Three Benefits of Using a Waxed Chain Instead of Chain Lube

AK
posted by Ard Kessels
December 08, 2023

Every cyclist I ever met has been chasing the same thing: go faster with less effort. This is why we invest in aero wheels, tight fitting jerseys, weight saving parts and ceramic bearings. I hate to say Marginal Gains since the term has been chewed up beyond the point of recognition, but hey: those marginal gains add up!

While some bike purchases really help you go faster by the smallest of margins, the case I make for waxed chains is pretty clear. There is a lot of research out on the internet and they consistently point at 5 to 8 watts at steady output that a normal human being can maintain.

Free Speed

Less watts lost between your legs and the rear wheel means you will go further with the same output or faster with less effort. Five watts at, say 250 watts means two percent savings from using a waxed chain vs a high quality chain lube.

While this does not mean 2 percent more speed on the road, it does mean you can calculate the energy savings over an entire race or group ride. This math is a bit above my pay grade, but let me check with my data analyzing friends and update this post soon with their findings.

Clean Drivetrain

One of the most beautiful things about wax is that it is dry to the touch. This means it does not attract dirt the way a wet lube does. 

Typical chain lubes attract dust and sand from the road or trail, effectively turning your fancy lubricant into a grinding paste once the two are properly mixed. It sounds nice and quiet, which is great, but it also increases friction and reduces the lifespan of your components. While chains are relatively cheap (not looking at you Sram T-Type!!), the wear also extends to your cassette and chainrings. Pricing for cogs is astronomical nowadays, with cassettes going north of $400 and chainrings with integrated powermeters costing close to $900.

Bonus benefit: because your chain will run much cleaner, you will not fall victim to the dreaded cat 5 tattoo on your calf.

Durability

Because wax keeps your chain cleaner than lube, it does not require as much maintenance. It is normal for a chain to run anywhere between 300 and 600km on a single wax dipping in dry conditions. In between top offs with liquid wax from a bottle can extend this lifespan.

Running less friction means less wear to your drivetrain. Have a look at this company from Australia, they run waxed chains through thousands of kilometers of test protocol. Typically waxed chains outlast lubed chains by 2 to 3 times.

Lower cost to run

Now that we have touched on chains lasting longer and service intervals extending, it makes total sense to look at the cash savings from running a waxed chain. The up front cost is higher than a stock chain because of all the labor we invested in the treatment, but the extended lifespan of not only the chain but all your drivetrain components pays off quickly. 

Here is a cool new feature from Zero Friction that will allow you to insert your groupset, terrain and annual distance. From there, experiment with the different lubrication options and be blown away by the difference in cost to run.