When it’s raining outside, the wind chill is somewhere in the low twenties, and Climb Nashville is closed for the crush-comp later that night, outdoors people are more or less stuck. Robert, Spencer, and I were on the short side of things to do. Robert had thrown around the idea of waxing our chains on our bicycles a month ago or so, so we took this opportunity/miserable weather to do just that.
Nearly all of my pants legs have a few patches of grease, and I’m pretty sure I’ve left a few black scars on the interior of cars due to my greasy chain, so when I stumbled upon EcoVelo’s guide to chain waxing I was ready to get my hands dirty.
The concept is simple, sanitize your drive train with a degreaser, boil down a bar of paraffin wax in a croc pot or double boiler, put your chain in, reinstall, and I was glad that it was just that.
Supplies and Tools
- A degreaser such as Simple Green
- Some Paraffin such as Gulf Wax
- A hex key set
- A chain ring tool (recommended)
- A chain break or a chain with a master key
- Lots of cheap rags
- A Toothbrush/other brush type thing
Make a spot to clean your bike. It’s cold in Nashville, so I laid down some towels in my kitchen.
First thing’s first, take off your chain. Break your chain making sure not to push the pin all the way out.
Go drink a bottle of Coke and wash it out. Fill it with your degreaser, and drop your chain there. Screw the cap on and shake it for a bit. I used a plastic cup with some sticky rap around the top, and it didn’t work too well. Whoops. Also this method left me using my entire bottle of degreaser to clean both Spencer’s and my chain.
My chain’s in there somewhere.
After you give your chain a good shaking you’ll want to let it sit in the formula for a good while. Alan at EcoVelo says 10 minutes, so that’s a good place to start.
While your chain is cleaning itself, you’ll want to take this opportunity to clean your drive train. Take off your back wheel, and to get extra cleaning goodness take off your chain rings also. I’d highly recommend this because when I did I found a ton of grease between my lower and higher chainrings that would have corrupted my pristine waxy drivetrain!
Spray some degreaser directly onto your chainrings and let it sit for a little.
Get a rag and hold one edge. Slip this ridged edge between the cogs of your cassette, and slide it back in forth, turning your cassette. I think this is super fun, but that’s just me.
Back to your chainring. Now spray some degreaser into a toothbrush and scrub! Make sure to focus on the teeth because that’s where it counts.
Now go back to your chain and shake it again. Is that formula starting to look brown? Good. Let it hang out for another 10 minutes.
While I was waiting I cleaned my rims with my Simple-Greened toothbrush, and it made it look beautiful, but you need to be careful because you don’t want to get degreaser in the threads of your nipples. That’s the good grease.
Now you’ll want to use your double boiler to melt down your wax. I used Gulf Wax which comes with 4 blocks. To do 2 chains I only needed to use 1 block.
Go back to your chain and take it out. Wash it off well with water.
It’s crazy how much muck can accumulate in a drive train. Look at that!
When the wax gets to be a water-like consistency drop your chains in there slowly as to not spill the wax. In fact, be super careful here. I can’t imagine how unpleasant boiled wax would feel on skin. Don’t do that.
(That’s Spencer’s rusty old chain)
You’re going to want to let that sit for about 15 minutes. I went back and kept cleaning my bike here, but you could go read a book or do jumping jacks. The possibilities are endless.
After some 15 minutes turn the heat down and let the wax thicken. This took me about 20 minutes, but it could take more or less probably depending on the varying thickness of your pots.
When it gets thicker fish your chain out with a fork/spoke/not fingers set it outside being careful not to drip wax through your house: that’d be bad news. I used a trash bag to transport my chain and that worked just fine. Let your chain sit outside to dry for 5-10 minutes.
It’s really quiet too which is nice. The wax adds a layer between the metal on metal grinding which dampens the noise considerably. It’s also amazingly smooth.
The extra wax on the chain will flake off after a few miles.