A Guide to Waxing your bike chain for speed, time saving, and longevity

Chain waxing is an easy way to never get chain oil on your clothes again, save a few watts, make your chains and drivetrain last 3-5 times as long, get a quieter drivetrain, and - oh yeah, you'll never have to clean your chain again.

A Guide to Waxing your bike chain for speed, time saving, and longevity

Why bother

Ok, what if I told you there was an easy way to:

  • Never get chain oil on your clothes again
  • Save a few watts
  • Make your chains and drivetrain last 3-5 times as long
  • Get a quieter drivetrain
  • Never have to clean your chain again

Does that sound like a good deal? It does to me, and the funny thing is it's cheaper and quicker than conventional chain lubrication. Throw that drip lube away, and come to the wax side.

How to get started - Before Wax

Like B.C. and A.D., it's simplest to have a Before Wax (B.W.) and an Anno. Wax AW (A.W.) day. I don't know what the term for Wax is in Latin, but B.W. and A.W. will have to do.

Before your After Wax day approaches, you will want to order a few things:

  • Molten Speed Wax 500g bag, Race Powder, and Chain Swisher - def worth getting the chain swisher it makes everything easy. £54.99 for the set from Inaspin. Future bags of wax are like £20. This will wax about 30 chains or roughly enough for 10,000km of riding.
  • Crockpot 3.7 Litre slow cooker - shop around, definitely don’t want anything smaller than this as you need space for the chain and wax. I got this from Argos for £22
  • UFO Clean Drivetrain 1 Litre - this stuff is magic. Put 100ml in a plastic tub and put a brand-new chain in it. Shake it around (with a lid on) and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Then wash out with water, boiling if you can be bothered.
  • Chain wear checker tool
  • 2 x new chains

It's a bit of a faff, but that's all you need to join the wax club and get those glorious happy waxed chain benefits.

Converting to wax; a guide

Set aside a few hours. What you are going to do is firstly clean up your existing drivetrain. Stake your cassette, chainrings, and jockey wheels and give them a good scrub. If they're covered in chain oil gunk, get some degreaser on them and give them a good scrub down. I went totally overboard and took all these parts off my bike so I could be absolutely sure they were clean. Spray them down with water and dry them off.

If you use a turbo trainer (like a Wahoo Kickr) remember to clean the cassette on that too. You don't want your lovely waxed chains to ever touch a gunky oiled surface again.

Once you have cleaned your bike, you need to strip the chains down to the bare metal. To do this, all you need is to soak a brand-new factory train in about 100ml of Ceramic Speed UFO Clean. This stuff is magic. Leave the chain in the UFO clean bath for 10 minutes, agitate it (posh word for give it a good shake), leave it to soak a bit more, then wash it off with water. Dry the chain, either in the sun or with a hair dryer/heat gun if you have one laying around. If you touch your chain you will realise it feels different than ever before. It is super important to completely strip your chain back to bare metal. This lets the wax bond to it.

With your new clean bike and dry chain(s), you are now ready to begin waxing.

Set your slow cooker to low, chuck a puck of Moltenspeedwax into the slow cooker, feed your chain through the swishing tool (or metal coat hangar if you don't have the pro swishing tool) lay your chain on top. Leave it for about an hour - it will take that long for the wax to melt.

Leave the chain in the slow cooker with the wax puck. It will take about an hour to melt.

Once your chain has sunk into the melted vat of wax, shake the chain around with the swishing tool for 30 seconds. This helps the wax get inside each roller plate, which is what you want. You want the wax inside the roller, not on the outside of the chain.

Yoink the chain out of the wax, and hang it somewhere to dry. It usually will dry within about 5 minutes. You'll know it's dry because your chain turns into a sword - it's really weird. It won't bend. Try it and you'll see what I am on about.

Hanging my training & race chains out to dry.

Next up you need to actuate the chain - i.e. just bend each chainlink through its range of motion. This takes about 30 seconds to do a chain, just to break the dried wax holding it in place.

Once you've done this, you're ready to fit your waxed chain to the bike. Feed it back onto the drivetrain in the normal way, and you're good to go.

How often should you rewax your chain?

Every 300-500km of dry riding, or as soon as possible after a wet ride.

If you can't wax the chain after a wet ride, dry it off with a microfibre towel to absorb the moisture and avoid rusting the chain prematurely.

When you relax your chain you don't need to clean it again. Seriously it's magic. Just take the waxed chain off your bike, chuck it back on top of the slow cooker, and when the wax melts you will have a brand new chain again. Less crap sticks to a waxed chain, but over time a bit of contamination will build up in your wax pot. This is when you need to swap out your chain wax in the slow cooker (after 30 chains or so).

Pro Tips

Set up a chain wax reminder on your phone

There is an app called mainTrack on iOS that is great for reminders to rewax you chain. You can link the app to your Strava, and it will ping you every 300km (or whatever you set it to) with a reminder to swap to a freshly waxed chain.

Wax multiple chains at once

Rather than getting the slow cooker out every 300km, I have three chains. 2 training chains, and 1 race chain.

After one of the training chains wears out, I will swap in the race chain to become a training chain. Then I can go out at a leisurely pace and buy my next race chain ahead of my next important race.

This setup means I can go roughly 600-1000km of riding without needing to do any drivetrain cleaning, lubrication, maintenance, or waxing.

On a roll - waxing multiple chains at once. I keep them in sealed bags to keep any moisture out & label the chains - whether they are waxed, need rewax, and whether the chain is currently a race or training chain. Whenever any of my training chains reaches 1% wear with a chain wear check tool, I will make the current race chain a training chain, and buy a new race chain.

Ok - if you're on Shimano 11 speed or lower - there are Wipperman Connex chainlinks that are reusable an unlimited amount of times. I have had success re-using YBN chains for Shimano.

The SRAM flattop chains are 1-time use according to manufacturer guidelines. I will say that personally, I have taken a risk-adjusted approach - for a training ride I don't mind reusing a link once. If I am racing, I will put on a new chain link to be sure. Apparently, the chain master link gets to a point where it just slots in without a click - I never let mine get to this point though & instead just re-use a few times if it's easy training or turbo rides only.

Listen to the chain master

Zero Friction Cycling are the absolute dealer in truth for chain waxing. They taught me everything I know about chain waxing and their resources are brilliant. Check them out for the latest product reviews and guides on their site. They also sell pre-waxed chains.