There's not many people who have ridden a bike, from the youngest kid on their first bike to the most seasoned veteran, who hasn't dealt with a dirty, greasy, and possible noisy chain. Although some bike builders have experimented with a belt drive (quiet, clean, no lube required, lasts a long time but requires an internally geared hub to have gears), the chain drive bicycle is obviously far more common.
I've certainly gotten less fastidious with my chain care over the years compared to my bachelor days, but I will run it through my chain cleaner and scrub it the best I can before a race or "when it looks like it needs it." While deep down I have always known this, there's more research showing that this is not a great approach and that I probably should be paying a bit more attention to my drivetrain.
One of my wonderful clients, Eric, keyed me into this podcast by Dave Schell:
You may know Dave from his TrainingPeaks Podcasts as well.
And I also came across this one from Dylan Johnson:
That really drives the point home.
Eric is always willing to try new things and experiment, and went ahead and ordered a pre-waxed chain. Instead of me telling his story, he offered up to be the guest blogger for the week.
Here's his tale:
Wax It If You Got It
The thought of chain wax seemed like more work than it was worth. Would the potential for less friction during a ride and less wear on parts be worth the deep cleaning of the chains, bathing them in hot wax, and the ongoing maintenance? I was not sold as it sounded like margin gains for a lot of effort, but I kept hearing it is clean; really really clean.
I live in a condo and reducing the risk of smearing grease and grime had me intrigued because I seem to have this natural ability to get chain grease on stuff. My existing chain was near the end of its life so I ordered a pre waxed chain (see link below) to avoid the initial setup steps of cleaning a brand new chain.
I removed the old chain and before installing the new pre-waxed chain I cleaned off my cassette and chain rings with some Muk Off degreaser.
The waxed chain exceeded my expectations. A quick wipe with Xtri Bike Wipes post ride and it was like new. A few weeks of riding and the chain was still surprisingly clean. To extend the time between re-waxing I apply some Slica super secret (link below) which is wax based and a good for touch ups between full waxing.
After month of riding I took the chain off and did my first waxing in the small crock pot I bought from amazon. I would likely get the slightly larger one but this still works fine:
The longest part of the waxing process was stringing the chain on the swisher which I bought with my wax but an old spoke or hanger can be bent into one. Once the chain is on the swisher, you then just put the chain on top of the wax and turn the pot to low. An hour later the chain was ready. Just swish it around and take it out to dry.
I hung it dry overnight and put it back on the bike after loosening it little. I leave the wax in pot so it ready for the next chain as you can reuse it for a while before refreshing the wax, which is great for saving on wax and excellent for being lazy.
At this point I am a full wax convert, so for my new bike I took the next step and cleaned the new factory waxed chain using a few baths in mineral spirits and a final clean in denatured alcohol. https://moltenspeedwax.com/pages/clean-your-chain and/or Zero Friction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3CxiZqItGw
I found cleaning a new chain easier than I thought. Note: a used chain is much harder to fully clean due to build up (or so I hear).
I am not sure if it makes me any faster (BJL Coaching does that for me anyway), but the ride is smooth, the chain stays clean, and components will longer.
For those interested here are some links I found useful:
Zero Friction is the best site I found for all things wax and chain lube. https://zerofrictioncycling.com.au
They also have a YouTube channel and episode 4 cover waxing:
YBN pre waxed Chain and master links:
Molton Speed Wax
Swisher Tool and chain pliers
Micro Fiber Towels:
Super Silca waxed based chain lube for quick touch ups:
Back to B.L.
Eric and I pre-ride a mountain bike course in dry but dusty conditions just this past weekend. I was showing him the loop so he was behind me most of the time riding through my dust. We got done with the 6 mile loop and I looked at his chain...SHINY. And then he said, "watch this," and ran his fingers on the chain. No grease at all.
So this is all very intriguing to me. At the very least, I'll do a better job keeping my chain clean and using some high quality lube. But maybe I'll but out that old crock pot and go for the full wax!
Thanks again, Eric!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.