Why We Should Be Switching To Wax-Coat Chain Lubes

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Bike Maintenance, Bike, Featured, Opinion, Skills & Setup, Sports

We weigh up the benefits of the latest molten wax lubricants against those of drip-application chain lubes to find out which is best for you.

As cyclists we are incredibly dependent on our bicycle’s chain for the enjoyment of our sport. It is a component of the bike that takes a lot of abuse and plays a huge role in the overall efficiency of our drivetrain. For the casual weekend cyclist, this part of the bike probably doesn’t get much thought except when ‘that squeak’ starts making itself known, a scenario usually followed by a dousing of the nearest chain lube at hand and then proceeding to carry on as we were. For a pro rider, the chain may be a common point of concern for you, something that needs to be well looked after and optimised for speed and efficiency. And that would be right.

Cover Image Credit: MSpeedWax

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Bicycle chains require much more care than we typically give them.

A chain that isn’t cared for properly will very quickly start costing you watts and pennies, lots of pennies. For casual riders, the watts may not be that important but the knock-on financial costs of a malnourished chain can rack up pretty quickly. When not properly cleaned and lubricated, the lifespan of the chain itself diminishes rapidly and so does the lifespan of the cassette meaning replacement parts are going to be needed much more frequently than if we just gave a little more time to properly caring for the chain.

The purpose of chain lubricants

Chain lubricants have 2 purposes to serve. Firstly, they must reduce the friction of the metal chain grinding on the metal teeth of the cassette and chainring, increasing the efficiency of the drivetrain. Secondly, they must protect the chain from becoming contaminated by the elements (found on the road or trail) that work their way into the chainlinks and wear them out much faster than we would like.

Drip application and molten wax lubes

The vast majority of riders will use drip application lubes. These are the squeezy bottles that deposit a liquid lubricant onto the chain as you spin the cranks. Of these there are the waxed-based lubes and non-wax-based options. Application is a quick process and the chain stays on the bike for application. Nice and simple.

Then you have molten wax lubes. These waxes are deposited into a slow cooker or similar heating instrument and melted before you drop the chain (removed from the bike) into it, allowing the whole chain to be coated by the wax. The chain is removed from the wax immersion and left to dry leaving a hard wax coat on the chain designed to last much longer between applications than drip-application lubes. Chains need to be prepped before their first wax, and re-application follows the same process but without the prepping. It is a bit more of a process than the drip-lubes but it promises big results for the effort.

Benefits of molten wax lubes

  • Significant friction reduction (very significant) due to the hard wax coating that fully encases the entire chain.
  • Much more resistant to wear and contamination (very resistant) which means longer life spans of chains and cassettes and less cash spent in the long run by far. This is because the hardened wax has set deep in the chain links, making it much more difficult for contamination from the trail or road to penetrate the chain and start increasing the wear.
  • Cleaning is super easy. Just wash the chain with cold water and all the debris will run off. Washing after wet rides is more involved (as with drip-lubes) but we’ll touch more on that later.


  • Application is a more involved process than the drip-lubes. Chain needs to be removed from the bike (and properly prepared for the first application) and soaked in wax and then left to dry for about an hour.

Benefits of drip-application lubes

  • Quick and easier to apply.
  • Good for ultra-endurance events of 24 hours or more (and stage races) as you can easily re-apply as needed whereas a waxed chain will start decreasing in performance after 20 or so hours. More on this just now.


  • Not as effective as waxing for friction reduction
  • Have to be re-applied more regularly
  • Notably less effective than waxing for contamination reduction.
  • More expensive in the long run due to higher wear and tear.

How do we know what is best

There is a lot of misinformation out there about how effective different chain lubes are because of outdated knowledge and inaccurate marketing claims. To offer the world some clear and objective information to work with, a wonderful Australian man (named Adam Kerin) made use of his paternity leave to conduct some incredibly productive research on different chain lubes and their effectiveness at lubricating and protecting the chain. The result is a table of data showing the comparison of a host of wax-coat and drip-application lubes across a variety of weather and contamination conditions. 

Which are the best chain lubes from Adam’s testing


1.Effetto Mariposa Flower Power Wax

2.Ceramic Speed UFO Drip (New Formula)

3.Silca Super Secret Drip

Squirt and Smoove (popular local options) are both decent in the drip application field but not quite up there with the best options and far off the immersive waxes.

Immersive Wax

1.Rex Black Diamond

2.Molten Speed Wax (New Formula)

3.Silca Hot Melt

You can find a screenshot of the results below and if you’re a bit of a nerd for data, you can dive into all the test results here.

Why To Switch To Wax Chain Lube
(c) Zero Friction Cycling

What is the process for wax lubing the chain (roughly)

Always start with removing factory grease. It has 5X the wear rate of the average drip lube. That can be a bit of a process but there are innovators working to make that easier. Silca has just released a new product called a Strip Chip that claims to do this for you in your Hot Melt Wax in 10 minutes with very little elbow grease (excuse pun). Otherwise it’s a case of cleaning the chain with either Ceramic Speed UFO Clean (recommended for ease of use) or mineral turps and methylated spirits.

Full guide here for prepping the chain for its first wax immersion 

Why We Should Be Switching To Wax-Coat Chain Lubes
(c) Zero Friction Cycling

Once the chain is prepped properly, drop it into the molten wax (low setting on a slow cooker) and let it soak for about 10 minutes (after the chain has heated up to the same temp as wax). Then swish the chain around for 30 seconds, remove and leave to dry. 

Reinstall on bike and enjoy super low friction pedalling and reduced wear!

When it comes time to re-wax the chain; pop it off the bike, rinse it clean thoroughly with boiling water, pop in the wax immersion to soak and repeat the process above from there.

This is the gist of it. If you’re considering doing this yourself (which would be a great idea) there are some nuances and tricks to make the process as pain-free and effective as possible that you can find in the master immersion waxing guide here.

How long does it last between waxes?

This does depend on conditions of course but in dry conditions you can get close to 300 km of riding before needing to re-wax. That is something like 20 hours of cycling on average.

If riding in light wet weather (nothing crazy) then you could halve that time and for really severe weather or wet off-road conditions (where the chain is getting coated in mud and grit) re-wax after one ride ideally. This is to maintain optimal chain condition. Falling short of this will still stand you in better stead than a drip application lube, according to test data.

Why We Should Be Switching To Wax-Coat Chain Lubes
Water carried contaminants onto the chain and hence wet weather rides demand more attention to maintenance, no matter your lubrication method.

Pro tip: Since your chain will eventually wear out no matter your lubricant, buying that new chain ahead of time allows you to spread the riding load between 2 chains while re-waxing them together for extra time efficiency. This means if you get a bad weather ride you can just pop the fresh chain on until it’s time for re-waxing.

Your other option to prolong the time between re-waxing is to use a compatible drip wax lube to keep your spinning friction free for a few extra rides. This won’t be as effective as re-waxing more regularly but can carry you a little further if you’re unable to re-wax when the time comes.

Notes from Adam Kerin at Zero Friction Cycling:

“Smoove / squirt is often used for long extreme events like 24hr MTB racing or MTB stage races over the top of MoltenSpeed Wax as that works brilliantly, but cleaning prior to re-waxing is required after this to keep the wax in your pot clean and ensure good wax bonding to chain metal.”

“Soft alloy cassettes like Dura Ace will wear well before chains, even if the chains remain nowhere near recommended replacement mark. However, they will last A LOT longer vs average drip lubes, and your chain rings will easily last 40,000 to 60,000km”.

More on wet weather maintenance

For best longevity, once the chain has had a proper wet ride (where the chain is getting coated in mud and grit); remove it, dry it, and leave it wrapped in a dry cloth to absorb moisture and prevent rusting.

Cleaning before re-waxing is important for wax coatings so that you do not contaminate the wax in your pot (used for multiple re-waxings) with bits of debris and contamination from the road/trail. Swishing the chain around in an open container with boiling water a couple of times (opening prevents the lid from blowing off due to steam build-up) will remove any contamination and sufficiently prep the chain for a re-wax.

Dry ride chains are easier to clean and don’t risk bring much contamination into the wax.

A drip application might seem like less admin in wet weather. If you’re like me you usually scrub it clean with the rest of your bike, dry it and then re-apply lube (only a minute of extra work beyond the bike clean) but unfortunately you’re still not getting anywhere near the protective and friction-reducing benefits of a hard wax coat. So while it may seem that wax-coated chains are more admin in wet weather, this is just because they are maintaining a higher ideal than the drip-lubes.

So what is the verdict

Given the data from Zero Friction Cycling’s test results, it is going to be hard to argue against the superiority of an immersive wax for chain lubrication and drivetrain longevity (if you use one of the top products as not all waxes are made equal). It sounds like we should be moving away from drip-application lubes, as best we can.

The extra work of waxing and re-waxing doesn’t sound unreasonable, especially for those who enjoy tinkering and have the time to do it. This unfortunately isn’t the case for all of us and there doesn’t seem to be too many chain waxing service providers locally in South Africa to do it for you (business opportunity anyone?). In that case, immersion waxing when you can and then topping up with a good drip-lube between re-waxings is the next best option for longer drievtrain life and friction reduction.

The very least you can do is take good care of cleaning your chain and using one of the higher rated drip application lubes. This won’t get you near the best results (and will cost you more in the long run) but it will be a whole lot better than neglect or using products that underdeliver.

I myself am keen to give this home-waxing thing a try (when I am living a lifestyle less nomadic than my current one) and will report back on the experience once I’m able to give that a go (don’t hold your breath for this). If you yourself are keen to give this a try, make use of the links throughout this article to the key documents on Zero Friction Cycling’s website and then let us know how your experience has been!

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