Bike Chain Waxing: Beginner’s Guide With Pictures (And Is It Worth The Hassle?)

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Keeping your bike chain in tip-top condition is vital.

The better you look after your bike, the longer it’s going to last and the more it will perform while you’re out cycling. One exciting new development many cyclists have taken to is using bike chain wax. 

The process of waxing a bike chain is actually much more simple than you might think, and the benefits are incredible when it comes to keeping a smooth, clean, and well-performing chain.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is Bike Chain Wax?
  • 5 Key Benefits of Bike Chain Wax
  • How To Wax A Bike Chain in 6 Steps [With Pictures]
  • How Do I Know When My Chain Needs Waxing Again?
  • Is Bike Chain Wax Worth The Hassle?
  • What Are The Alternatives To Bike Chain Wax?

Let’s dive in!

Bike Chain Wax: Title Image

What Is Bike Chain Wax?

Bike chain wax serves a similar purpose to chain oil or lubricant.

The process involves submerging a chain in melted wax and then letting it dry into the links. Waxing a chain not only gives it smooth movement and keeps the dirt off, but it can also offer a high level of protection.

It needs to be high-quality paraffin wax to be effective. Cheaper waxes will contain a higher quantity of oil, reducing their effectiveness. Several brands sell wax specifically for the purpose of waxing bike chains.

Close-up of a mountain bike's rear wheel.

5 Key Benefits of Bike Chain Wax

Bike chain wax has some huge benefits, not just for professional riders but also for recreational cyclists.

Here’s what you need to know:

#1. Incredible Efficiency 

Compared to a dirty chain, you can save a few watts of power by using bike chain wax.

It’s why a lot of the pros are using it. A few watts could be the difference between winning and losing in a race like the Tour de France.

#2. Great Protection

When you wax a chain, it offers a huge amount of protection from contaminants. Wax can stop dirt and debris from sticking to the chain and stop rust oxidation from moisture. 

#3. It stays super clean

If you like a clean bike and value a sparkling chain, then you’re going to want to wax your chain. It keeps it looking silky smooth and your drivetrain like it just came out of the showroom. 

#4. Prolongs Components

When you have a well-protected drivetrain that stays very clean, you can expect it to last. A waxed chain will not just give your chain a longer life, but it is also going to help prolong the life of other components, such as your cassette and chainrings.

#5. It lasts a long time

Depending on the conditions, the number of miles you will get will differ, but many cyclists find themselves getting 300-400 km between each waxing session. This is a great amount of time between the maintenance of your bike chain. 

Close-up of a silver bike chain on a grey background.

How To Wax A Bike Chain in 6 Steps [With Pictures]

Waxing your chain will take roughly 30 minutes to an hour.

We highly recommend doing this without rushing it and taking your time following each step properly, or you won’t get the desired effect.

The equipment you’ll need

The equipment you'll need to wax a bike chain.
  • Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Dirty Rags
  • Degreaser
  • Bike Chain Wax
  • Chain-Breaker Tool/Master Link Pliers
  • Slow Cooker (preferable)
  • Wire Coat Hanger

Step #1. Preparation

A gravel bike rests against a brick wall.

Find an organized space where you can work safely.

We recommend working on the bike in one area, preferably where you have some water. Keep the slow cooker and wax somewhere separate and out of the way.

Step #2: Remove the chain and clean

Cleaning the bike's drivetrain.

It’s essential that when we do the waxing process that the chain is as clean as it can possibly be.

We recommend starting by cleaning the bike and then giving the whole drivetrain a good scrub with a degreaser. 

Once it is completely degreased, you will want to remove the chain with the chain breaker and ensure you have got all the dirt off that you can. Make sure to put the master link in a safe place.

The cleaner the chain is, the more the wax can stick to it, and the better it will work.

Using an ultrasonic cleaner will give you the best results, but we appreciate very few people keep an ultrasonic cleaner in the house. A good bit of elbow grease can achieve great results.

Step #3. Heat the wax in a slow cooker

Pouring the bike chain wax into the slow cooker.

Now it is time to get the slow cooker on and ensure you have your gloves and safety glasses on.

Put the wax in the cooker and slowly stir it until it has melted and gone clear. Ensure the wax is deep enough that the chain can be completely submerged. Be cautious, as the wax will be scalding hot. 

We highly recommend starting with low heat and being patient. A lot of people ask if they can just use a hob. You can, but we don’t recommend this as it can get very hot quickly and be a fire hazard.

Step #4. Waxing the chain

A bike chain sitting in wax.

Lower the chain in carefully and leave it for about 20 minutes.

You will know when it’s nearly ready, as no small bubbles will be coming out of the chain. It will take the wax time for it to set into the chain, and the longer you leave it, the better protected the chain will be. 

Ensure the cooker is turned off, and if you have a spare pot, you can leave the current wax in and use it again the next time you need to apply bike chain wax.

Step #5. Remove the chain From The Wax

A waxed bike chain is cleaned with an orange rag.

Now it is time to remove your chain from the wax.

You will need to use the wire coat hanger to do this. Ensure you are wearing gloves and carefully remove the chain without touching it because it will be hot.

Once you have it out, you will need to use the wire coat hanger to let it dry for roughly twenty minutes, so all the wax is absorbed all over the chain. 

Once it is dry, the chain will feel very stiff. You will want to move it around a bit, loosen it off, then clean it down with a rag. We don’t want too much excess wax on the chain but leaving a thin layer is enough. 

Step #6. Put the chain back on the bike

Reattaching a bike chain using master link pliers.

If your chain uses one, locate the master link you put aside earlier. You will need to use the master-link pliers to reattach it, ensuring the link is fully engaged and the chain is running through the derailleurs correctly.

Alternatively, if your chain doesn’t use a masterlink, reattach the chain using a pin and a chain tool.

Now you have successfully waxed your chain!

We recommend that you take it for a short ride to make sure everything works properly, and then clean the area and get all your tools away and dirty rags washed.

What can you expect from a waxed chain?

Close-up of a freshly-waxed drivetrain.

A waxed chain isn’t like your typical lubricant or oil.

It has certain characteristics that make riding with a waxed chain feel a little different. The first thing to mention is that many riders find them louder. This doesn’t mean they are less efficient. It’s just the wax working as you ride. 

Next, you will notice that it won’t need reapplying most rides as dry lube does. You just need to leave it. After each ride, it’s a good idea to spray it down with water to get any dirt off. 

How do I know my When chain needs waxing again?

Some riders have been known to get up to 400 km without applying more wax to the chain.

You can typically tell it needs more when it gets muddy and the chain starts to make clicking noises like it is unlubricated. 

You will notice that riding in good conditions, like summer road riding, lasts much longer than wet off-road mountain biking. Keeping on top of it will go a long way to prolonging the life of the components on your drivetrain.  

Close-up of a Shimano bike chain.

Is Bike Chain Wax Worth The Hassle?

Bike chain wax makes the bike perform well and is amazing at keeping dirt and grit away. It offers some great benefits and keeps the chain looking great at all times.

It is very time-consuming though, and requires a slow cooker and patience for the best results. You can get similar results from using typical bike lube on the chain. You just have to keep on top of cleaning the dirt off and reapplying lube a little more frequently.

What Are The Alternatives To Bike Chain Wax?

Waxing the chain is not a simple job; you can tell by reading this guide that it takes much longer than applying lube or oil.

Many companies are now coming up with alternatives where they promise the benefits of wax without having to go to the trouble of removing the chain and melting wax on with a slow cooker. 

Products like the Finish Line Ceramic Wax are applied like a normal lubricant which you leave to dry and give you the benefits of a wax.

We rate these products highly, but after testing, we believe they don’t last as long as proper bike chain wax – and don’t offer as quite as much protection either.

The rear wheel of a blue mountain bike.

Now You Know How To Wax A Bike Chain…

Bike chain wax is a great way to ensure the most efficient drivetrain possible with the least maintenance.

It does take a lot longer than applying your typical lubricant or oil but offers a huge amount of benefits, from better performance to prolonged component life. 

Found this Bike Chain Wax guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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