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.
- Molten Speed Wax
- Hot Plate/stove with pot of water
- Sonic Cleaner
- Simple Green
- Mineral Spirits
- Mason Jar or similar container
- Chain Pliers
- Guide Hooks
- Nitrile Gloves
- Quick Link
- A cold drink (Mine was water, but Pete was taking care of the one in the picture )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.