bike chains ,
vitally important and need care to work well . I know there are belt drives that get past the issue of lubrication but the pitfalls are to most folks , too big a trade off .
chains invariable get lubed with oil , synthetic or organically derived ,there are endless choices , you can even get them for specific conditions . the chain will invariably get filthy , the heavier the lubricant the more dirt is collected , its the catch 22 . look at any cyclist that arrives at destination with oily fingers and you can bet your life that the chain needed sorting in some way during the journey .
You may think that by now there should be a perfect chain lubricant that works perfectly in all conditions and never attracts dirt . I have been looking for over 30 years now and it doesn’t exist for sale at any bike shop in my vicinity . But,, there is another way , I have been using it on and off for that 30 years , only stopping using it to try another new miracle lube only to be let down and then return to the old school .
paraffin wax has been used for decades by what I refer to as ( say it in a Yorkshire accent ) PROPER CYCLISTS ,, the idea is simply that molten wax can get right into the links and pins but ,once set’ cannot push back out easily , buy some paraffin wax , candle making supply shops have it , whack around half a kilo in an old metal sweetie or biscuit tin and warm it slowly over the stove , once fully molten , take your fully degreased and cleaned chain , and pop it in the wax , I use a chop stick to stir it around to make sure the wax gets into every link pin , after a few minutes of stirring I take the tin outside and lift out the chain and hang it to cool . this needs redoing every 1000 miles or so in my experience or , as soon as you hear a squeak from the chain . the best bit is how clean and smooth your bike will stay .
the modern additive
yes we can improve on the wax method , ptfe powder or Teflon powder added to the wax , I used 20% ptfe or 1 part ptfe to 5 paraffin wax which is quite a rich mix , 10% is fine . I found it difficult and expensive to obtain the ptfe powder as the only industry i could find that uses it is the piano repair business . it works well , it works really well !
to be honest I never thought PTFE was available in powder form , but after reading about it I had to try it and I am glad I did .
some will say that its all too much hassle , I beg to differ , once in the tin the wax is already in a storage vessel and once cooled is spill proof and easily stored , with the advent of the quick link ,chain removal is literally a 10 second job , once waxed the chain will never attract dirt , no marks on trouser legs , no stains on your favourite beige chinos , everything lasts longer , much longer !! even when mud and dirt is sprayed onto the chain by the wheel most of it drops back off , even the residual just falls off with a blast of water . if your chain drops off on a ride your hands will be spotless after remounting . its super cheap over the long run despite the initial cost of around £30 to make a 20% 700gram batch , enough to last years .
if you might like to try it , I recommend you grab a new chain , degrease it to remove the packing lube , I use citrus degreaser for this , followed by dish washing up liquid then clean water . dry it with whatever method then , as detailed earlier , pop it in the hot wax and PTFE soup and stir . clean the chainrings and sprockets thoroughly ( no point in fitting a stay clean chain to filthy oily parts !) . When it comes time to refit the chain it will be all stiff and bound up but will go on , during this process put an old dust sheet down under the bike to catch all the flakes of wax , lots will fall onto the sprockets and this is good , once connected pedal the bike and work it through the gears , it will not shift well at all for a moment but will improve after a moment or two , now take the bike out and pedal it in the street or drive working through the gears . you will be struck by how smooth and quiet the bike is . to maintain it just get an old paint brush and use it to brush off any dust that may accumulate , redo it if the chain gets noisy or squeaks . One on mine , a old sedis black on the higgins ultralite , has now done over a 1000 miles since last treatment and its all still clean but is getting noisy so bath time soon , no need to repeat the degreasing and cleaning process though , just brush it off and straight into the wax soup .
if you are going on longer tours you can make up a small amount of wax soup in a small tin then knock it out once cooled and take enough to half fill a soup can , when the chain sounds like it needs dip just watch out for an old can at the roadside and use the camp stove or a fire to melt some wax in it .