Is Hot Waxing Your Chain Worth It for Mountain Bikes?
With the west on fire, it's too smoky outside to safely ride, so I'm going down the hot wax rabbit hole. OCD roadies love hot wax, but they can be an odd bunch that I don't always understand. But maybe they're onto something.
A quick interlude:
We make MTB shorts that fit better so you can ride harder
I've been using Squirt wax lube for a number of years, and absolutely love how clean and effective it is compared to oil-based lubes. If Squirt works so well, I need to find out if hot wax is even better. Plus, I'm stuck indoors bored out of my mind this weekend.
The downside of hot wax is the setup time and fuss. But I already love drip-on wax, and I should really do all this prep even for that, it only really works if you fully degrease your new chain.
I'm using food-grade paraffin from the hardware store and a cheapo slow cooker off of Amazon. Nothing fancy, no PTFE (Teflon), my goal isn't maximum efficiency, it's just long-lasting lube that doesn't make a mess and keeps my drivetrain running.
Wet Riding Update
Here's the TLDR summary: It works great in the dry, doesn't last at all in the wet, but I'll still do it on new chains.
Detailed impressions: Hot wax lasts a long time in the dry, but one good sloppy ride and it's done. I get 2 rides out of plain old Squirt wax lube, so that's pretty crap results for hot wax if it's wet.
I've got 500+ road and trainer miles on my Norco Search "gravel" bike, and it's going strong. A few damp rides, but with fenders so the chain hasn't been doused.
Hot wax does a great job of helping your chain avoid rust here during wet Seattle riding, which is everything but summer. It also works really, really well as a base for Squirt or other wax drop-on lubes.
To effectively use any wax lube, drip-on or hot, you need to clean all the factory oil off the chain, which is the hardest part about hot wax. So my plan going forward will be to clean and hot wax any new chains, and then when they start to squeak, start using my stand-by of Squirt.
I've now ridden hot wax on the MTB in the summer, and it's works great! Doesn't collect dust or grit, and runs really quiet.
I'm never going back to oil lubes. Too messy, attracts too much grit, and Squirt (or whatever brand) is better at everything. The only question for me is whether I re-apply hot wax on the MTB, or just do it on new chains.
Spring Update and Setup Tips
The road whip finally started squeaking after 900 combined miles of hilly road riding (650 miles) and soul-crushingly boring trainer sessions (250 miles). That included some rides on damp roads, but with a good fender setup the chain stayed pretty dry. That's impressive!
I recently put a new chain and X01 Eagle derailleur on the mountain bike, and had trouble getting the shifting dialed in with the new chain. It turns out the freshly waxed chain was too laterally stiff, and it acted like the indexing was off. I was pulling my hair out trying to figure it out!
After a 5 minute spin through the neighborhood it started shifting perfectly. Pedal around for a few minutes with a newly waxed chain before fine-tuning your shifting.
I'm 100% sold on hot wax for the dry, but won't bother to reapply hot wax in the wet - I'll just stick with Squirt drip-on wax until the rains stop.