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Wax or Oil to Grease the Bike Chain, Which is Better? Lets Explain
Greasing or lubricating your bicycle chain is a fundamental maintenance operation you should not forget. It would help if you did this frequently so that the transmission runs smoothly and the life of the chain, sprockets, and chainrings is extended.
When choosing the ideal lubricant, cyclists are divided between those who prefer oil and those who prefer wax. Let’s say neither of these products is better than the other. The choice will depend on how you use your bike, the terrain you ride on, and whether the chain is dry or wet. Price-wise, both are on the same level, so that wouldn’t be a deciding factor.
So it’s time to go into detail and explain the composition, properties, advantages, and disadvantages of wax and oil when it comes to chain lubrication.
Wax: properties, advantages, and disadvantages
Wax-based lubricant, also called dry lubricant, is mainly made of water and ceramic particles, and its characteristic color is white. When applied to the chain, the water base evaporates while the ceramic part sticks to the different parts of the chain. These particles form an invisible protective film that repels dust and reduces friction when in contact with the chainring teeth.
Water-based wax is biodegradable and respects the environment.
Benefits of wax
- Excellent dust and mud repellent: In most cases, wax prevents dust or mud particles from sticking to the chain, which would thus accelerate chain and chainring wear due to friction.
- Leaves the chain cleaner: being very resistant to the effects of dust or dirt, the chain will accumulate less dirt once you have completed the course. In addition, cleaning will be much easier than if you use oil.
- Penetrates all parts of the chain: the lower density of the wax, thanks to its aqueous base, allows the ceramic particles to penetrate very deeply inside the links and small parts such as pins, etc.
Disadvantages of wax
- Low water resistance: The wax is less resistant to humidity as it is less dense. However, it can withstand a wet ride without major incidents. It is a lubricant that is highly recommended if you live in a dry region or for your summer walks. Also, if you wash your bike with water, you will need to oil it completely again, as most of the wax will be gone.
- Limited durability: You must lube the chain more often, at least every two rides or 70 km if you haven’t washed your bike.
- You must lubricate the chain beforehand: for the wax to be effective, you must apply it to the chain the day before your ride. If this is not possible, do it at least 20 minutes before the start of the race. Thus, the liquid will have time to evaporate, and the protective particles will adhere well to the metal of the chain, preventing dispersion.
Oil: Properties, Advantages, and Disadvantages
It is available in two versions: dry or wet chains. The first contains less oil and is mixed with Teflon, which makes it less dense and more transparent. This composition allows it to retain less dust and dirt than the wet oil version.
The second type has a higher oil concentration, is more viscous, and is blue or green. Its higher density allows better protection of the chain against water. It helps prevent premature rusting of chain gears over time.
- Long-Lasting Lubricant: Unlike wax, oil sticks to the chain much longer, extending lubrication even after a water wash.
- Water Resistance: Both oils repel water very well, especially wet oil. Traveling a long distance with a wet chain without friction problems is possible. However, once the trip is over, it is advisable to clean, dry, and re-oil the chain, especially since it will have picked up dirt, mud particles, etc.
- Immediate effectiveness: unlike wax, it is unnecessary to wait a few hours for the liquid to dry and the lubrication to be effective. You can start rolling as soon as you apply the oil to the chain and distribute it a bit by turning the cranks and changing the sprockets.
Disadvantages of oil
- Holds more dust or mud: Due to its higher density and viscosity, dust and mud adhere more easily to the chain. Dirty roads and paths cause the chain to rotate with greater friction, causing the chain, chainrings, and sprockets to wear out quicker.
- It makes the chain dirtier: the oil, especially if it is dense for wet chains, can retain and accumulate a large amount of dirt (dust, mud, etc.), so it is necessary to clean it carefully the chain, pinion, chainrings, and pulleys with water (or using a degreaser) so that the mixture of oil and dust does not remain impregnated and does not solidify between the teeth.
- The effectiveness depends on the state of the chain. Special oils have appeared in recent years with wet and dry properties. Still, in general, it’s better to get the most suitable oil depending on the terrain and how you usually ride.
Conclusions: What is The Ideal Lubricant for My Chain?
Your choice will depend on how often you ride your bike and what condition your chain is in most of the time, whether dry or wet. If you frequently ride on dry terrain, it is better to lubricate the chain with a wax-based lubricant, which is more effective in these conditions. However, its duration is a little shorter.
On the other hand, if you ride on wet ground or your region is subject to frequent rain, we advise you to opt for oil. This option is also recommended if you ride or occasionally train, as the oil stays on the surface of the chain longer.
Finally, depending on your cycling type, a wax-based lubricant may be more suitable if you ride mountain bikes, as it repels mud and dust better. Its limited durability is suitable for the shorter duration of the courses. However, due to its longer-lasting protection, oil might be better suited to road cycling. In addition, the amount of dust or mud it is exposed to is much less on the road than on dirt roads.