Let’s talk about Waxing…

Since chains were invented, we’ve been lubricating them. Sometimes with oil, sometimes with WD-40 (please don’t!), sometimes with specialised (and always expensive) ‘Chain Lubricant’ that can be wet or dry, sprayed on or dripped on, and even applied with a rag (WTF).

The bicycle chain is a special problem, because it’s right out there where everything seems to touch it – your leg, your hands, your shoes (grrrrr). There must be a better way, right?

Chain Wax, enter stage left.

“A waxed chain can bang out up to 20,000km before needing replacement, whereas regular lubricant will grind out 6,000km at best. That’s the cost of three new chains.”

Waxed chains started to appear in the pro ranks about 4 or 5 years ago. There was (and still is) a lot of discussion about waxing being more efficient and delivering more power, plus it triples the life of your chain. But what is most important to the everyday cyclist is that it solves all of the fundamental problems with bike chains.

No more filthy chain marks to clean off everything it touches.
No more degreaser needed to remove the lube from all over the rear of your bike.
No more problems with lubricant contaminating your braking system.

The waxed chain is completely dry, you can rub it with your fingers and feel only a waxy residue – same as if you picked up a candle. Dirt doesn’t stick to the chain!

The wax we use is a special formulation of Parrafin, PTFE and Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). The parrafin is a carrier and barrier – it carries the PTFE and MoS2 that do the lubrication, and it’s a barrier for all of the foreign elements like dirt and water that wear your chain prematurely.

I can hear you asking how we convert your bike to a waxed chain.

We take a new chain that has no contamination, and we wash the factory goop off it. It’s not well known that new chains are coated in a protectant to stop it rusting in the packet – it’s not lubricant! Most people just whack it straight on the bike where it will start to wear prematurely from the first km. We call this ‘designed obsolescence’ and it causes you to buy more chains.

Important here is how the chain is cleaned. We have a four stage process: first a degreaser, then an ultrasonic bath to eliminate all internal contamination, another degreasing, then boiling hot water to remove all traces of degreaser.

Once it has dried and cooled, we take the cleaned chain and soak it in a hot bath of chain wax. There’s a critical temperature here (no, I’m not telling you what it is) to ensure the wax is agitated into the internals of the chain’s pins and rollers. Too hot and the wax separates; too cold and it doesn’t penetrate.

The wax is partially cooled while the chain is submerged, and we bring it out to set. If the chain holds itself up, the job is done.

The chain is then installed on the bike with a new clip link (also waxed) and after about 1km of run-in, it’s good for hundreds of maintenance-free kilometers.

The initial ‘Wax Conversion’ service is $129, and it includes a full Drivetrain Service. We remove your chainrings, cassette and both derailleurs and ultrasonic clean them all. This removes every contaminant and all traces of the old lubricant. We then lubricate the individual moving parts of your derailleurs with PTFE lube to ensure perfect function and reinstall on your bike. New chains are priced from $29 to $149, depending on your preference.

The life of a waxed chain is tripled, but we don’t think that’s the biggest benefits. Waxing removes the problems that come with old forms of chain lubrication, and if you had to throw away a pair of expensive cycling shoes or some good jeans because of a simple chainlube accident, you’ll appreciate a waxed chain. And I haven’t mentioned trailside repairs where the chainlube is all over your fingers and gloves, with another 50kms to ride…

Servicing the chain every three months is $29. Drop your bike off or bring us your chain and we’ll turn it around same-day. We remove the chain and clean it, then re-wax it and reinstall with a new clip link.

This is important: There is no maintenance required for a waxed chain! Don’t touch it, don’t put oil on it, don’t chain-scrub it, just lightly hose the dust off the chain when you wash your bike.

A waxed chain is good for about 300kms of riding. If you’re not doing this many kms, we recommend one annual rewax when you have your service done to ensure the chain is kept free of corrosion.

If you’re doing long distances per week (more than 200), our ‘Two Chain’ maintenance program is for you. We prep two chains for you, and you can either keep one ready to go at home, or we’ll keep it in the shop and do a changeover in about 5 minutes.

Questions? Hit us in the comments, or drop into the shop. We love to talk wax 🙂

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