is clearly a non-brainer option, obviously your chains last far longer and likely you gain a few watts, it is cleaner and it really does work. However things get less clear in very wet climates and chain wax becomes no choice at all, extremely poor, worse than normal dry-lube IMO. In dry climates and in the summer I will carry on using wax and use the hot wax method, it is excellent, but I'll develop a whole different approach for wet weather/winters. If you live in a dry climate like Socal, Australia, The Middle East, Northern China, Southern Spain etc you really should be using wax. Northern Europe, West coast Canada etc maybe a summer only option.

aosjimzaw
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2020 9:29 pm

by aosjimzaw

Uh-oh... swear I didn't see it, you could say my thread is pretty much a rip-off!
I do see that rain makes waxing almost impossible. As for wear, although as I said I'm not putting much care into counting how many kms each chain gets, I think my numbers might be higher than yours, but not by much: 7000kms for a chain? Squirt one wore out much faster though, maybe at 4000. But I also wouldn't have run MSW-bathed chains for 500kms. Haven't found anything yet on which I'm comfortable riding that much.

ericlambi
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2005 6:16 pm

by ericlambi

I have some of the absolute black. I've only two rides on it, and I guess it seems fine. I didn't notice quieter shifting as they market, and it does make your chain look very dirty, which I didn't like.

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Lewn777
Posts: 1153
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by Lewn777

aosjimzaw wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:13 pm
Uh-oh... swear I didn't see it, you could say my thread is pretty much a rip-off!
I do see that rain makes waxing almost impossible. As for wear, although as I said I'm not putting much care into counting how many kms each chain gets, I think my numbers might be higher than yours, but not by much: 7000kms for a chain? Squirt one wore out much faster though, maybe at 4000. But I also wouldn't have run MSW-bathed chains for 500kms. Haven't found anything yet on which I'm comfortable riding that much.
Your post is very good and contains detailed information about various different waxes. Mine was about the trials of rain vs wax. Different subjects, but relevant in the main theme of waxing. So I just added mine for extra information to boost your thread along. :thumbup:

With some tech like disk brakes & tubeless some people seem to deliberately leave out the downsides to somehow prop up their choices, whereas I like people to fully understand the pros and cons and can go in with all knowledge.

I run MSW chains for about 200-300kms then I top up with Smoove, hot re-waxing every 300kms is a bit too frequent for me.

maxim809
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by maxim809

Lewn777 wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:06 pm
This is only the anecdotal findings of one person and not a scientific test. However I feel the positive attributes of chain wax have been a little overplayed and the negatives underplayed. This is an easy mistake if you live in a dry climate where wax is clearly a non-brainer option, obviously your chains last far longer and likely you gain a few watts, it is cleaner and it really does work. However things get less clear in very wet climates and chain wax becomes no choice at all, extremely poor, worse than normal dry-lube IMO. In dry climates and in the summer I will carry on using wax and use the hot wax method, it is excellent, but I'll develop a whole different approach for wet weather/winters. If you live in a dry climate like Socal, Australia, The Middle East, Northern China, Southern Spain etc you really should be using wax. Northern Europe, West coast Canada etc maybe a summer only option.

I've yet to try wax myself but I know a handful of folks who have a few years ago. All of them race(d) in sunny NorCal and I recall there being a specific year of "peak wax", where those many-few who waxed held it on the highest of pedestals and would never speak ill of it.

Now that the fad's tapered off we're finally getting more balanced opinions, especially from those who did it religiously but then stopped because reality.

Lewn's point of positives overplayed and negatives underplayed matches my experience. Those who stopped said it's always the combination of maintenance upkeep, cost of quicklinks/chainpins, drivetrain noise, and wax's susceptibility to wet conditions that make it not worth for them. Morning rides in NorCal especially under damp Redwoods can get pretty moist.

I've found those who still do it enjoy the "mini project" aspect of waxing as much as the performance gains. The many who stopped waxing realized they want the performance but in the end simply value fuss-free riding more than wrenching/cooking.

Visus
Posts: 154
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:43 pm

by Visus

I don't get whats cumbersome about waxing. I have 3 chains for each bike which I rotate so lasting about 1000km until rewaxing is necessary.

When it is I throw them all in the crockpot filled with MSW, let it sit for an hour, pull them out and let them dry.
This literally takes 5-10mins of active "work"

Repeat after another 1000k, never had a problem, efficient drivetrain and more importantly clean chain and bike.

If I need new chains I throw them in a pot of white spirit for a week followed by a pot of alcohol for a week and then let them airdry (to get rid of the factoryygrease) This is no rocketscience

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pdlpsher1
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Location: CO

by pdlpsher1

Since I switched to hot melt waxing I've cut down the time spent on lubing the chain to nearly nothing. Not to mention I no longer have to clean the cassette and chainrings anymore. I'll never use a drip lube again.

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 8264
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

As usual, Lewn777’s internal narrative acts like blinders / selective vision to what’s actually being said about a variety of topics.

Here’s what most of us have to say about wax and wet riding.

Even the wax drip lubes aren’t great in the wet, you’d want to dry and relube your chain every ride with something like Smoove or Squirt.

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Lewn777
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by Lewn777

TobinHatesYou wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 12:21 am
As usual, Lewn777’s internal narrative acts like blinders / selective vision to what’s actually being said about a variety of topics.

Here’s what most of us have to say about wax and wet riding.

Even the wax drip lubes aren’t great in the wet, you’d want to dry and relube your chain every ride with something like Smoove or Squirt.
Funny really.
That's what you 'all thought and wrote' 4 months after I started using chain wax. :noidea: One of the reasons I started using chain wax in the winter was that I suspected it was hopeless in the wet, but I needed good evidence, because the downsides were not being expressed. The reason why those downsides were not being expressed AND the reason I stopped using this forum for 5 months is because new tech has converts that cannot tolerate discussion of the pros and cons of any technology and actively troll those that have balanced arguments, probably from some kind of deep seated insecurity. People that stifle real debate and ruin things for everyone else. Yet they still keep popping out of the woodwork to have a snipe even when they agree with you. :?

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 8264
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

Lewn777 wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:43 am
TobinHatesYou wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 12:21 am
As usual, Lewn777’s internal narrative acts like blinders / selective vision to what’s actually being said about a variety of topics.

Here’s what most of us have to say about wax and wet riding.

Even the wax drip lubes aren’t great in the wet, you’d want to dry and relube your chain every ride with something like Smoove or Squirt.
Funny really.
That's what you 'all thought and wrote' 4 months after I started using chain wax. :noidea: One of the reasons I started using chain wax in the winter was that I suspected it was hopeless in the wet, but I needed good evidence, because the downsides were not being expressed. The reason why those downsides were not being expressed is because new tech has converts that cannot tolerate discussion of the pros and cons of any technology and actively troll those that have balanced arguments, probably from some kind of deep seated insecurity. 'Mommy they said my bike wasn't good'.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=154347&p=1452838&hi ... x#p1452838

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=154627&p=1449576&hi ... x#p1449576

Look Lewn777, nobody is lying to you about wax. You just had blinders on and want to berate people who don't share your opinions. Maybe read through discussion threads from literally years ago more carefully before you cry wolf again.

Also using different lubes depending on conditions is nothing new. I've repeatedly advised against using hot-melt wax and even wax drip lubes while indoor training too.

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Lewn777
Posts: 1153
Joined: Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:35 am

by Lewn777

TobinHatesYou wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:21 am
Lewn777 wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:43 am
TobinHatesYou wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 12:21 am
As usual, Lewn777’s internal narrative acts like blinders / selective vision to what’s actually being said about a variety of topics.

Here’s what most of us have to say about wax and wet riding.

Even the wax drip lubes aren’t great in the wet, you’d want to dry and relube your chain every ride with something like Smoove or Squirt.
Funny really.
That's what you 'all thought and wrote' 4 months after I started using chain wax. :noidea: One of the reasons I started using chain wax in the winter was that I suspected it was hopeless in the wet, but I needed good evidence, because the downsides were not being expressed. The reason why those downsides were not being expressed is because new tech has converts that cannot tolerate discussion of the pros and cons of any technology and actively troll those that have balanced arguments, probably from some kind of deep seated insecurity. 'Mommy they said my bike wasn't good'.

How about a year before?

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=154347&p=1452838&hi ... x#p1452838

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=154627&p=1449576&hi ... x#p1449576

Look Lewn777, nobody is lying to you about wax. You just had blinders on and want to berate people who don't share your opinions. Maybe read through discussion threads more carefully before you cry wolf again.

Also using different lubes depending on conditions is nothing new. I've repeatedly advised against using hot-melt wax and even wax drip lubes while indoor training too.
You agree, but I'm still wrong! :roll:
I extensively read many threads about chain-waxing and watched many videos, maybe not every single one, and maybe not the exact ones you pulled from your search engine. Nobody said 'chain waxing is utterly useless in the wet' which is the horrible truth, they only alluded to it or didn't mention it at all. All I am trying to do is warn other people NOT to use wax in the wet because many wax converts like Ozcycle accused me of 'doing it wrong' in a YT video comment. I'm not trying to attack anyone unless they say 'wax is fantastic even in the wet' in which case they would be a liar.

Maybe if you and people like you stopped using personal attacks and put-downs to stifle debate when people point out downsides to your shiny new technology we would have been able to have a more balanced debate where these things were better able to be discussed. :thumbup:

I've noticed in other threads that you've admitted some of your SRAM products have been less than perfect, even to regret buying some of them which shows you're maturing and heading on the right direction, and that you may be able to see things objectively in the due course of time.
Last edited by Lewn777 on Sun Jul 12, 2020 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 8264
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

I never said you were wrong about wax. I said you are wrong to claim people didn't warn you about wax's wet performance. There have been repeated anecdotes about ALL wax based lubes not working well in the wet on these very forums. You ignored them because you needed a reason to bitch and moan about something.

I have also repeatedly called Oz Cycle a quack for using as much PTFE as he does.

And what, even after I posted links to the downsides of wax, you're still going to pretend than we're attacking you? Nope, it's you who repeatedly, angrily voices displeasure at anyone who has decided the benefits of certain technologies outweigh the penalties.

ToileySiphon
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:58 am

by ToileySiphon

My own personal experience : so far, waxing is a godsend for mountain biking in the summer. I've cut down on maintenance time soooo much, as I don't have to clean and lube my chain after every ride. On MSW bath every 150 km and everything is fine.

On the road, it's not as clear cut. The chain is much noisier than with my previous lube (muck off ceramic) and it doesn't last more than 200-300 km. Should probably get another chain to make a rotation to reduce the hassle.

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by Weenie


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kdawg
Posts: 168
Joined: Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:10 pm

by kdawg

Visus wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 8:49 pm
I don't get whats cumbersome about waxing. I have 3 chains for each bike which I rotate so lasting about 1000km until rewaxing is necessary.

When it is I throw them all in the crockpot filled with MSW, let it sit for an hour, pull them out and let them dry.
This literally takes 5-10mins of active "work"

Repeat after another 1000k, never had a problem, efficient drivetrain and more importantly clean chain and bike.

If I need new chains I throw them in a pot of white spirit for a week followed by a pot of alcohol for a week and then let them airdry (to get rid of the factoryygrease) This is no rocketscience
I'm the same. The initial clean can be time consuming but after that it's pretty quick - the longest part is melting the wax but obviously you can be doing something else while that's happening.
I'm left handed, if that matters.

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