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Paraffin waxed chain skips in freezing temperature

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Paraffin waxed chain skips in freezing temperature

Old 01-08-20, 02:51 PM
  #1  
t1k
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Paraffin waxed chain skips in freezing temperature

I live in a dry climate (Calgary, Alberta) and have always used the ProLink Chain Lube to maintain my chains. This lube done a good job in summer.

I commute 22 km (about 14 miles) round trip to work 3-5 days a week.

This winter we've got quite a bit of snow and the temperature swings dramatically (sometimes 20 degrees within a day).
On the wet slushy days the lube washes off the chain fast and I have to re-lube daily. So I become interested in waxing the chain because of all the benefits it promises: 200+km between rewaxing, clean chain and longer chain life.

I tried the hot waxing method last weekend. Cleaned the chain (it's a used chain with less than 0.5% wear), soaked it in three mineral spirit baths, dried, and "cooked" it in a paraffin bath (no additives, pure paraffin). Before taking the chain off the slow cooker, I waited for the paraffin to cool down to the point when a film started forming on the top. There was quite a bit of paraffin left on the chain after the process. I did not wipe it off, thinking that it will serve as a protection layer for the chain (a mistake, as I found later).

I've cleaned the cassette and the chain ring, loosen the chain (it was hard as a stick) and installed it on the bike. I also used paraffin on the jockey wheels bushings (again, not a good idea). Spun the crank for good 10 minutes to clear the excess of the paraffin from the chain.

My commit on Monday (it was -5C (23F)) started with some skipping. But I was optimistic and expected the skipping to go away soon. I checked the jockey wheels in the evening and found that they were very stiff and had lots of resistance. So I cleaned them and lubricated with a dry chain lube. The chain was still pretty stiff.

On Tuesday it was much colder -15C (5F) and the chain skipping became much worse. On my way home it was snowing and the skipping was so terrible that I was afraid to switch gears. I've noticed that the skipping gets worse on lower gears (when derailleur bends the chain less).

I'm fairly confident that the cassette is not worn out. There were no skipping before I waxed the chain. This is the second chain on this cassette and I replaced the previous chain when it hit 0.5% wear.

What am I doing wrong? Should I try to mix the paraffin with the paraffin oil?
I've heard that some guys that live in Anchorage, Alaska wax their chains. And I'm hoping that paraffin can work in winter.

Any help or advice is appreciated

Last edited by t1k; 01-15-20 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 01-08-20, 04:09 PM
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I bike commuted through lots of North Dakota winters. Wax won't work very well below zero. 1 part synthetic gear oil, 2 parts odorless paint thinner, use a minimal amount, pedal backwards a bit. Let it sit, wipe excess off after about 10 min. Old disposable syringe works good as applicator. Put it on a warm bike indoors. Worked fine at -35F. Should work even if you leave the wax on.
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Old 01-08-20, 06:10 PM
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I live in a town that liberally spreads a mixture of sand and salt. I've tried a lot of things and have found that if I have to ride through that sandy, salty slush a lot, my chain will be gritty and rusty by the end of the season. The main variable is the amount of that kind of weather, and how many times I remember to wipe off the chain. Fenders and chainguard help keep the bike nicer, but are not a panacea. The less steel on the bike, the less rust.

Last summer I finally built a dedicated winter bike, and simply put a pre-rusted chain on it. When I buy another chain, I'm going to try one of those galvanized ones from KMC.
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Old 01-08-20, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by grizzly59 View Post
I bike commuted through lots of North Dakota winters. Wax won't work very well below zero. 1 part synthetic gear oil, 2 parts odorless paint thinner, use a minimal amount, pedal backwards a bit. Let it sit, wipe excess off after about 10 min. Old disposable syringe works good as applicator. Put it on a warm bike indoors. Worked fine at -35F. Should work even if you leave the wax on.
Thank you for the lube "recipe". Is the role of the paint thinner to dissolve the gear oil and evaporate after the application? Is this lube going to "survive" slushy commutes.

Bringing my bike indoors (into the house) is not really an option. I store bike in the attached garage but its quite cold in there. That is why I don't like to lube my chain daily - because I have to do it in the cold and wiping the chain is messy.
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Old 01-08-20, 09:24 PM
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Wax is great for dry and dusty climates. Not great for wet conditions. I use wax on my road bike chains but wet lube on my hybrid/errand bike -- Park CL-1, which resists washing out even in a downpour. Chain-L (made by a bike forums veteran member) is reportedly even better for messy weather, long lasting.

I've been caught in a summer downpour a couple of years ago on my road bike with waxed chain. Rode about 5 miles before it let up, and another 10 miles or so after that. The chain was pretty noisy by the time I got home. Not squeaking but metallic noisy.

There are paraffin based lubes suspended in liquid solvents that might work better for your conditions. Check out the various products from White Lightning and Rock N Roll. All are highly regarded by users. The only White Lightning lube I've used it Easy Lube, a paraffin suspended in what smells like naptha. I don't care for it in dry conditions -- it's a little tacky or gummy -- but that quality might make it better for wet conditions.
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Old 01-08-20, 09:59 PM
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So, to save yourself the trouble of re-lubing daily (which takes about one minute, if you are doing it properly), you spent a whole bunch of time running your chain through mineral spirits baths and cooking your chain in wax?

Sounds like you had a good system, and you can buy Prolink in large jugs at reasonable prices.
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Old 01-08-20, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Wax is great for dry and dusty climates. Not great for wet conditions. I use wax on my road bike chains but wet lube on my hybrid/errand bike -- Park CL-1, which resists washing out even in a downpour. Chain-L (made by a bike forums veteran member) is reportedly even better for messy weather, long lasting.

I've been caught in a summer downpour a couple of years ago on my road bike with waxed chain. Rode about 5 miles before it let up, and another 10 miles or so after that. The chain was pretty noisy by the time I got home. Not squeaking but metallic noisy.

There are paraffin based lubes suspended in liquid solvents that might work better for your conditions. Check out the various products from White Lightning and Rock N Roll. All are highly regarded by users. The only White Lightning lube I've used it Easy Lube, a paraffin suspended in what smells like naptha. I don't care for it in dry conditions -- it's a little tacky or gummy -- but that quality might make it better for wet conditions.
Thank you for the advice. It looks like I'll have to get back to the regular wet chain lube.
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Old 01-08-20, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
So, to save yourself the trouble of re-lubing daily (which takes about one minute, if you are doing it properly), you spent a whole bunch of time running your chain through mineral spirits baths and cooking your chain in wax?

Sounds like you had a good system, and you can buy Prolink in large jugs at reasonable prices.
Although it might look like chain waxing is a lot of trouble, it simpler than using wet lube ... in my opinion anyway.

Yes, initial cleaning and setup is a lot of work. The chain has to be cleaned to the bare metal and one needs to buy a crock pot and paraffin.

My initial investment was about 15 US dollars and a couple of hours of work.

The expectation was that after the chain is cleaned and the paraffin bath is ready, reapplying wax is super simple:
1. turn on crock pot
2. take off the chain from the bike (easy with a quick link)
3. put the chain into a sifter and rinse it with hot water
4. put the chain into a crock pot and let it sit for 15 minutes
5. take off the chain and reinstall it on the bike
6. done
The process takes 5-10 minutes of my time. Mostly done indoors and generates no mess and garbage and I have clean hands at the end of the process. And I only have to do this once a week.

Contrast this to lubricating the chain:
1. I lube the chain in the garage in a cold.
2. Spin the pedals and apply the lube to each roller.
3. Spin the pedals for 5 mins to let the oil get inside the rollers.
4. Wipe the chain.
At the end of the process I'm cold (have to spend in the garage good 15 minutes), my hands are greasy and smell with bike lube (wife hates the smell), and I have bunch of greasy towels to dispose. Plus this has to be done every day.

The only benefit of the chain lubing is that the chain works great in cold weather. Which is important but I still did not give up the hope to make paraffin waxing work.

Last edited by t1k; 01-09-20 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 01-08-20, 11:15 PM
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KMC makes rust resistant chains, which are good insurance against stiff links on a winter chain from road salt and slush. Finish Line red bottle teflon dry lube works great in dry winter riding. I've had good luck in temps well below zero, and clean/relube once a week with everyday riding yearlong. Even with a quick relube in sloppy conditions, if you run full fenders, the chain will keep clean and dry enough, so long as it isn't above freezing and pouring rain. I find that a dry lube is much better for chain cleanliness and longevity on a foul weather bike than a wet lube, which picks up more fine aggregate particles.

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Old 01-08-20, 11:37 PM
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There are thousands of things people use on chains for thousands of reasons. I use Blaster cable and chain lube. Spray on spin and wipe off (takes me maybe 60 seconds). I can ride days in the dry, rain, and salt ,dirt with no issues and no rust. Reapply and wipe off as needed. It can leave a tatoo. On excessive long dirty or crudy days I can pour water on the chain to get anything off of it and keep going. I've had the same experience you had in less than ideal conditions with silicone, wax, and dry lubes in the past. If dry road with no chance of rain I'd probably be happy as others are with wax. $4 at Walmart and Home Depot in my area.

Last edited by u235; 01-09-20 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 01-09-20, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by t1k View Post
Although it might look like chain waxing is a lot of trouble, it simpler than using wet lube ... in my opinion anyway.

The only benefit of the chain lubing is that the chain works great in cold weather. Which is important but I still did not give up the hope to make paraffin waxing work.
You wrote that the wet lube works well in summer, and (above) you wrote that it "works great" in cold weather, too. The conclusion seems pretty obvious.

By the way, you can just drip wet lube onto the chain as you give the cranks a couple spins. Then spin them another 15-20 times (five minutes is not necessary) and wipe down the chain. Again, it might take two minutes if you're slow. If you think that waxing is "simpler," then I think we must live in different time/space dimensions.

And as someone else noted, KMC (and perhaps others) makes a rust-resistant chain. I'm running one on my commuter and have no complaints. And it was cheap.

Last edited by Koyote; 01-09-20 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 01-09-20, 08:24 AM
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For you waxers, how much of a difference is there from just using straight up Paraffin vs. Paraffin + PTFE? I will be undertaking this and have everything except the PTFE which is in transit (but has a crazy estimated delivery date of 1MAR).
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Old 01-09-20, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by t1k View Post

What am I doing wrong? Should I try to mix the paraffin with the paraffin oil?
I've heard that some guys that live in Anchorage, Alaska wax their chains. And I'm hoping that paraffin can work in winter.

Any help or advice is appreciated
The mixing of liquid paraffin (the kind sold in pharmacies, NOT the lamp oil) with the wax helps to make it more viscous and less stiff and that should do the job. What happens to me in cold is that the wax alone simply falls out over much shorter distance than 200km. I tried 1:1 mix of wax and liquid paraffin which works well except in dusty summer the chain unfortunately tends to get dirty because the oil, well, attracts the dust.
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Old 01-09-20, 02:05 PM
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About 30 years ago I tried pure paraffin waxing and had some skipping. Many years later I tried some version of White Lightning and experienced skipping under load. Really weird. I've been using DuPont Teflon Chain Saver for about 8 years now.
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Old 01-09-20, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by avrilboazmoss View Post
The mixing of liquid paraffin (the kind sold in pharmacies, NOT the lamp oil) with the wax helps to make it more viscous and less stiff and that should do the job. What happens to me in cold is that the wax alone simply falls out over much shorter distance than 200km. I tried 1:1 mix of wax and liquid paraffin which works well except in dusty summer the chain unfortunately tends to get dirty because the oil, well, attracts the dust.
Pedantic note: viscosity is resistance to flow, so if you helped the wax flow better, you actually made it less viscous.
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Old 01-09-20, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Pedantic note: viscosity is resistance to flow, so if you helped the wax flow better, you actually made it less viscous.
Good catch. I think what I meant to say was that it feels like the result is more sticky, i.e. does not escape out, even though in this case the pure wax falls out in solid chunks whereas the liquid paraffin makes it more runny ... yet the chain rollers retain it better, also in rain.
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Old 01-09-20, 02:41 PM
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no matter what.... OP report out how it is at 40 below (same in celsius and farhenheit) and how you survived (I grew up about 300 miles from calgary in Norther Montana, so I know calgary get's this cold)
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Old 01-09-20, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric S. View Post
About 30 years ago I tried pure paraffin waxing and had some skipping. Many years later I tried some version of White Lightning and experienced skipping under load. Really weird. I've been using DuPont Teflon Chain Saver for about 8 years now.
Thank you for suggesting the DuPont Teflon Chain Saver. Based on the reviews, it looks like a better option that the regular bike lube.

How do you apply chain saver to your chain without spraying wheels, cogs and brake rotors?
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Old 01-09-20, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by avrilboazmoss View Post
The mixing of liquid paraffin (the kind sold in pharmacies, NOT the lamp oil) with the wax helps to make it more viscous and less stiff and that should do the job. What happens to me in cold is that the wax alone simply falls out over much shorter distance than 200km. I tried 1:1 mix of wax and liquid paraffin which works well except in dusty summer the chain unfortunately tends to get dirty because the oil, well, attracts the dust.
I think that by liquid paraffin you are referring to paraffin oil. The paraffin based oil is sometimes marketed as lamp oil. But there's another product called lamp oil, which is kerosene based.

It's quite hard to find the paraffin oil locally. But I'll order it online and experiment with mixing the oil with the paraffin.

I really want to make the chain waxing work in winter
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Old 01-09-20, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by t1k View Post
Thank you for suggesting the DuPont Teflon Chain Saver. Based on the reviews, it looks like a better option that the regular bike lube.

How do you apply chain saver to your chain without spraying wheels, cogs and brake rotors?
I hold a piece of cardboard between the lower chain & rear wheel and lightly spray on each link; just enough to get into the bushing.
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Old 01-09-20, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
no matter what.... OP report out how it is at 40 below (same in celsius and farhenheit) and how you survived (I grew up about 300 miles from calgary in Norther Montana, so I know calgary get's this cold)
Next week the temperature is supposed to fall below -30C (-22F). That will be a good test for any lubricant and most of the bike commuters
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Old 01-09-20, 03:08 PM
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In an attempt to improve the chain skipping situation, I have removed the chain from the bike yesterday and worked every roller by hand to make sure it rolls freely. Took me good half of hour. But the chain is not stiff anymore. Didn't have time to do a test ride yet. Will report back if the skipping is reduced.
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Old 01-09-20, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by t1k View Post
I live in a dry climate (Calgary, Alberta) and have always used the ProLink Chain Lube to maintain my chains. This lube done a good job in summer.

I commute 22 km (about 14 miles) round trip to work 3-5 days a week.

This winter we've got quite a bit of snow and the temperature swings dramatically (sometimes 20 degrees within a day).
On the wet slushy days the lube washes off the chain fast and I have to re-lube daily. So I become interested in waxing the chain because of all the benefits it promises: 200+km between rewaxing, clean chain and longer chain life.

I tried the hot waxing method last weekend. Cleaned the chain (it's a used chain with less than 0.5% wear), soaked it in three mineral spirit baths, dried, and "cooked" it in a paraffin bath (no additives, pure paraffin). Before taking the chain off the slow cooker, I waited for the paraffin to cool down to the point when a film started forming on the top. There was quite a bit of paraffin left on the chain after the process. I did not wipe it off, thinking that it will serve as a protection layer for the chain (a mistake, as I found later).

I've cleaned the cassette and the chain ring, loosen the chain (it was hard as a stick) and installed it on the bike. I also used paraffin on the jockey wheels bushings (again, not a good idea). Spun the crank for good 10 minutes to clear the excess of the paraffin from the chain.

My commit on Monday (it was -5C (23F)) started with some skipping. But I was optimistic and expected the skipping to go away soon. I checked the jockey wheels in the evening and wound that they are very stiff and have lots of resistance. So I cleaned them and lubricated with a dry chain lube. The chain was still pretty stiff.

On Tuesday it was much colder -15C (5F) and the chain skipping became much worse. On my way home it was snowing and the skipping was so terrible that I was afraid to switch gears. I've noticed that the skipping gets worse on lower gears (when derailleur bends the chain less).

I'm fairly confident that the cassette is not worn out. There were no skipping before I waxed the chain. This is the second chain on this cassette and I replaced the previous chain when it hit 0.5% wear.

What am I doing wrong? Should I try to mix the paraffin with the paraffin oil?
I've heard that some guys that live in Anchorage, Alaska wax their chains. And I'm hoping that paraffin can work in winter.

Any help or advice is appreciated
just curious: you don't mention what you do with the chain upon removing it from the crock pot. Do you install the chain "hot"? Or do you let it cool and flex the links? If it is very cold and your chain is well treated with wax, you may just have created too stiff of a chain. You mention turning off the crock pot and waiting until the wax thickens some before removing it. Is this step helpful or necessary? I thought of trying this because I pull mine out "hot" and sometimes feel like I haven't worked enough wax into the internals. I also have not experimented with "paraffin oil" but I am thinking about it. I have noticed that a fresh, well waxed chain will shift a little worse than one that is fully wet lubed or a waxed one where all the links have been pre-flexed by hand.
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Old 01-09-20, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
just curious: you don't mention what you do with the chain upon removing it from the crock pot. Do you install the chain "hot"? Or do you let it cool and flex the links? If it is very cold and your chain is well treated with wax, you may just have created too stiff of a chain.
Good point. That's an important detail that I missed.
I let the chain cool and flexed the links a bit (enough to be able to install the chain).
I read that some people don't flex the chain after waxing and the chain just flexes by itself during the first ride. This approach might work in warmer temperatures, but did not work for me. As the outside temperature was dropping, my chain was getting stiffer and chain skipping worsened.

I have taken off the chain yesterday and flexed it by hands, making sure that every ling spins freely. That is a very slow process on a cold chain. Next time I'll flex the chain while it's still warm.

Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
You mention turning off the crock pot and waiting until the wax thickens some before removing it. Is this step helpful or necessary? I thought of trying this because I pull mine out "hot" and sometimes feel like I haven't worked enough wax into the internals. I also have not experimented with "paraffin oil" but I am thinking about it. I have noticed that a fresh, well waxed chain will shift a little worse than one that is fully wet lubed or a waxed one where all the links have been pre-flexed by hand.
If pull the chain while the wax is hot and fluid, the wax will escape from the inside of rollers leaving only thin coating behind. If you let the wax to thicken, it'll be trapped in the rollers when you pull the chain.
That's my thinking, but I don't have enough experience with waxing to say that it's a necessary to let the wax cool down before removing the chain.

I used ideas from
for my first waxing job.
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Old 01-09-20, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
For you waxers, how much of a difference is there from just using straight up Paraffin vs. Paraffin + PTFE? I will be undertaking this and have everything except the PTFE which is in transit (but has a crazy estimated delivery date of 1MAR).
I can't really call myself a waxer. I just started experimenting with chain waxing ... with mixed results.
But my impression is that PTFE helps with making the drivetrain more efficient. If you're not racing, adding PTFE to your waxing solution makes a little difference.
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