Bike Chains 7 – Melted Paraffin Immersion

Table of Contents

Wax

Not dripped

Paraffin is a wax, a dry solid, which is melted down into a low viscosity (thin) liquid, and applied to a chain immersed in the hot wax. The liquid fills the spaces around the pins and along the edges of the rollers. When the chain is removed from the liquid paraffin cools and solidifies. The solid wax lubricates. Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling (“ZFC”) argues immersive waxing involves less effort and cost than using dry-drip and wet lubes, and provides benefits for cyclists/owners:

  • It reduces chain wear, which reduces the costs of operating and maintaining a bike;
  • Paraffin wax is not expensive; and
  • Paraffin wax can be applied by a cyclist for modest expense, with little effort.

The users of paraffin say several things about waxing:

  • The lubricant penetrates the chain and occupies the spaces,
  • A waxed chain is not oily. Dirt does not stick to a freshly waxed chain,
  • Paraffin resists the movement of dust, dirt and abrasive material into the chain, and
  • Solid wax is more water repellent than liquid oils – it is not as easily “washed” out by contact with a stream of water droplets striking and flowing into a moving chain.

The bike lubricant article at BikeGremlin notes drawbacks of wax as perceived by engineers:

{A ] shortcoming of paraffin wax is that it isn’t mobile enough to replenish lubed surfaces after being displaced, while not being strong enough to resist being displaced after put under pedalling pressure. This is apparent after some water gets on a paraffin wax lubed chain – it quickly starts squeaking.

That is why paraffin wax lubed chains need to be re-lubed often. Also, chain needs to be completely clean and dry before lubing, so that paraffin wax can stick to it and prevent dirt from sticking to it.

Unless paraffin wax is bought, melted by heating, chain submerged in it, let to drip dry, excess rubbed off … then a “special” dry lube for chain needs to be bought, with a fluid solvent that dries off and a rather high price. Label usually says something along the lines of: “wax based chain lubricant”.

Some commercial paraffin wax based chain lubricants often have other dry lubricants added (usually PTFE), in order to improve characteristics. However, unless some oil is added as well (which beats the purpose of using a dry lubricant to prevent dirt from sticking to the chain), the problem of displacement from friction surfaces (and not flowing back) mostly remains!

BikeGremlin, 2016, updated 2021, Bike Lubricants Explained

Paraffin advocates accept:

  • A chain needs to be cleaned deeply to remove factory grease before it waxed;
  • Paraffin needs to be renewed or replenished after a few hundred kilometers of riding.

The wax moves a little as the stresses of pedalling stress the lubricant in the chain links. A waxed chain may creak if the wax is thin or weak in one place within one link. This may happen if the wax has not fully coated the chain, which happens if the chain is not clean or the wax has become contaminated.

The wax begins to break down within a couple of hundred kilometers of riding. Small amounts of wax are expelled; some of the exposed wax at edges of the chain will be contaminated. Paraffin protects a chain from dirt and water for a limited time and distance.

The chain must be relubricated at short intervals. If a chain is dry and free of contaminants on the visible surfaces, it can be redipped in the same wax. The simplest method of cleaning a waxed chain used in reasonably dry and clean conditions is to put the chain on the unmelted wax and heat the wax and chain until the wax melts. The wax can be melted repeatedly. A half pound of wax will last, according to MSpeedwax, for about 8 lubrications of training chains.

Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling recommends a structured approach to cleaning and lubrication:

  • Factory grease should be removed before a chain is installed. Removing factory grease is best done before the chain is on the bike, as it involves putting the chain in solvents. A chain that has been lubed with a fluid lubricant and used need additional preliminary cleaning. Adam Kerin and others have opinions about which bicycle or industrial cleaning products can remove dirt and contaminated chain lubricant;
  • The rider should clean the chain according to the contaminants encountered – dirt, water or both – after every ride;
  • The best practice is to renew paraffin every 300 or 400 Km. – or at shorter intervals.

A reasonably clean waxed chain can be waxed repeatedly, until the wax in the pot is too contaminated.

The critics of immersive waxing view it reservations relating to:

  • Power Efficiency – some drip lubes may be more efficient in converting the rider’s effort to forward motion (distance, speed);
  • Economic efficiency – the time and cost of regular waxing;
  • The difficulties of relubrication during long rides or competitive events – the necessity of taking a break to install another waxed chain

Waxing Knowledge

CyclingTips has the “endless FAQ” article How to Wax a Chain, and a YouTube video A Beginner’s Guide. The paraffin pioneer Molten Speed Wax LLC (“Mspeedwax”) has an article Waxing Your Chain, and a YouTube video How to Wax aTraining Chain. YouTube also brings up a a video on the Bike & Blades channel, called Molten Speed Wax: The Epic Guide.

Zero Friction Cycling has articles on its side and videos on its YouTube channel:

Adam Kerin suggested practices that a rider can follow after recreational and training rides or commuting in wet conditions in his paper Wet Weather/Winter and waxing guide. A wet chain should be wiped down to remove any water clinging to it. A rider can use alternative chains in succession, and set aside the used chain(s) for re-waxing. Adam Kerin cautions against putting a conventional “dry” or “wet” lube on a waxed chain. It is a temporary measure which will contaminate the chain. Serious contamination can lead to a full deep cleaning with solvents. Adam Kerin suggests only using a wax compatible fluid on a waxed chain.

Silca Velo has a YouTube Marginal Gains TV channel video made September 2020, How to Hot Melt Wax your Chain.

The manufacturers and vendors of the formulated brand name bicycle chain waxes, and many chain wax advisers:

  1. suggest waxing with a formulated bike chain wax, and
  2. warn against substitutions such as candle wax, canning wax, hobby/craft wax, and industrial paraffins.

The brand name chain waxes have been used by thousands of users, and the working methods are known. Users may not know what is in a substitute paraffin or a particular batch, particularly with industrial lubricants.

Prices

The leading brand name bicycle chain immersive waxes were sold as bags of pellets. Silca Velo still sells pellets; MSpeedwax shifted to selling 250 g. (half pound) discs (cakes, pucks?) of Molten Speed Wax in 2022. 250 g. of paraffin pellets, or caked paraffin, can be melted in a small container or device – e.g. a slow cooker – in one session. The chain will not take up more than a fraction of the wax. The unused paraffin can be cooled, and melted again several times. The used chain will surrender some contaminants into the wax. The wax in the pot wax will become contaminated. The prices, per bag, as of the end of April 2022:

  • Mspeedwax sold Molten Speed Wax in 1 lb. (453 g,) bags for about $25 (U.S.). It changed to 500 g. bags in late 2021 and to pucks in early 2022;
  • Silca Velo sells Silca Secret Chain Blend in 500 g. sous vide pouches for about $53 (U.S.). Shipping charges apply, but are waived/discounted for orders over $100.

There are other manufacturers. They may lack marketing and distribution, and have not been tested or discussed in cycling media. There are other sources of paraffin. There are other wax products. Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling mentions a couple in his news update June 3, 2022.

Availability – 2022

When I began to look seriously at paraffin in February 2022, Mspeedwax was not shipping wax in March and April 2022; MSpeedwax was taking orders for new formula “available 4/30”. MSpeedwax had YBN chains and sold and shipped pre-waxed chains. I bought and received 2 chains. I did not use wet lube or dry lube on the new chains, but there probably was some old lube, contaminated with dirt, on the chainwheels and cassette cogs,

Among online retail distributors of Molten Speed Wax, some – e.g. Modern Bikes – said that they had no stock in March. Others – e.g. Universal Cycles – said they had stock, but applied high shipping costs to orders and claimed that delivery problems in Canada were attributable to the US Postal Service, the Canadian Border Service agency (clearing Canada Customs), and the Canada Postal Corporation. “One pound” of Molten Speed Wax from Universal Cycle, ordered in March 2022, arrived May 4, 2022. It was a 500 g. bag of pellets. The bag had adhesive labels indicating the wax had Tungsten Disulfide. It was a bag of “new” MSW pellets.

As of mid-April 2022, Mspeedwax explained its supply chain issue, according to updates published by the Australian distributor, Zero Friction Cycling, as a problem with obtaining containers. By the end of April, I had two new prewaxed YBN chains. I scraped dirt and the residue of old lube off the chain wheels and the cassette. I did not scrub the component in solvent.

I put a few hundred Km on each new YBN chain, and notice the chains starting to creak. I did not have wax to re-wax the chains. I tried to refresh the wax with Silca Super Secret Chain Coating (Silca Velo’s wax-compatible drip lube). As the mileage accumulated, I installed a spare SRAM PC1170 chain. I cleaned it with solvents (removed factory grease), put it on the bike and lubed it with Silca Synergetic. I used that that chain to avoid risking wear of my better chains and wear of drive train components until some wax from one of the sources showed up. The use of wet lube on the SRAM PC1170 chain will have consequences. It adhered to the drive train components, and will contaminate waxes.

In late April 2022 MSpeedwax’s 4/30 had become 5/20 and the price of MSW went from $22 to $25 per 500 g. By May 4, MSpeedwax’s goal became 6/10. By May 7, 2020 MSpeedwax announced MSW was being shipped in pucks, and changed product images on its web site. Dealers – e.g. ZFC – began to anticipate filling back orders by June 2022. On May 18, Adam Kerin of ZFC posted that he had received a shipment of the new MSW pucks and would be filling his oldest back orders. He noted the inflation of shipping costs, and announced that MSW prices were increasing. I received my pucks on my February order on May 20. The pucks were wrapped in bubble wrap. I received the pucks on my March order in late July. Between the bag of pellets from the dealer and the pucks from the MSpeedwax, I have a supply to last many renewals on my chains.

Science & History

Science

One of the first uses of petroleum in the 19th century was manufacturing paraffin wax. 20th century chemists describe paraffin as a synthetic wax made of alkanes. The use of paraffin wax to lubricate was discussed in a paper “The Friction of Lubricated Metals” published in by the Royal Society of London in 1940. Solid paraffin wax lubricates as a solid. The reasons paraffin wax lubricates have not been fully scientifically explained. The 19th century explanation for why ice (frozen water) is slippery when other cold solids are not is still debated – see the Vox article “Why is ice so slippery“. The practical questions about paraffin as chain lubricant are:

  • Does it reduce friction?
  • Can it be applied to the narrow spaces of bicycle chains?
  • Can it be applied by a manufacturer and sealed or protected?
  • How can or should a user apply a solid wax?

When melted paraffin cools, it becomes a solid. The paraffin wax is a microscopically thin barrier between the metal surfaces of the pin and the “sleeve” (bushing or half bushings, roller), and the overlapping areas of the link plates. The wax adheres to the metal and apparently sheers to slip, reducing friction. Paraffin may sheer, or form surface liquid films.

Solid wax is more water repellent than liquid oils – it is not as easily “washed” out by contact with the stream(s) of water droplets striking and flowing into a moving chain.

After about 1980, the bicycle chain manufacturing and lubrication industries attempted to deliver wax in suspension or solution in fluids, but did not find ways to apply solid paraffin wax to bicycle chains. A few cyclists experimented with removing chains from bicycles and applying melted paraffin. This was discussed in cycling publications – inially printed periodicals (magazines, journals). As the internet expanded, the discussion moved online.

Cycling Uses

The manufacturer of Molten Speed Wax says lubrication with paraffin was tried in the era of Mile a Minute Murphy, (i.e. before 1900 in the early days of safety bicycles). I have not explored this factual claim. The uses of paraffin (by riders, doing diy “garage mechanic” work melting wax in “coffee cans” in the 1970s or 80s) are mentioned in a few online resources including the CyclingTips Waxing Endless FAQ article by Dave Rome.

Manufacturers experimented with putting paraffin or other wax in suspension in carrier fluids in dry wax lubricants in the 1980s and 1990s. The dry-drip “wax” lubes originated in that era were not durable lubricants, but they were well marketed and competitively priced.

As discussed in the post Bike Chains 4 in this series, Jason Smith of Friction (“FF) tested lubricants, including a paraffin in 2012 or 2013. The FF test results were published in VeloNews in an article in 2013. The FF test of paraffin made sense in light of the scientific research into paraffin and the lack of scientific literature on dry-drip “wax” lubes. The idea of using a commonly available commodity attracted cyclists ready to experiment. Readers of the 2013 VeloNews article sent questions to the magazine about immersing chains in melted paraffin to get paraffin wax into bike chains. Questions were addressed by Lennard Zinn’s Technical FAQ column in VeloNews. Molten Speed Wax immediately developed and marketed its proprietary paraffin pellet product, but arguably did not establish or exploit the so-called first mover advantage in the market for hard wax pellets. The positive results of the original Molten Speed Wax and some fluid products in a further VeloNew article in 2014 attracted more attention.

Immersive waxing did not work unless the user removed factory grease from the chain by repeated immersion in mineral spirits and agitation. If a clean chain is submerged in hot paraffin, the chain will warm to the temperature of the wax; the wax penetrates into the spaces around the pins, inside the rollers and at the end of overlapping link plates. If previously waxed chain has been properly cleansed of contaminants (washed off and chain dried), it can be treated as clean.

Removing factory grease also appears to be effective for increasing efficiency and reducing wear and noise with wax emulsions/fluids, dry-drip lubes with friction reducing additives, and oily wet lubes.

Lubricating with paraffin presented challenges:

  • The chain had to be removed – which was not easy without master links;
  • The chain had to be cleaned;
  • Paraffin had to be melted;
  • The chain had to immersed, moved and cooled. The wax had to penetrate the chain and stay in place;
  • The wax will, as the chain makes its revolutions, break down and flake off. Small amounts of wax are expelled;
  • The exposed wax at edges of the chain will be contaminated;
  • While solid wax is more water repellent than liquid oils – it is not as easily “washed” out by contact with a stream of water droplets striking and flowing into a moving chain – waxin needs to be renewed – a chain must be cleaned and lubricated again.

Within a few years of the VeloNews article in 2013:

  • other proprietary immersive waxes and wax emulsions with special features (additives, special packaging) came on the market;
  • riders and mechanics began to publish articles and videos on immersive waxing using retail paraffin or proprietary products safely (melt the wax in a slow cooker or Instant Pot, not on a flame). Some described the process, in an ironical tone, as “Chain Spa”, etc.

Preparation

Removing the Chain

Paraffin waxing involves working with the chain off the bike frequentlly. The master link makes removing the chain much easier, and makes working with the chain off the bike regularly feasible. Master links are discussed in Bike Chains 2 in this series.

Factory Grease

The point of removing the factory grease is to install paraffin on a truly clean chain to allow the paraffin to penetrate to the interior spaces and adhere to the metal. This also makes the initial immersion and subsequent lubrications with paraffin faster and simpler. Paraffin can be removed and replaced with a liquid lubricant – but time, effort and money will have been spent. The supporters of waxing say it is seldom necessary, after factory grease has been removed and a chain has been waxed, to do another deep cleaning with detergents and solvents.

Removing factory grease from a new chain is a time-consuming and demanding project. Removing factory grease requires solvents that will penetrate the chain and carry off the dissolved grease. The solvent recommended to cut grease is mineral spirits. It is also necessary to rinse the chain with a polar solvent that will carry off any water. Industrial ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is good. Cleaning a used chain is more demanding. Removing old lube and contamination requires a chain cleaning detergent before the use of the mineral spirits and methylated spirits.

Removing factory grease, or old lube, contamination and factory grease from a chain (or from drive train components) requires buying, storing and using chemicals that have strong odours or may irritate the respiratory organs, and which may need to be disposed of according to environmental regulations. A bike shop may perform the work, but will charge by the hour. This is hard-core DIY stuff.

Contaminating Wax

A reasonably clean waxed chain can be waxed repeatedly, until the wax in the pot is too contaminated. Immersing the chain in melted wax will remove dirt. MSpeedwax suggests a half pound of its paraffin can be used 8 times for “training chains” if the chain is rewaxed at intervals and the contamination is simple dust. Contaminated wax will be discarded after a few uses, and replaced with clean fresh wax. A user will observe the wax during wax jobs and learn to judge contamination.

A waxed chain requires basic maintenance. This is mentioned by Dave Rome in the CyclingTips waxing FAQ and other material. The chain should be wiped to remove water if the chain has been used in wet conditions. Dirt on the outside will come off if the chain is wiped. Some substances that adhere to a chain, such as small amounts of old wet lube degrade the wax.

If a chain has been waxed with contaminated wax it should be reset by deep cleaning and fresh lubrication with clean wax.

Melting Paraffin

Safety

The melting point of paraffin is approximately 37°C (99 °F)., but it varies. Some paraffin waxes melt at up to 67°C and congeal at 66.4°C. The melting point of the paraffin chain lubes is above 55℃. The melting point of these waxes is above the range of temperatures in the temperate and tropical parts of the world. Further notes on these waxes:

  • MSpeedwas cautions on the wax package that MSW should not be heated above 220 ℉ (104 ℃). It recommends that the chain and solid wax be heated to 200 ℉ (93℃). The chain is placed on dry wax in the pot, and heated at the same time to the same temperature. It suggests measuring temperature with a candy thermometer. Adam Kerin of ZFC mentions in some of his articles that he thinks it is 60℃. The exact melting point is not easily measured in a slow cooker. It is in the range of 55 to 60℃;
  • Josh Poertner of Silca Velo did a YouTube Marginal Gains TV channel video in September 2020 How to Hot Melt Wax your Chain. He said that Silca Secret Chain Blend melts at 140 to 150 ℉ (60 to 65.6 ℃)

At the flash point volatile vapour enters the air, increasing the risk of fire and explosion. The flash point of paraffin varies, depending on the mixture. It may be 250 to 300° C. The boiling point of paraffin is above 370 °C (698 °F). The temperatures are not precise because paraffin is a blend of manufactured hydrocarbons, often mixed with other substances. The melting point(s) and boiling point(s) of paraffin are higher than the melting and boiling points of water. An appliance that generates enough heat to boil water can melt paraffin, but will probably not boil paraffin. The manufacturers of MSW and SSCB do not put product specifications, such as melting point or flash point of the wax on the Internet.

The bicycle chain waxes have additives. The additives do not seem to produce gases that can harm the user, and have minor environmental effects. Without disclosing amounts, the manufacturers list the lubricating additives:

Modern bicycle chain wax advisers discourage the methods said to have been used by the populist mechanic/riders in the 20th century days of working with paraffin: melting paraffin on a stove top, camp stove, or outdoor burner (e.g. a camp cooker that home brewers might use to brew beer or camp chefs would use to deep fry a turkey in oil). Even if you are careful, shit can happen in many ways – slip on the floor, step on lego, bitten by bug, distraction, inattention, pets, kids, zombie apocalypse. The wax can spill and catch fire from an open flame.

Waxing Nordic (cross country) skis was/is required with wooden skis. and wooden skis with laminated plastic bases. The Norwegian firm Swix made – and still makes a range of ski wax cylinders to rub on to skis to promote glide on the tips and tails and grip under the “kicker” section. (Swix has not brought abicycle chain wax product to market). Some ski waxes were melted by heating a waxing iron with a torch, melting the wax on the hot iron and dripping liquid wax on the ski bases, and smoothing/distributing it with the hot iron. When I was younger and confident, risk meant nothing … Waxing skis has changed too.

Slow Cooker Methods

MSpeedwax and ZFC advise using an electric cooking device called a slow cooker (Crockpot™ is one slow cooker brand). Slow cookers are a mature electric appliance technology. Electric multi-cooker appliances such as the Instant Pot™ are electric pressure cooker devices with “smart” controls and slow cooker functions. Basic slow cookers with ceramic inserts (crocks), without timers or “smart” controls have 3 or 4 settings: Off, Low, High (or Off, Warm, Low, High). The heating element is in a belt in the metal case that surrounds the insert. The element is always on; the switch controls the watts of power that to the heating element. This kind of slow cooker may heat to about 100 ℃ (212 ℉) in spots at the outer edges. It takes over 30 minutes on high to warm a chain and a 225 g. (1/2 pound) of wax to about 65-70 ℃. The contents will get hotter as time passes, specially with lower amounts of contents. A small or medium slow cooker will hold a chain – even two or more chains, and melt enough wax to immerse the chain(s).

MSpeedwax advises to use a slow cooker on high, and set a timer. ZFC advises using the low setting. Low will melt the wax. It takes longer, but is safer and gives the user more time for other things. MSpeedwax suggests a slow cooker with a small crock (1.5 or 2 quarts), and discourages using 4 or 6 quart models. Adam Kerin of ZFC uses large oval slow cookers in videos – he has them in his shop and uses them to wax multiple chains in one session. Adam Kerin provides advice on the ZFC site on locating places that sell 1.5 and 2 quart slow cookers in New South Wales. He recommends staying with small or medium (3.5 quart) slow cooker devices. Basic slow cookers were and still are available in small (1.5 or 2 quart), medium (1.5 or 4 quart), and large ( 6, 6.5 or 7 quarts). Larger retailers still carry brand name small slow cookers with ceramic inserts. In March 2022, I located a 2 quart slow cooker at a Walmartstore in Victoria BC for under $30. Small used slow cookers are available. Buying a small slow cooker is an inexpensive way of getting a dedicated device. It isn’t an elegant device. It uses electricity. It is less efficient than other appliances, but it draws little current.

MSpeedwax advises that the chain should be in the slow cooker, and should heated with the wax. ZFC agrees. Adam Kerin adds that If the chain was left out, the chain should say in the hot wax at least 5-10 minutes.

Some advisers, e.g. the narrator in the Bikes and Blades channel video, suggest a device designed to melt waxes used in beauty spas. Small Rice cookers may be about the same size as small slow cooker. The automated heat controls of rice cookers are set up to bring water to boil quickly and then simmer. MSW ignores rice cookers. ZFC says rice cookers are not a good idea for heating bicycle chain wax.

MSpeedwax and ZFC use a swisher tool to manage handling the chain while the chain and wax are hot. A tool that sticks up out of the wax is necessary – it is not feasible to get the chain out of 70 to 100 ℃ liquid without a tool. MSpeedwax sells one ($15 US) but has posted an article “Making a Swisher Tool” with detailed dimensions to make one by cutting and bending a metal coat hanger. The dimensions are for a tool that will lay a chain in the bottom of a small or medium slow cooker. When the waxed chain is removed, the chain can be removed from the swisher (use gloves – hot) and hung over the pot (if the working space is ready) to catch hot melted wax that will drip from the chain until the chain cools and the wax congeals in place. The pot, if you do not plan to cook in it, can store the wax, which can be reused.

Instant Pots™ & Multicookers

Silca Velo suggests using an Instant Pot™ (or a comparable multicooker). An Instant Pot can melt paraffin, safely, using the slow cooker program setting. Silca Velo executive Josh Poertner recommends, in the Silca Velo waxing video, using the multicooker slow cooker settings. . As Mr. Poertner demonstates, an Instant Pot is faster to reach the desired temperatures than a conventional slow cooker. Silca does not appear to be concerned about chemical effects of overheating the wax. Silca does not think the risk of heating above the flash point is serious. An Instant Pot™ should hit a burn warning and shut down before it heats the contents to the flash point of paraffin in any of its programs. The high energy programs that need the lid locked should not be used to melt bicycle chain wax.

Other videos on other sites (e.g. Russ Roca at Path Less Paddled) show users using the sauté program. The wax melts from the bottom. The user can break the cooler crust and stir the wax to distribute the heat. The user may have to tend the pot.

Instant Pots are electric pressure cookers, with powerful heating elements to heat fluids to temperatures above 100 ℃, and safety features to prevent burning or overcookingfood. An Instant Pot’s sensors and programs turn the power off and on to maintain the temperature. Josh Poertner said in the Marginal Gains video How to Hot Melt Wax Your Chain that an Instant Pot was better than a conventional slow cooker at melting paraffin. Mr. Poertner suggested putting the wax in the Instant Pot’s liner/insert/pot and melting it in the pot. He recommends buying a liner/insert/pot for wax, and keeping the wax liner in the garage or workshop. He would use a multicooker without the pressure lid, in a lower heat program.

Multicooker devices can be operated without the pressure lid in slow cooker and sauté programs. The medium slow cooker program setting puts out comparable heat to a conventional slow cooker on low; the high slow cooker program setting puts out comparable heat to a conventional slow cooker on high. Culinary publications – e.g. America’s Test Kitchen – warn that Instant Pots™ heat large amounts of water (4 quarts in a 6 or 8 quart pot) so slowly in the slow cooker program settings that the water will not reach temperature that the user expects. The low or medium sauté settings can melt wax or heat water faster than the device in slow cooker mode, but may cut out when the device hits the top of a range. The heating element of an Instant Pot heats the food at the bottom of the pot (nearest the heating element) to these temperatures, which are lower than the flash point of paraffin:

Setting
Slow cooker medium88-93190-200
Slow cooker high93-99200-210
Sauté low135-150275-302
Sauté medium160-176320-349

Silca Velo suggests a way to use an Instant Pot with Silca’s Secret Chain Blend Wax – putting the resealable waterproof plastic bag into hot water in the Instant Pot liner/insert/pot. Silca describes the bag as a sous vide bag; the point is that the bag can be placed in near boiling water and will not melt or degrade. The Instant Pot is used to heat water quickly to a temperature that will melt the wax, a temperature at or below the boiling point of water (212℉; 100℃). The pouch is put in the water; the wax is melted without melting or tearing the bag. In this method, the chain is waxed in the bag and the wax does not touch the pot.

In the Silca Velo video, Mr. Poertner builds a swisher with a used spoke, and uses it to lower the chain into hot wax rather than putting the chain in with the unmelted wax. He says that the liner/insert/pot can be removed to a place where the chain can be hung.

Silca endorses using an Instant Pot™. This approach works if you have a device and use it safely. Buying a liner/insert/pot for wax may be more expensive than buying a dedicated slow cooker. You may be reluctant to operate an Instant Pot outside your kitchen, or reluctant to carry a pot of hot wax and a chain around.

Temperature and Agitation

MSpeedwax recommends using a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the melting/melted wax. It said when the wax was heated to 200 ℉ (93℃), the user should agitate the chain for 45 second and take it out. In ZFC videos, Adam Kerin uses a digital thermometer and says the user should agitate the chain. ZFC does not have a recommendation on how long to leave the chain in the wax if the chain has been heated in the slow cooker.

Mr. Poertner of Silca Velo demonstrated the use of a non-contact infrared thermometer to check the heat of the wax, at the surface, as it heats and cools in an InstantPot. Russ Roca of the Path Less Pedalled site uses such a device in his November 2021 video “Watch This before you Wax your Bicycle Chain“, basically following the Silca method. Silca is looking for melted wax – above 140 to 150 ℉ (60 to 65.6 ℃). Silca agrees that a chain should be agitated when the wax is melted. Mr. Poertner recommended leaving it in the wax until the wax begins to congeal. If a user knows the congealing temperature, a user with any device that reads the temperature can leave the chain in the pot and take it out as the wax is congealing. This means, I think, less wax will drip off or out of a chain?

Chain Spa

The user needs to have or acquire devices, and set up a working space and routine to use wax.

Wax-Compatible Drips Lubes, Liquid wax coatings

The solid wax on a waxed chain should block dripped fluid lube from penetrating the chain when the wax is fresh, unless the drip lube contains a solvent. After the chain has been used for a while, a dripped fluid may have some spaces that it can penetrate. These seem to be the main possible direct consquences of using a drip wax on a waxed chain:

  • The drip lube may lubricate places where the wax has been compressed, displaced or deteriorated;
  • A drip lube will eventually trap contaminants or weaken the wax; and
  • The user may need to reset the chain to get rid of contaminants including the residue of the drip lube by a drip cleaning before re-waxing.

MSpeedwax does not mention drip lubes whether, “Wet”, “Dry” or chain coating. ZFC’s advice was to not use most drip lubes on a waxed chain, including the traditional low reputation dry-drip lubes marketed as depositing a wax or waxy lubricant on the working parts of a chain. ZFC says that some wax-compatible drip lubes can be used on an immersion waxed chain. The term could be clearer – it seems to refer to a lubricant that will come out of a chain immersed in melted paraffin without contaminating the paraffin or interfering with the application of melted paraffin to the chain. Adam Kerin said, at one point:

Can I use a drip lube to supplement waxing? Sort of. I have tested Smoove with msw, and if a single application (as per my advanced [Smoove] application guide in instructions tab), and you run that application until it is starting to feel a bit dry, then re waxing straight over seems to go ok – just not you will be contaminating wax in pot somewhat. Same with UFO Drip. I have heard from a customer similar with Squirt (which is same type of lubricant as Smoove). If you add any other drip lube on top, then you will need to fully strip clean and prep chain again prior to waxing following Waxing Zen Master guide – with the addition of boiling water rinses first to melt off majority of wax before moving to solvents. Remember for chains the wax needs to bond to clean film free chain metal, if you put drip lube on top and then just rewax – expect wax will not bond to chain metal, and it may contaminate wax in the pot such that all future waxing’s wont go too well either. Smoove / squirt is often used for long extreme events like 24hr mtb racing or mtb stage races over top of msw as that works brilliantly, but cleaning prior to re waxing after is required to keep wax in pot clean and ensure good wax bonding to chain metal.

Zero Friction Cycling, Wet Weather Guide (June 2019)

Immersion suits my schedule. I was driven to using Silca Super Secret Chain Coating to top up MSW waxed chains in April 2022. It worked when gave the chain coating fluid time to set.

Adam Kerin does not address the time requirements for low viscosity liquids to dry or set. This may not be feasible when the lube is applied “in the field” during a ride when a rider on a long or extreme ride on a waxed chain needs to relube during the event.

Silca Velo promotes Silca Super Secret Chain Coating drip fluid as almost chemically identical to Silca Secret Chain Blend immersive wax, and requires users to “ultra clean” a new chain, to remove factory grease. Silca Velo sells it as cold hot wax in a drip bottle. It is low viscosity (very runny) drip. It must be left to dry. If factory grease is not removed, or if it is not dried, it will not lubricate as well as advertised – or as reported by ZFC. Applying this stuff makes a mess; a lot of fluid is wasted dripping off the chain. Super Secret Chain Coating was intially sold in 4 ounce and 8 ounce dripper bottles. Silca later released the product in 12 oz. quantity in a 16 oz plastic jar, for immersing a chain in the product. There is no video for the use of this jar. ZFC has not done a report on this method of application. A user posted a video April 1, 2022 of using a chain cleaner cassette tool to apply the product.

Silca recommends “topping up” a chain waxed with Secret Chain Blend by dripping Super Secret Chain Coating on the waxed chain, as demonstated in the Silca Velo YouTube channel “Ask the Expert” video episode 7 “Chain Maintenance“. Josh Poertner presented this advice again May 11, 2022 in the Silca Velo YouTube “how to” episode How to Extend the Life of your Hot Wax Treatment. In the “how to” video Josh Poertner:

  • gives a reason for using a wax-compatible fluid lube. He says that the original wax is compressed and displaced, leaving spaces that a fluid will penetrate, providing addtional lubricant;
  • suggests that the chain should be cleaned by running it through a microfiber cleaning cloth before dripping a wax compatible fluid on the chain.

Silca Velo promotes its own immersion wax and chain coating products, and the microfiber clothes it sells online. Cheaper clothes are available, but the suggestion of using a microfiber cleaning cloth is useful and inexpensive.

Josh Poertner of Silca Velo addressed topping up in the March 2021 Marginal Gains TV video “Choosing the Best Chain Lube“. When a hot immersion is not possible. and Silca Super Secret chain coating drip is not practical (the user has to give the fluid coating 24 hours to penetrate and dry), his solution, within the Silca products, is to use the oil based Silca Synergetic wet lube for the event or ride. For a rider who rides waxed chains, this means changing chains before the event or, resetting (deep cleaning and hot waxing) the chain before (and after) the event/ride.

Adam Kerin of ZFC addressed the use of wax compatible chain coatings in the ZFC YouTube video Episode 18 Key Learnings from Lubricant Testing May 8, 2022. He suggests (at about 6:30 in the video), for a rider who uses a wet lubricant for a long ride, using the “least wet” product. His advice for best option for a multi-day event or a bike packing trip (at about 40:15 in the video) depends on conditions. He suggests wax compatible drip lubes can be used to top up a waxed chain if on a ride under dry condition, when a rider is making a long stop – such as stopping overnight on a long ride. He favours owning and using a second waxed chain and carrying and changing to the replacement chain on a long ride under wet and very dirty conditions, or using a “dedicated race chain”. Eventually his advice involves compromises; there is no free lunch with chain lubrication.

In the CyclingTips NerdAlert podcast March 16, 2022 “Finding the best chain lube for your needs” Adam Kerin expanded on using fluid chain coatings with a waxed chain. He mentioned Ceramic Speed UFO Drip, Silca Super Secret. He mentioned, in passing, Rex Black Diamond which is a wet lube. (The Finnish ski wax firm Rex released two bicycle chain fluid, 2015-2022.) ZFC has tested and reported on UFO Drip, Silca Super Secret. There is no ZFC report on the Rex product. ZFC has not reported structured test reports of any of these products to “top up” an immersion wax. The site has notes that Rex Black Diamond was in the store and being tested. In the “Concise” waxing video, posted in April 2022, at the 10:55 point, Adam Kerin recommends 3 wax-compatible drip fluid lubricants for use to refresh the lubrication on a waxed chain:

  • Silca Super Secret Chain Coating;
  • Ceramic Speed UFO;
  • TruTension Tungsten All Weather.

Adam Kerin recommends using these products, as needed, to keep the chain running smoothly, between immersive applications of melted paraffin. He suggests a few wax compatible products can be used 3 to 5 times between immersions; he still recommends immersions as the primary way of re-lubrication of a waxed chain. He followed up with a video in September 2022 – ZFC YouTube Channel Episode 21, Lubricant Choice Guide.


Posted

in

by

Comments

2 responses to “Bike Chains 7 – Melted Paraffin Immersion”

  1. […] to remove a chain for cleaning, maintenance and replacement. There is more on master links in Bike Chains 7 in this series under the heading/subheading Preparation/Master […]

  2. […] discuss Super Secret Chain Coat as a wax-compatible drip lube in Bike Chains 7 in this […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *