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This article will focus on chain wax vs chain lube for MTB because it is a question that I’ve come across several times.
Here I’m referring to paraffin wax and wet chain lube, which are both used as mountain bike chain lubricants.
So, lets dive right in!
Mountain Bike Chain Wax Pros & Cons
Pros of Paraffin Wax
- Paraffin wax without beeswax is known for keeping the drive train clean.
- With paraffin wax applied on the mountain bike chain, the cassette and rings would typically be in good condition even after 2000 km of ride.
- Paraffin wax that does not consist of beeswax does not attract dirt.
- Some riders who use paraffin wax lube find that it promotes pedaling efficiency.
- The chain maintenance time required is lesser, and you would need to typically reapply only between 300-400 km on dry trails.
- Typically, paraffin-waxed mountain bike chains do not wear quickly.
Cons of Paraffin Wax
- Preparing the wax for application needs patience, as it is a time-consuming process.
- All existing lube must be removed entirely before applying the wax to the MTB chain.
- Waxing requires you to remove the chain from the mountain bike.
- Not suitable if you frequently ride on wet trails. The wax could go away soon, and you may want to repeat the waxing process.
Pro Tip: You can keep one or two chains pre-waxed in order to save time.
How Is Chain Wax Applied To A Mountain Bike?
In fact, chain wax is not applied, but the chain is immersed in the wax to be fully coated.
The supplies required for chain waxing are exhaustive but typically inexpensive and readily available at home.
Below listed are some supplies required for waxing a mountain bike chain:
- A ready-to-use chain wax (You can make chain wax even at home).
- Quick links for the bike chain (It is recommended to get reusable ones).
- Needle-nose pliers or a quick link tool.
- A small slow cooker (It would be sufficient to wax 2 to 3 chains at the same time).
Caution: Do not heat chain wax in a regular pan. Chain wax is flammable when melted under high temperatures. Therefore, a slow cooker is a must.
- A metal kebab skewer for dipping the chain in wax. One skewer per chain should be kept ready.
- In case you don’t have a skewer, you can use something else that would help you get the job done.
- Plastic containers with lids to soak the chain in cleaning chemicals.
- You may want more containers depending on the number of chains you are planning to wax.
- Keep a funnel ready to ensure that you don’t spill any chemicals around.
- Heavy-duty gloves that are also chemical-resistant.
- Clean rags, for cleaning purpose.
- Coffee filter paper to clean degreaser and mineral spirits (this can be reused.)
- Aluminum foil to spread near the slow cooker in order to avoid the mountain bike chain wax from dripping onto the countertop.
How To Apply Wax On A Mountain Bike Chain
There are two popular ways to wax your mountain bike chain. They are listed below:
- Through & Thorough Chain Waxing
- Immerse-In Chain Waxing
1. Through & Thorough Chain Waxing:
Clean the mountain bike chain extensively to make sure that even the last bit of dust or grime is gotten rid of.
Your mountain bike’s drivetrain must also be cleaned thoroughly.
This ensures that your waxed chain does not get contaminated by the dirt accumulated on the drivetrain.
Whether it is a new from-factory mountain bike chain that readily comes immersed in grease/wax or the one that you just removed from a bike, this step is crucial for the wax to get into the recesses of the chain.
This ensures that your chain gives you the intended performance.
To clean the chain, you could either put it in a container that has a cleaning spirit or degreaser.
Shake the degreaser vigorously until the solvent turns black or brown in color.
Change in color indicates that the grease and dirt have come off from your mountain bike chain.
Next, you have to remove the chain from the solvent and rinse thoroughly with water, and then dry it using a clean rag.
This process has to be repeated until all the dirt and grease come off the chain, and the chain looks absolutely spotless.
Of course, you could opt for other chain cleaning techniques as well if you find them better than this traditional method.
Caution: Handle the chemicals carefully and dispose of them off responsibly.
Pro Tip: Allow the dirt in the solvent container to settle down. Transfer the clear solvent into another container for later use.
2. Immerse-In Chain Waxing:
Open the slow cooker, and pour the wax blend.
With the help of the skewer, place the immaculately clean chain and quick links also into the wax.
Close the lid of your slow cooker, and allow it to slow cook.
The chain is placed in the wax at the beginning in order to let the metal expand and allow the wax to penetrate into the pins and rollers, which are pivotal components.
Once the wax melts, check the temperature using a digital thermometer.
Make sure that the temperature does not exceed 93 degrees Celsius / 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use the skewer to circulate the chain in the wax vigorously but safely for about 30 seconds.
This helps in coating the chains in a perfect blend of wax and friction modifiers.
Friction modifiers, if present, may get suspended during the melting process, and the step above helps in blending them for the best results.
Spread the aluminum foil outside the cooker and slowly remove the chain from the wax with the help of a skewer or any other similar tool that gets the job done.
Make sure that any wax that drips is collected onto the foil.
Hang the waxed chain at the place you have pre-arranged. It could be a hook or a nail on the wall.
After 20 minutes, check if the wax has completely dried.
The dried wax could make the chain stay stiff, and you may have to manually break the wax on each link for it to travel unconstrainedly through your mountain bike’s drivetrain.
You can even simply run the waxed chain over a round section of plastic tubing or wood to lessen the effort.
Wet Chain Lube For MTB, Pros & Cons
Pros of Wet Chain Lube:
- It is very easy to apply. This is a major win for “wet chain lube” in the chain wax vs chain lube for MTB :).
- Wet chain lube can be used if you are planning to ride your mountain bike in wet conditions.
- Higher viscosity of the lubricants used in wet lubes resists water.
- The oil present in the wet lube makes it resistant to corrosion.
Cons of Wet Chain Lube:
- Wet chain lube needs to be reapplied after every ride as a rule of thumb.
- It can accumulate gunk quickly, affecting the chain and the drivetrain.
- It can cause easy wearing of the chain due to accumulation of dirt and grime.
How To Apply Wet Chain Lube On A Mountain Bike Chain
The wet lube application process for mountain bike chains is relatively straightforward.
Here’s the step-by-step description:
- Clean the chain and drivetrain well using a good degreaser or a solvent.
- Hang the bike on a bike stand and apply a drop of lube on each link as you backpedal with one hand.
- Wipe away any excess lube using a cleaning rag.
- Excess lubricant can attract more dirt, which can be detrimental to the drivetrain.
- Repeat the cleaning and lubing process after every long/harsh ride.
Related: In-Depth Guide On MTB Oiling
Common FAQs On Chain Wax Vs Chain Lube For MTB
1. How often should I wax my chain?
Every new chain must be degreased, cleaned, and waxed before the first bike ride.
This is because any presence of factory grease would lead to the accumulation of dirt on the chain and drivetrain.
After the first waxing, if you ride your bike only in dry conditions, you do not have to wax your MTB chain very often.
You could go up to 300-400 km without waxing.
However, if you happen to ride your bike even once in wet conditions, the wax may go away, and hence you may have to reapply before the next ride.
2. How long does the chain wax take to dry?
Typically, chain wax dries within 20 minutes of application.
But, once applied, it is better to leave the chain wax overnight to make sure that the chain wax is absolutely dry.
Before you start riding with your waxed chain on, always be sure that there is no portion that remains wet.
3. How long does wax last on a bike chain?
Chain wax is a long-lasting solution to lubricate your chain.
How long the wax lasts on your chain depends mainly on the conditions in which you ride your mountain bike.
For example, if you ride your bike only in dry conditions, the chain wax lubricant will do its job well for about 300 miles.
But if you happen to ride in wet conditions, you may have to rewax soon after you have returned.
This is because wax gets easily removed with water and may lead to corrosion.
Usually, you do not have to clean a waxed chain as you would clean a lubed chain. This is because the chain attracts less dirt and hence does not affect the drivetrain.
However, prior to rewaxing, you have to clean the chain to altogether remove the existing wax in the chain.
This can be done using a hair drier and a cloth or store-bought chemicals that help in removing the wax.
4. Do new bike chains need oiling?
New bike chains do not need oiling immediately since they come submerged in factory grease, which can be sustained for about 100 km.
But make sure that the excess lube is wiped clean before you start riding.
5. What happens if you don’t oil/lube your bike chain?
It is crucial to lubricate your mountain bike’s chain to prevent the accumulation of dirt and to avoid corrosion.
If you do not oil or wax, your MTB chain, dirt, and grime that builds up on the chain increases friction, leading to difficulty in running through the drivetrain.
This could also lead to shifting issues and the wearing of drivetrain parts such as sprockets, cassettes and chainrings.
6. Can I use olive oil on the bike chain?
Yes, in an emergency situations, you could resort to using an olive oil on your bike chain if you don’t have any bike chain lubricant at hand.
This is because some oil is better than no oil at all.
But, before you make it a habit, it would be better to be informed about the disadvantages of using olive oil on your MTB chain:
- Olive oil wouldn’t perform as well as bike chain lubricants.
- The viscosity of olive oil is much lesser than specialist lubes, making it difficult to penetrate through.
- The wax-like component, which is essential for a chain lubricant, is scanty in olive oil.
- Olive oil, when applied on the MTB chain, could lead to easy accumulation of gunk.
7. Which is the most popular MTB chain wax?
Molten speed wax is the most popular MTB chain wax available in the market. However, the SILCA Bike Chain Wax works equally well.
8. Are there any disadvantages of waxing a bike chain?
The main disadvantage of waxing a chain is that it is not compatible with use in wet conditions.
You will have to reapply the wax right after your bike ride in the rain.
Another disadvantage is the time and effort involved in the waxing process. Chain waxing is time consuming and labor intensive.
However, if you ride only in dry conditions, the time you invest would be worth it.
9. Does chain wax resist corrosion?
Yes, to a large extent chain wax does resist corrosion. But not when riding in the wet conditions.
10. Why is chain lube more popular than chain wax?
Chain lube is more popular then chain wax because it is easy to apply on your bike chain. Moreover, it is water-resistant compared to chain wax.
Both the contenders are strong with their own merits, but I would vote chain wax a bit higher in the chain wax vs chain lube for MTB contest.
This is because of the long-lasting nature of chain wax.
However, suppose you have to ride in wet conditions. In that case, you are left with no option but to resort to wet chain lubes.
Wet chain lubes have high viscosity and good water resistance feature.
P.S. I hope this article has helped you understand the differences between the chain wax and the chain lube used on mountain bikes.
Definitely consider checking out our resources on how to properly oil and clean your mountain bike chains. We also have an in-depth guide on dry lube vs wet lube for MTB chains.