How To: Wax Your Bike Chain For the Cleanest Smoothest Ride You’ve Ever Had

Mike Lavery | CycleCycle
Back from a dirty ride and my chain is the cleanest part of the bike. Photo: Mike Lavery

Whether you like to ride your bike in spandex or body armor, there is one universal truth to cycling: chain maintenance sucks. Keeping your chain clean and lubed can be a full time job that no one wants. The solution: Hot Wax. You already wax your skis, time to wax your bike!

No joke, dipping your chain in hot wax is a thing and it turns chain maintenance into a non-issue. I started waxing my chain a few months ago and have been impressed with the results. You won’t need lube for at least a few hundred miles, and the best part is, it stays super clean even on the muddiest of rides. If you live in the PNW, this one is for you.

No more of this. Photo: Livestrong

Initially it does take a little bit more effort than traditional chain lube, and you’ll have to spend a few bucks, but the results are worth it. Here’s how do to do it:

Step 1: Clean your chain. This one is important because you want the wax sticking to bare metal. If your chain is super gross, or even just regular gross, make life easy and get a new one. Even with a new chain, you’ll need to soak it in mineral spirits to remove the factory lubricant. Once again, Step 1, super important. Clean your chain like you’ve never cleaned it before.

Odorless Mineral Spirits Recommended. Photo: Mike Lavery

Step 2: Get some wax. Would ski wax work? Or how about that candle in the bathroom? I don’t know…maybe. I use a product called Molten Speed Wax that is designed just for this. It costs about $20 for a pound (I bought it myself, not a paid promo here) and so far it has done quite a few chains.

The Wax Pellets. Photo: Mike Lavery

Step 3: Melt the wax. The safest way is with a slow cooker. Steal your roommate’s, get one at a yard sale, or buy one from Jeff Bezos. I’m sure you can figure out plenty of other ways to melt it, but you don’t want hot wax accidentally exploding in your face or all over your kitchen. Pretty simple, just stay safe and don’t burn yourself.

A Freshly Waxed Specimen. Photo: Mike Lavery

Step 4: Dip the chain. Once your wax is melted and up to about 200 degrees F, drop the chain in for about 60 seconds, moving it around slightly to make sure every bit gets coated. Fish it out with a piece of wire, or an old fork, and hang it to dry. Generally it should just have a light coating of wax, not a thick layer.

Complete! Photo: Mike Lavery

Step 5: Reinstall your chain. The chain will initially be quite stiff, so take a second to break the links up so they move. Then reinstall the chain on your bike.  It’s that easy! If you’re using a quick link, make sure to wax that guy too.

Ready to Ride. Photo: Mike Lavery

Step 6: Go Ride. It will take a ride or two for the chain to fully loosen up, after which it should be super smooth and maintenance free. Plus, no more grease marks on your calves or in your car!

The initial treatment should last a few hundred miles depending on conditions. Once you notice your chain isn’t feeling as fast, or maybe its got some dirt or rust building up on it, it’s time to re-wax. Best to do this sooner than later before the chain gets too dirty and cleaning it becomes a chore. I’ve got a chain with about 300 miles on it that is still going strong.

Happy Trails.

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8 thoughts on “How To: Wax Your Bike Chain For the Cleanest Smoothest Ride You’ve Ever Had

  1. New chains should be thoroughly degreased, you do not want any factory lube remaining. I use a small old electric pot to melt ordinary, inexpensive paraffin from the hardware store. Temp between 175 and 200F. Add teflon powder such as Runaway Bike PTFE Powder per instructions and stir well. Leave the chain in until all bubbles come out and chain is fully up to temp. Hang and wipe with a rag. Use a removable link. Just spray with water and wipe dry before rewaxing, several 100 miles later.

  2. Been doing this for many years. I use a empty food can and use it as a double boiler on the stove. Never had a problem. A pound of wax lasts forever.

  3. Agreed. I’m never going back to greasy wet lubes again. I’ve also been using Squirt Wax lube in combination with this with great results. I feel like a touch up every few rides with the Squirt lube prolongs the life of the hot wax.

  4. I soak chains in regular melted Gulf brand paraffin canning wax every 300 miles or so. The wax melts in a double boiler with on old steel vegetable strainer set in it, about 1/2 inch from the boiler bottom. With a good stir dirt and black alum oxide will drop through the strainer holes. At the beginning of the next wax session, when the wax just begins to melt, I’ll lift that strainer out and dump the 1/16 inch of initial wax melt — along with all the settled debris — return the strainer and let the remainder melt. Takes about .5 hour to do the two ridden bikes in our household. Clean, easy, and a super quiet ride.

  5. You should leave the chain in the was til it starts to skin approx 127 degrees Fahrenheit. This way the wax (sticks) to the internal chain instead of just running off.
    Wipe the excess off with a disposable glove.

  6. Great idea. I’ll have to try this to see how long it lasts. Hard to believe it would last several hundred miles, though. Cold wax applications are the same material, just not applied deep within the bearings. Cold wax only lasts a few rides in my extremely dry, and dusty, environment.

    I would advise against soaking a new chain in MS. You’ll strip the factory lube from the inner bearings. You don’t want to do that. Wiping a chain down, new or old, with MS is great though.

    1. Hi Frank – I’ve always soaked in MS for about 15-20 minutes, but the Molten Speed Wax site actually advises soaking overnight. I think the idea here is that the hot wax application penetrates between the links and becomes the new lubrication for the chain, which is why it lasts so long.

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