Velo magazine did a big chain lube test in their latest magazine. I was stunned that chain lube would actually make a testable difference in the amount of power it takes to propel a bike. Between the worst and best lube they tested there was almost 4 watts difference. Doesn’t seem like much, but think about it, a 1500 dollar Aero wheelset probably makes around 4 watts difference.
The best, “normal” lube they tested was Rock and Roll Gold. I wrote a review of some of the lubes I’ve used and it has been one of my most popular posts, I have bottle of Rock and Roll Extreme that worked very well. One of the least efficient lubes they tested was Prolink Gold, which I also reviewed and really like on my road bike. There is a reason it stays so clean, it doesn’t do that good of job lubricating.
The Winner of their test was a very old school lube, in fact its not even a lube, its a solid at room temperature, paraffin wax. Paraffin wax was not only the most efficient lube they tested but it also was the cleanest, it actually even got more efficent when they tested the chain dirty.
Ever since reading this I’ve been thinking about waxing my chain and last night I took the plunge. After waxing I rode the bike today on a harsh mountain bike trail for over 2 hours, countless creek crossings and some mud too. The drive train was like a rock, and it felt much smoother, especially after getting soaked. Check out these easy to follow picture by picture directions.
So why wouldn’t you wax your chain? Well I’m not sure how long it’ll last. I’m hoping to get another ride out of it, but Velo reports getting as many as 600 miles in the dry and 300 in wet conditions but that was on a road bike. I’m hoping to get a couple of weekend rides on my mountain bike. Waxing the chain takes about an hour, of which you actually only to be present for about 5 minutes of, the rest of the time the chain is soaking or drying or cooling.
For me its not the efficiency that I care about, its not even the cleaner drive train. I’ve found that my chains wear out in a few months mountain biking. The constant grit and sand of our trails are carried into the rollers by the constant oiling of the chain where they act like grinding/polishing compound. Not only do my chains wear out fast, they feel as if they are full of grit the whole time. Maybe chains will last longer when the rollers aren’t packed with grit?
PS If you notice that their are two chains pictured in this article its because I tested the procedure on my Nashbar touring bike’s chain first, before waxing the chain on my mountain bike.