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How to clean chain on tour? Wet or dry lube?

Old 11-04-22, 12:42 PM
  #76  
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Good grief! Wipe, lube, wipe takes less time than brushing your teeth! Heaven’s forbid, I even top up my tires every morning… oh, and brush my hair 😆
I liked that.
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Old 11-04-22, 01:57 PM
  #77  
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Good grief! Wipe, lube, wipe takes less time than brushing your teeth! Heaven’s forbid, I even top up my tires every morning… oh, and brush my hair 😆
Well good grief back at you. I don’t have to wipe which takes even less time than brushing my teeth. In addition I don’t have to spend time at the end of the day cleaning grease off my leg. Nor do I have to find paper towels, rags, skunk cabbage, a stray dog, or any other item to wipe off the grease. And, if I happen to have to handle the chain, I don’t have to dress up (nor carry) hazmat gear to do so. Nor do I have to worry about cleaning my chain while on a tour.

Frankly, I don’t understand this aversion to using a product that is clean. You won’t get more mileage out of the oil and you will spend more time cleaning up after using it. I fail to see the advantage of using oil.
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Old 11-16-22, 04:47 PM
  #78  
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Originally Posted by HendersonD View Post
So you really only reapply White Lighting every few hundred miles on a longer tour?
I used White Lighting years ago in a dry climate, and the most miles I could get out of the lube before I needed to relube it was just 70 miles then the chain noise would start. I took a road bike one day trip 158 miles, and had to take a bottle of it with me so I could relube about half way to my designation. While it did keep my chain clean, it didn't last long, and if it rained it was gone, not only that but wax doesn't protect your chain from rust. I used that stuff for 3 years and got tired of it. They might have changed the formula since I used it last, but since it's sold at Walmart, I have my doubts.

I had the same issue with Finish Line Ceramic Wax, but they changed the formula some years back and I haven't tried it since they did that. So how does this newer version hold up?

I now use Dumonde Tech Lite, that seems to hold up around 500 or so miles, and it doesn't wash off in the rain, it's like a combination wet/dry lube, and the chain stays reasonably clean if you wipe it down after every ride, and all I have to do is reapply the lube and not clean the chain unless sand or mud got on it, then I just wash it off with water and reapply the lube.

Another lube I was using prior to the Dumonde, was Rock N Roll Ultimate Dry. This stuff was actually pretty good, it kept the chain clean, it held up to light rain, and lasted about 250 miles, and again no need to clean the chain just reapply and go.

With any lube you use, it is recommended by most, if not all lube manufactures is to apply it in the evening and let it set overnight.
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Old 11-16-22, 06:21 PM
  #79  
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
I used White Lighting years ago in a dry climate, and the most miles I could get out of the lube before I needed to relube it was just 70 miles then the chain noise would start. I took a road bike one day trip 158 miles, and had to take a bottle of it with me so I could relube about half way to my designation. While it did keep my chain clean, it didn't last long, and if it rained it was gone, not only that but wax doesn't protect your chain from rust. I used that stuff for 3 years and got tired of it. They might have changed the formula since I used it last, but since it's sold at Walmart, I have my doubts.

Another lube I was using prior to the Dumonde, was Rock N Roll Ultimate Dry. This stuff was actually pretty good, it kept the chain clean, it held up to light rain, and lasted about 250 miles, and again no need to clean the chain just reapply and go.
Most people complain about “chain noise” but don’t really define what they mean by “noise”. Yes, a White Lightning chain is noisier than an oil lubricated chain but the noise isn’t squeaking or anything related to corrosion in my experience. It’s more like a clatter. I’m not bothered by that noise and, after a couple of decade or more of using the product, I don’t even notice it. I’ve tried the Ultimate Dry as well and get similar results and chain noise.

To address the “it washes off” myth, wax is less soluble in water than oil is…and oil isn’t very soluble in water. The wax does not “wash” off. But it doesn’t flow either. Post 66 above has more details. No, it won’t protect against rust after rain because it doesn’t flow, but oil doesn’t protect against rust either. It just masks the sound. Oil traps the water next to the metal where it can do the corrosion quietly. If you ride in rain with any chain lubricant, you should refresh the lubricant after the rain.
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Old 11-16-22, 10:34 PM
  #80  
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After having done the hot wax thing for a year or so now, I'm really reluctant to use a drip lube (wax) on tour. There are some good options, but the hot melt method is just so... well, good in every way. Especially with good wax.

Drip waxes might not give better chain life than drip oils (though there are now drip waxes, which are far superior) but hot waxing done correctly seems to multiply chain life. And it keeps the drivetrain clean too, which is nice. Hot waxing on tour is a bit of a hassle, but not as bad as one might think. You need a jar of wax and your normal cooking set to heat water. Also one can supplement the hot wax process with a drip wax. I'm currently testing the mariposa flower power, which is a water emulsion so non toxic. Harder waxes typically require pretty nasty solvents so I don't really like the idea of Silca or white lightning.

I too haven't gotten white lightning to work. I don't know what the wax they use but I feel it might be too soft. By my own testing I've found that paradoxically a harder wax works better at protecting the chain from contamination than softer or softened waxes. One might think that a softer wax clings better, which it does, but it does not resolve as better protection.

There's also a theory that a harder wax reduces chain wear because it is able to leave a micro film of lubricious wax on pin and roller surfaces eliminating (for a time) metal on metal contact. The tests I did seem to support this. So now I'm trying out even harder waxes than paraffin to see if I can get a hot melt wax with frankly insane treatment intervals. Now in testing carnauba + paraffin. Next up carnauba + paraffin + microcrystalline.

Why you might ask? It's a fun hobby. More fun and cleaner than mixing up oil based lubes.

As to why cleanliness is nice? Have you ever tried to clean a toddlers hands without access to water and soap after they've gotten obsessed by your slimy black bike chain? Wax fo life!
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Old 11-17-22, 09:36 AM
  #81  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
As to why cleanliness is nice? Have you ever tried to clean a toddlers hands without access to water and soap after they've gotten obsessed by your slimy black bike chain? Wax fo life!
That's the first argument I've heard for wax chain lube that I can't argue with.
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Old 11-17-22, 10:21 AM
  #82  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
[...]I'm currently testing the mariposa flower power, which is a water emulsion [wax] so non toxic. [...]
Please let us know how it turned out.
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Old 11-17-22, 12:05 PM
  #83  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Most people complain about “chain noise” but don’t really define what they mean by “noise”. Yes, a White Lightning chain is noisier than an oil lubricated chain but the noise isn’t squeaking or anything related to corrosion in my experience. It’s more like a clatter. I’m not bothered by that noise and, after a couple of decade or more of using the product, I don’t even notice it. I’ve tried the Ultimate Dry as well and get similar results and chain noise.

To address the “it washes off” myth, wax is less soluble in water than oil is…and oil isn’t very soluble in water. The wax does not “wash” off. But it doesn’t flow either. Post 66 above has more details. No, it won’t protect against rust after rain because it doesn’t flow, but oil doesn’t protect against rust either. It just masks the sound. Oil traps the water next to the metal where it can do the corrosion quietly. If you ride in rain with any chain lubricant, you should refresh the lubricant after the rain.
I guess than you wouldn't mind if your car's engine clattered? Wherever there is noise that is metal to metal contact which means increased wear, a squeak is two parts trying to move against each other without sufficient lube, a clatter is two parts hitting each other without sufficient lube to cushion it, both lack lubricant protection and are allowing metal to metal contact.

You are also going against science that has been around for years that has proven that wax does not stay on in the rain, in fact it is recommended that if you live in a wet climate area to avoid using wax, or even dry oil, because they will wash off faster than wet lubes, and it will cause the chain to rust, assuming a stainless steel chain is not being used of course. So what you're telling us goes against long scientific knowledge, as well as long proven track record of experiences with all types of biking and biking conditions.
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Old 11-17-22, 02:29 PM
  #84  
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
I guess than you wouldn't mind if your car's engine clattered? Wherever there is noise that is metal to metal contact which means increased wear, a squeak is two parts trying to move against each other without sufficient lube, a clatter is two parts hitting each other without sufficient lube to cushion it, both lack lubricant protection and are allowing metal to metal contact.

You are also going against science that has been around for years that has proven that wax does not stay on in the rain, in fact it is recommended that if you live in a wet climate area to avoid using wax, or even dry oil, because they will wash off faster than wet lubes, and it will cause the chain to rust, assuming a stainless steel chain is not being used of course. So what you're telling us goes against long scientific knowledge, as well as long proven track record of experiences with all types of biking and biking conditions.
Well there's a lot to unpack here. Noise can be caused by lots of things. Roller hitting a cog for example. Or a waxed surface hitting another waxed surface. Squeaking is bad, I'll grant you that, but with wax it usually takes a long time before squeaking starts. Typically a waxed chain has this pearl necklace rattle, which doesn't increase wear, at least according to some actual tests done.

Unlubricated car engines also don't really rattle. Eventually there's noise but the way engine lubrication works is quite different from chain lubrication. Bad example there.

If you're gonna whip out science you may want to link a few studies to go with it. If we think in general and not just bike chains, wax has been a go to waterproofer for millenia. Wax is used as a maritime salt waterproofer for metal on metal contact parts. I don't follow why it would 'wash off'.

As for the 'long time cycling knowledge' well, it's complicated. I don't know how much testing the long timers did with hard waxes, but I'm led to believe that the go to wax formula back in the day was some part candle and some part oil you had lying around. That doesn't work. I tested that and oil softened wax lets salt water and rust seep inside the roller and eventually to the pin. However hard high melt point paraffin wax doesn't allow any rust inside the chain if there's still wax inside.

After soaking chains in 3% salt brine for three days the outsides of the chains were looking a bit crunchy, but it turns out that surface rust just looks bad but if it doesn't get inside the chain it causes no ill effects. And surface rust wipes away pretty easily. And it turns out that swishing a chain in hot wax cleans away the surface rust. Did not expect that to happen!

If that zero friction feller is anything to go by hot melt wax seems to blow each and every wet lube out of the water (no pun intended) in wet gritty conditions. No surprise there since oil does actually wash out with water eventually.

It needs to be said that the science involving hard waxes and not, you know, candles, is pretty recent. None of the better contenders have been on the market for long and so there hasn't been that many studies done. The research that is being done however is looking pretty promising. Hard waxes seem to give far better chain life in all conditions than any oil based lube on the market. The best drip oil, rex black mountain, is also a wax oil emulsion and not a pure oil so there's that too.
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Old 11-17-22, 04:55 PM
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When I am on a tour, when my drive train gets noisy (metal on metal noise), I lube it.

Or, as I previously said a month ago on this well worn thread, underlining added for emphasis:

If you ask 100 bike tourists what they use for chain lube you will get at least 150 different answers.
... ...
Now I use Finish Line Ceramic Wax, dry version. Once or twice a week I would crank the crankset with a paper towel held on the chain. The lube was not a magnet for grime, almost no buildup of dirt. I would lube it when it sounded noisy. And carried my lube in my handlebar bag so it only took seconds to get to it. If your lube is in the bottom of a pannier, you will forget to use it when you finally get to the campsite later.
...


I have conducted zero scientific studies of noisy chains and wear. And I plan to not perform any.
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Old 11-17-22, 08:11 PM
  #86  
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as someone who generally doesnt like noises going on with my bikes, I do recall that the chain lubes that I used that were super clean would clearly get noisy before other lubes--but they are so fast and clean to apply that it ends up being a six of one, half a dozen of another.

it does bug me if a chain starts getting noisy, and heck, I dont hear half as well as I used to.

Except for rainy commuter rides, for that I do like the thicker stuff that just lasts longer.
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Old 11-17-22, 11:38 PM
  #87  
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
I guess than you wouldn't mind if your car's engine clattered? Wherever there is noise that is metal to metal contact which means increased wear, a squeak is two parts trying to move against each other without sufficient lube, a clatter is two parts hitting each other without sufficient lube to cushion it, both lack lubricant protection and are allowing metal to metal contact.
The sound from the chain isn’t a squeak. It’s not really a “clatter” either. It’s a slightly different sound than when oil is being used and doesn’t necessarily signal a metal-on-metal contact. The fact that oil and wax don’t give significantly different mileages during use says that neither one gives better protection than the other.

You are also going against science that has been around for years that has proven that wax does not stay on in the rain, in fact it is recommended that if you live in a wet climate area to avoid using wax, or even dry oil, because they will wash off faster than wet lubes, and it will cause the chain to rust, assuming a stainless steel chain is not being used of course. So what you're telling us goes against long scientific knowledge, as well as long proven track record of experiences with all types of biking and biking conditions.
Sorry but there is no “science” that proves that wax is soluble in water. Wax is, essentially, solid oil and, as such, is even more hydrophobic…water hating…because it has a longer carbon backbone than oil does. And oil is very hydrophobic. The “science” around wax use is a misinterpretation of how the wax works and what is going on following water exposure. That same “science” that says that oil works better during water exposure is another misinterpretation of what is going on following water exposure. I’ve explained it above.

And, again, if oil is so superior, why doesn’t its use result in significantly greater chain life?
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Old 11-18-22, 12:04 AM
  #88  
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Well there's a lot to unpack here. Noise can be caused by lots of things. Roller hitting a cog for example. Or a waxed surface hitting another waxed surface. Squeaking is bad, I'll grant you that, but with wax it usually takes a long time before squeaking starts. Typically a waxed chain has this pearl necklace rattle, which doesn't increase wear, at least according to some actual tests done.
Thanks for that description.

If you're gonna whip out science you may want to link a few studies to go with it. If we think in general and not just bike chains, wax has been a go to waterproofer for millenia. Wax is used as a maritime salt waterproofer for metal on metal contact parts. I don't follow why it would 'wash off'.
Exactly! I know that we don’t often see eye to eye but you are completely correct. I’ll point out that wax is used as a leather sealant as well. Waxed cotton jackets have been used as rain coats for a very long time.

​​​​​​​As for the 'long time cycling knowledge' well, it's complicated. I don't know how much testing the long timers did with hard waxes, but I'm led to believe that the go to wax formula back in the day was some part candle and some part oil you had lying around. That doesn't work. I tested that and oil softened wax lets salt water and rust seep inside the roller and eventually to the pin. However hard high melt point paraffin wax doesn't allow any rust inside the chain if there's still wax inside.
As you say, it is complicated. I tried waxing long ago and didn’t really like the fuss. But the method, generally, was not to add any thing to the wax. We just used Gulf brand canning wax without additives. It’s a relatively brittle wax and the big problem is that it fractures and falls off…which most any wax will do. I’m skeptical that any hard wax would keep salt water out better than a soften (or softer) wax as fracturing is going to be a problem which will let water infiltrate. With a soften wax, there is less fracturing and the wax is going to stay in the gaps better. Many of the modern commercial waxes use a softer, more pliable wax.

​​​​​​​After soaking chains in 3% salt brine for three days the outsides of the chains were looking a bit crunchy, but it turns out that surface rust just looks bad but if it doesn't get inside the chain it causes no ill effects. And surface rust wipes away pretty easily. And it turns out that swishing a chain in hot wax cleans away the surface rust. Did not expect that to happen!
Again, it is complicated. If you were to soak an oiled chain in brine for three days, it might come out of the water without the rust but that wouldn’t be a good indicator that nothing has happened. Riding in rain and/or snow with salt added doesn’t mean that nothing is happening either. The oil has a weaker affinity for the metal of the chain than the water and salt water has an even higher affinity for the metal. The water is going to cause the oil to separate from the chain and then flow back over it. There is a thin layer of water on the metal or at least major spots of water trapped beneath the oil. Chloride ions in salt do a marvelous job of plucking iron atoms out of the crystalline structure of the steel and then exchanging the chloride ion for oxygen, then going back in for another bite of iron. As long as there is oxygen around, it will keep up the exchange. With oil, the rust happens out of sight and mind but it does happen.

With wax, the wax gets shoved out of place and the same thing happens so the chain ends up squeaking earlier than oil but the oils is just masking the squeak. Any lubricant should be refreshed after using when water is present.

​​​​​​​
It needs to be said that the science involving hard waxes and not, you know, candles, is pretty recent. None of the better contenders have been on the market for long and so there hasn't been that many studies done. The research that is being done however is looking pretty promising. Hard waxes seem to give far better chain life in all conditions than any oil based lube on the market. The best drip oil, rex black mountain, is also a wax oil emulsion and not a pure oil so there's that too.
I find the claims of vastly improved chain life to be dubious at best and something of a red herring. It’s chain. It’s cheap. Personally, I’m not too concerned about getting 20,000 miles out of a $20 chain and I would never pay much more than that for a chain to begin with.

As for emulsified waxes, I haven’t tried them but the concept seems suspect to me. If you can emulsify the wax to put it on the chain, nothing goes away so that the emulsifier is still there if you introduce water. That says to me that at least the possibility exists to actually wash the wax off. I might try it in the future but I have an awful lot of chain lube left and I don’t go through it very fast.
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Old 11-18-22, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
As you say, it is complicated. I tried waxing long ago and didn’t really like the fuss. But the method, generally, was not to add any thing to the wax. We just used Gulf brand canning wax without additives. It’s a relatively brittle wax and the big problem is that it fractures and falls off…which most any wax will do. I’m skeptical that any hard wax would keep salt water out better than a soften (or softer) wax as fracturing is going to be a problem which will let water infiltrate. With a soften wax, there is less fracturing and the wax is going to stay in the gaps better. Many of the modern commercial waxes use a softer, more pliable wax.
The durability leaders Molten Speed Wax and Silca both use highly refined paraffin with metal additives. I understand gulf wax is also paraffin wax but I don't know the grade or how hard it is. There is a new hot melt wax coming to the market which seems to be a lot better than even Silca. That wax in particular apparently uses microcrystalline wax in conjunction with paraffin.

I also initially thought that a softer more pliable wax would work better. That's why I did the testing. I used hard paraffin as control and tested several types of softened waxes from highly soft to less soft (20 % to 40 % oil concentrations of mineral oil and motor oil) as well as a lanolin softened paraffin wax (I had high hopes for that one). I waxed every piece of chain (taken from the same chain) separately with full swish immersion. I then broke all the links free and exercised each piece before putting them in the brine solution. I did periodic execising of the chains both in and out of the brine to allow for more water / salt ingress. The soft waxes were doing well with surface rust and so I thought soft waxes would win. However when I took the chains out and broke each to pieces with a chain breaker only the straight paraffin waxed chain had no rust inside the rollers, beside the roller on the side plates nor on the pin. All the softened wax chains had varying amounts of rust ingress in some cases even at the pin even though they had less outside rust.

I was cooking up my new test batch of paraffin and carnauba wax and during cooling the solid wax cracked and released from the pot. However at the bottom there remained this super thin almost invisible micro film of the hard wax which was frankly quite difficult to scrape off. With a softer wax you can just wipe that film off with a finger or rough cloth.

So my theory (and also of the zero friction feller) is that a harder wax flakes off the outside but inside the micro film remains so there's really no metal on metal contact and also the inside metal parts are protected from oxidation by that film. It's difficult to test though, because taking a chain apart wipes off any microfilm that might remain inside. As an added bonus, wax on wax is really slippery, but I don't really care about that.

Again, it is complicated. If you were to soak an oiled chain in brine for three days, it might come out of the water without the rust but that wouldn’t be a good indicator that nothing has happened. Riding in rain and/or snow with salt added doesn’t mean that nothing is happening either. The oil has a weaker affinity for the metal of the chain than the water and salt water has an even higher affinity for the metal. The water is going to cause the oil to separate from the chain and then flow back over it. There is a thin layer of water on the metal or at least major spots of water trapped beneath the oil. Chloride ions in salt do a marvelous job of plucking iron atoms out of the crystalline structure of the steel and then exchanging the chloride ion for oxygen, then going back in for another bite of iron. As long as there is oxygen around, it will keep up the exchange. With oil, the rust happens out of sight and mind but it does happen.

With wax, the wax gets shoved out of place and the same thing happens so the chain ends up squeaking earlier than oil but the oils is just masking the squeak. Any lubricant should be refreshed after using when water is present.
I explained my test methodology above but I'd say that with wax it depends whether a new application of wax is necessary. Water and especially salt water shortens the application period for sure, but a few rides in the rain is something I currently allow.


I find the claims of vastly improved chain life to be dubious at best and something of a red herring. It’s chain. It’s cheap. Personally, I’m not too concerned about getting 20,000 miles out of a $20 chain and I would never pay much more than that for a chain to begin with.
Really the reason why I went to waxing was for cleanliness. However during the transition process I had to swap two complete drivetrains of our bikes because a chain that indicated no real wear on any of my wear indicators had worn through the whole drivetrain. I was getting new chains for swapping out old chains for freshly waxed ones, but the new chains just simply would not mesh on either drivetrain, which just meant that the drivetrains were shot. That has happened to me earlier as well, before I had even heard of waxing. Apparently a dirty chain can give wildly false wear readings.

One solution would've been to clean the chains periodically, but to clean a chain properly so that it indicates wear properly requires such toxic chemicals and such a high workload that I passed on that idea outright. Chain oils are tough stuff and getting rid of them requires a lot more than dish soap. I had some seriously harsh stuff that I tested but the only thing that would properly clean a chain was naptha. And brake cleaner for the cassette / chainrings etc.

So while chains are cheap, a worn chain can cause surprisingly high costs. I also like the idea of rotating three chains per bike and getting 15 000km's from each, meaning it'll be years before I need new cassettes.

I also love how much less maintenance I need to do. Popping 20 something chains into a pot once a month instead of needing to wipe, clean, relube, wipe again the chains of eight bikes at least once a week is so much simpler. The amounts of rags I was going through was ridiculous.

As for emulsified waxes, I haven’t tried them but the concept seems suspect to me. If you can emulsify the wax to put it on the chain, nothing goes away so that the emulsifier is still there if you introduce water. That says to me that at least the possibility exists to actually wash the wax off. I might try it in the future but I have an awful lot of chain lube left and I don’t go through it very fast.
I honestly have no idea how the water emulsification is achieved. However I've understood that after application the water dries out and leaves a pure wax layer which in theory shouldn't absorb water. Really the emulsified wax is meant for situations where for some reason I'm out of fresh chains and a chain needs refreshing quick. Also would be neat on tour for supplementing hot wax so I wouldn't need to rewax as often.
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Old 11-18-22, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
The durability leaders Molten Speed Wax and Silca both use highly refined paraffin with metal additives. I understand gulf wax is also paraffin wax but I don't know the grade or how hard it is. There is a new hot melt wax coming to the market which seems to be a lot better than even Silca. That wax in particular apparently uses microcrystalline wax in conjunction with paraffin.
Gulf canning wax is paraffin wax. It’s fairly hard and stiff. Many of the more modern waxes are using microcrystalline wax which is softer and more pliable. Microcrystalline wax is used as a feedstock for petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly). The factory chain lubricant is a version of petrolatum. It’s actually a much softer wax than that paraffin wax.

I also initially thought that a softer more pliable wax would work better. That's why I did the testing. I used hard paraffin as control and tested several types of softened waxes from highly soft to less soft (20 % to 40 % oil concentrations of mineral oil and motor oil) as well as a lanolin softened paraffin wax (I had high hopes for that one). I waxed every piece of chain (taken from the same chain) separately with full swish immersion. I then broke all the links free and exercised each piece before putting them in the brine solution. I did periodic execising of the chains both in and out of the brine to allow for more water / salt ingress. The soft waxes were doing well with surface rust and so I thought soft waxes would win. However when I took the chains out and broke each to pieces with a chain breaker only the straight paraffin waxed chain had no rust inside the rollers, beside the roller on the side plates nor on the pin. All the softened wax chains had varying amounts of rust ingress in some cases even at the pin even though they had less outside rust.
Adding oil doesn’t change the structure of a paraffin wax. The molecular structure of microcrystalline waxes makes them softer and more pliable which may be why they work a bit better. Adding (or using) petroleum jelly, would do a better job of softening a hard wax than adding oil would.

​​​​​​​I was cooking up my new test batch of paraffin and carnauba wax and during cooling the solid wax cracked and released from the pot. However at the bottom there remained this super thin almost invisible micro film of the hard wax which was frankly quite difficult to scrape off. With a softer wax you can just wipe that film off with a finger or rough cloth.
Carnauba wax is a very hard wax and is usually added to increase the hardness of a wax for coatings. It’s not going to be very flexible which is something that you want with a chain. A hard wax on a moving part is just going to fracture and fall off. Being able to “just wipe the film off” is probably a good thing when it comes to coating moving parts. Oil works as a lubricant because it can move and flow to fill in the gaps of the chain. When pushed out of the gaps, it just flows back. A hard wax will get pushed out of the pressure points on a chain and but won’t flow back mostly because it breaks into bits and falls away. A soft wax will get pushed out but not fracture and fall off. It might work its way back into the gaps in the chain as the chain moves and bends.

​​​​​​​So my theory (and also of the zero friction feller) is that a harder wax flakes off the outside but inside the micro film remains so there's really no metal on metal contact and also the inside metal parts are protected from oxidation by that film. It's difficult to test though, because taking a chain apart wipes off any microfilm that might remain inside. As an added bonus, wax on wax is really slippery, but I don't really care about that.
Exactly.


​​​​​​​I explained my test methodology above but I'd say that with wax it depends whether a new application of wax is necessary. Water and especially salt water shortens the application period for sure, but a few rides in the rain is something I currently allow.
And, again, the shortening of the application period is due to the physical attributes of wax vs oil. Wax doesn’t flow so it leave areas of metal exposed. And, again, that doesn’t mean that an oil lubricated chain won’t rust, only that the squeaking that results from the rust is muted.



​​​​​​​Really the reason why I went to waxing was for cleanliness.
That’s the same reason I use drip wax. I don’t have to clean chains other than prior to installation and even that could be unnecessary. I also don’t have to deal with cleaning me or anything the bike comes in contact with. Prior to using White Lightning, I used Tri Flow and Phil Wood Tenacious oil. I did a whole lot of cleaning in those days. White Lightning was a revelation when I first used it. I haven’t had to do any kind of deep cleaning most people do on a weekly basis for more than 20 years now. It’s quite liberating.

​​​​​​​So while chains are cheap, a worn chain can cause surprisingly high costs. I also like the idea of rotating three chains per bike and getting 15 000km's from each, meaning it'll be years before I need new cassettes.
You aren’t saying anything that isn’t already know. However, I’m not into the rotating chains thing because it takes too much effort to keep track of chains…especially if you have 13 bikes plus 4 for your wife. I just check chains frequently and change them often. I get adequate life out the cassettes for me.

​​​​​​​I also love how much less maintenance I need to do. Popping 20 something chains into a pot once a month instead of needing to wipe, clean, relube, wipe again the chains of eight bikes at least once a week is so much simpler. The amounts of rags I was going through was ridiculous.
I agree and that has been my point all along. I don’t clean a chain on tour because it doesn’t need cleaning. Why choose something that is a maintenance nightmare? By the way, everything else that needs lubricant on all of my bikes have been up sealed cartridge bearings so that I don’t even have to do that kind of maintenance. I have to volunteer at a co-op to do any work on bicycles. I get my hands plenty dirty from having to handle dirty chains there if I miss the mess…which I don’t.

​​​​​​​I honestly have no idea how the water emulsification is achieved. However I've understood that after application the water dries out and leaves a pure wax layer which in theory shouldn't absorb water. Really the emulsified wax is meant for situations where for some reason I'm out of fresh chains and a chain needs refreshing quick. Also would be neat on tour for supplementing hot wax so I wouldn't need to rewax as often.
Although I don’t know the exact details, I generally know how it could be done chemically. They use a surfactant…fancy chemistry name for soap…to get the wax to suspend in a water base. The problem is that once the water carrier evaporates, there is nothing that removes the surfactant. It doesn’t have a high enough vapor pressure to evaporate so it stays with the wax. You could think of it as a waxy bar of soap sitting on the chain. Add water and the surfactant does what it did originally…it dissolves in the water and takes wax with it. It’s not going to make bubbles but it will wash off.

Solvent waxes don’t have the surfactant in them which makes them a bit more impervious to water. Once the solvent evaporates, all that is left is the wax which is water insoluble.
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Old 11-24-22, 01:25 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Gulf canning wax is paraffin wax. It’s fairly hard and stiff. Many of the more modern waxes are using microcrystalline wax which is softer and more pliable. Microcrystalline wax is used as a feedstock for petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly). The factory chain lubricant is a version of petrolatum. It’s actually a much softer wax than that paraffin wax.
When I was reading about microcrystalline wax I understood there's different types. The pliable stuff apparently behaves a bit differently than many natural waxes and thus is a good complimentary additive for straight paraffin. Where paraffin is hard and brittle the pliable microcrystalline wax can make it more elastic and increase tensile strength. Kinda like iron vs steel (I understand that's as crude an example as they go, but it does convey the idea to some extent). Softer natural waxes tend to be a bit crumbly so using them to modify paraffin probably wouldn't work.



Adding oil doesn’t change the structure of a paraffin wax. The molecular structure of microcrystalline waxes makes them softer and more pliable which may be why they work a bit better. Adding (or using) petroleum jelly, would do a better job of softening a hard wax than adding oil would.
That's valuable information. Thank you.



​​​​​​​Carnauba wax is a very hard wax and is usually added to increase the hardness of a wax for coatings. It’s not going to be very flexible which is something that you want with a chain. A hard wax on a moving part is just going to fracture and fall off. Being able to “just wipe the film off” is probably a good thing when it comes to coating moving parts. Oil works as a lubricant because it can move and flow to fill in the gaps of the chain. When pushed out of the gaps, it just flows back. A hard wax will get pushed out of the pressure points on a chain and but won’t flow back mostly because it breaks into bits and falls away. A soft wax will get pushed out but not fracture and fall off. It might work its way back into the gaps in the chain as the chain moves and bends.
That was my initial idea too, but apparently the softer waxes don't behave as expected. The lanolin paraffin mix protected the outside of the chain relatively well but the inside was just as contaminated as the oil softened chains. While the straight paraffin was worst at protecting the outside the inside parts seemed to still have paraffin microfilms protecting the metal against salt and water. So my idea is trying to create the strongest possible microfilm creating wax that remains inside the chain. That's why I chose to experiment with carnauba as it's used as a car wax additive and apparently adheres well to metal. The paraffin wax is a proven base and I hope microcrystalline wax will increase outside protection. But perhaps I am wrong in all of my assumptions. Testing this stuff is really fun though.


​​​​​​​And, again, the shortening of the application period is due to the physical attributes of wax vs oil. Wax doesn’t flow so it leave areas of metal exposed. And, again, that doesn’t mean that an oil lubricated chain won’t rust, only that the squeaking that results from the rust is muted.
That's why I dislike oil. The application period needs to be after every ride where we live. Salty coast climate with salted roads and long periods of saltly slush hanging around. But with daily oil applications the drivetrain gets extremely dirty even with the lightest of oils even if the chain gets flushed.

​​​​​​​Although I don’t know the exact details, I generally know how it could be done chemically. They use a surfactant…fancy chemistry name for soap…to get the wax to suspend in a water base. The problem is that once the water carrier evaporates, there is nothing that removes the surfactant. It doesn’t have a high enough vapor pressure to evaporate so it stays with the wax. You could think of it as a waxy bar of soap sitting on the chain. Add water and the surfactant does what it did originally…it dissolves in the water and takes wax with it. It’s not going to make bubbles but it will wash off.

Solvent waxes don’t have the surfactant in them which makes them a bit more impervious to water. Once the solvent evaporates, all that is left is the wax which is water insoluble.
that's good to know. Another thing I need to test apparently. letting the water emulsion wax dry and then try to rehydrate to see if it'll dissolve again.

While I like the idea of solvent drip wax, I don't like how toxic the wax solvents are. Waxes seem impervious to weaker solvents and require stuff like xylene or naphta. Xylene makes me nervous even when using nitrile gloves. It seems to push through anything easily, including skin.
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Old 11-24-22, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
When I was reading about microcrystalline wax I understood there's different types. The pliable stuff apparently behaves a bit differently than many natural waxes and thus is a good complimentary additive for straight paraffin. Where paraffin is hard and brittle the pliable microcrystalline wax can make it more elastic and increase tensile strength. Kinda like iron vs steel (I understand that's as crude an example as they go, but it does convey the idea to some extent). Softer natural waxes tend to be a bit crumbly so using them to modify paraffin probably wouldn't work.
There’s a bit of a semantics problem here. Paraffin and petroleum waxes are very different from waxes derived from plants and animals. Paraffin is a hydrocarbon that contains no oxygen. As a chemist, I would call it a “true” wax. Paraffin can be considered to be a very broad class of “waxes” from oil on one end to essentially asphalt on the other. Even microcrystalline is still a “paraffin” wax. It just has a more branched structure than other paraffins. That’s why I suggested adding petroleum jelly to hard waxes. Honestly, this whole “clean the chain to clean room” levels is removing a soft wax that could act to soften a hard wax.

Plant and animal waxes are really “waxes” at all. They are either fatty acids with very long hydrocarbon backbones or esters of fatty acids with long hydrocarbon backbones. A fatty acid or fatty acid ester is somewhat reactive. The acid group will undergo reactions which can change its characteristics. That’s why I would avoid them.


That was my initial idea too, but apparently the softer waxes don't behave as expected. The lanolin paraffin mix protected the outside of the chain relatively well but the inside was just as contaminated as the oil softened chains. While the straight paraffin was worst at protecting the outside the inside parts seemed to still have paraffin microfilms protecting the metal against salt and water. So my idea is trying to create the strongest possible microfilm creating wax that remains inside the chain. That's why I chose to experiment with carnauba as it's used as a car wax additive and apparently adheres well to metal. The paraffin wax is a proven base and I hope microcrystalline wax will increase outside protection. But perhaps I am wrong in all of my assumptions. Testing this stuff is really fun though.
Making a bit of an educated guess here: but the lanolin is another fatty acid ester and, like the oil, may not change the structure of the wax all that much. Additionally, while carnauba works as a thin layer on a static paint job…it’s not sticking to the metal…it probably won’t stay in place when you start rubbing bits of metal across the surface. A more pliable wax mixture is going to flex more. It won’t flow like oil but it will move a bit more than hard waxes do.

​​​​​​that's good to know. Another thing I need to test apparently. letting the water emulsion wax dry and then try to rehydrate to see if it'll dissolve again.
It will be interesting to see your results. Keep me in the loop.

[While I like the idea of solvent drip wax, I don't like how toxic the wax solvents are. Waxes seem impervious to weaker solvents and require stuff like xylene or naphta. Xylene makes me nervous even when using nitrile gloves. It seems to push through anything easily, including skin.
I’ve never had a problem removing oil or wax with odorless mineral spirits. There’s really no need to reach for xylene as it doesn’t really act much differently from mineral spirits (aka naphtha). 30 seconds of agitation in a bottle is more than enough effort and time to spend on cleaning the factory wax off a chain. An oiled chain will strip even more quickly. I haven’t tried it on a home waxed chain but I don’t see a waxed chain needing more agitation than the other two lubricants. Frankly, I wouldn’t even strip a waxed chain because the hot wax is going to do the same job.

As for toxicity, remember that comment I made above about the class of paraffin waxes? Odorless mineral spirits are actually in the same class of chemical compounds…just ones with shorter molecular chains. They aren’t really that toxic. Use gloves and adequate ventilation, of course, but you are exposed to more toxic chemicals in higher concentration when you fuel a car than you’d be using mineral spirits. Most solution wax lubricants use either mineral spirits or heptane, in the case of White Lightning. Neither are particularly toxic.

Just to be clear, this advice is for odorless mineral spirits. Mineral spirits that have an odor are a bit more toxic since they have benzene and xylene in them that have been removed to make odorless mineral spirits.
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Old 11-24-22, 06:44 PM
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Wouldn't automotive wax in a liquid form work just as good on chains as the expensive bicycle boutique chain waxes?
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Old 11-25-22, 12:20 AM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
Wouldn't automotive wax in a liquid form work just as good on chains as the expensive bicycle boutique chain waxes?
Painting with a broad brush there buddy. What do you mean with automotive wax?
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Old 11-25-22, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
Wouldn't automotive wax in a liquid form work just as good on chains as the expensive bicycle boutique chain waxes?
Most all of them that I can think of…from canned paste wax to squirt on wax…are too thick to penetrate into the chain.
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Old 11-25-22, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Painting with a broad brush there buddy. What do you mean with automotive wax?
Why not simply drip something like Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax onto the chain, that is a synthetic wax but it lasts longer than natural car wax like carnauba wax.
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Old 11-25-22, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by greatscott View Post
Why not simply drip something like Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax onto the chain, that is a synthetic wax but it lasts longer than natural car wax like carnauba wax.
Again, much too thick. You really need a solvent that is close to the viscosity of water because it needs to penetrate into the chain rather than sit on top. That’s true for solvent wax, oil, and hot wax. Molten wax is about the viscosity of water. Anything much thicker just sits on the surface and is a waste of time.
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Old 11-26-22, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by greatscott View Post
Why not simply drip something like Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax onto the chain, that is a synthetic wax but it lasts longer than natural car wax like carnauba wax.
Decades ago before the newer chain lubes had been invented, some people would use gear lube, something like 85W140 gear lube, but they would add kerosene to it to make it less viscous. The theory was that it could flow into the small spaces in the chain links, and over time the kerosene would slowly evaporate and the more viscous gear lube would remain.

Perhaps a solvent that will readily evaporate could be added to your wax to serve the same purpose. If you try that, let us know how that goes. I suspect that your wax is non-polar, so I suspect that alcohols would not dissolve, thus not work as a solvent. It has been several decades since I learned this stuff, have forgotten most of that. Someone else probably would have to suggest a good solvent if you try it
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