What is the better option for your chain - Lube or Wax? There are advocates for both, and if you check out all the forums and reviews on this topic you will find a mountain of information to support both. There is also the option to use gear oil to lube your chain, and there are oiling systems like the Scottoiler. So it really comes down to personal preference.
I am a chain lube user, even on my road bike, and my preference is Motorex Off Road Chain Lube. I’m not convinced that wax penetrates the chain as well as I want it to. I like to give the chain a good clean before applying lube, and I am not mingy with it. I squirt plenty onto both sides of the chain, turning the wheel as I go to make sure no spots are missed. Any obvious excess I wipe up with a rag.
Two times state speedway solo champion Leigh Boujos uses CTA lube – Australian made, and the price doesn’t break the bank. Leigh has to be sure the lube he uses really protects the chain as the speedway bikes use a 428 chain that runs directly off the motor, and they spin so fast that they can run blue hot. They have a chain oiler fitted, but require this to be supplemented with a high quality lube to ensure the chain holds up – some lubes are good, some don’t work so well, and wax just doesn’t cut the mustard.
There are some things to consider when choosing a chain lubricant. Do you have a road bike? …or a dirt bike? Do you have an o-ring chain or a standard chain? Do you want to ride your bike right now! …or are you not going anywhere for an hour or so?
There are differences between wax and lube, and what is suitable for you, will depend on your situation.
The main differences are:
- Application time – Wax is better applied just after a ride while the chain is still warm. This is particularly true of a non o-ring chain, where the warmth will help the wax penetrate deep into the chain links. On an o-ring chain the chain temperature is not so crucial as the internal part of the link is sealed by the o-rings. Chain lube is thin enough to penetrate a chain regardless of the temperature, and can be applied just before you ride.
- Fling – if your ride is a shiny road bike you might like to keep it that way – however if MX is your thing, the amount of excess lube that flicks off is not going to matter much. Wax tends to fling less, whereas lube tends to be a bit messier. Wax sprays on as a liquid, and as it is exposed to the air it dries, leaving a waxy, water resistant covering over the chain. Even though many chain lubes have an agent in them to make them go tacky after application giving them a similar quality to wax, they are more liquid and fling off the chain more.
I do like the traditional hot wax treatment for chains, available from Putoline in a 1kg tin... but it is good for non o-ring chains only. Don't use it on an o-ring chain. This stuff works a treat but it makes a mess. If you want to make sure your chain doesn't run dry - you could invest in a Scottoiler, either a vacuum operated or electronic system.
The most important thing is that you do wash your chain, make sure it is dry - and that you do keep the chain lubed to minimise the wear on the chain and sprockets.