Maximum efficiency with minimum effort, or rather a small chem-lab in your basement? With their Secret Chain Blend wax lubricant, SILCA are ditching traditional chain oils for good, promising a clean, fast drivetrain that would make the pros jealous. Is it a good option for mere mortals too?
Compared to oversized pulley wheels, chain wax is a steal and therefore one of the most wallet-friendly drivetrain upgrades. SILCA’s Secret Chain Blend only costs € 40 and comes with a practical sous-vide bag for easy application.
According to the manufacturer, replacing a traditional chain lube with wax will help you save up to 8 watts, and at the same time prevent dirt from building up on the chain, thus ensuring a longer service life. In SILCA’s own words, you’ll be able to squeeze up to 25,000 km out of your drivetrain and never have to clean it again. These numbers sound incredibly promising, but is it worth the extra effort?
We’ve tested SILCA’s “Secret Chain Blend” hot melt wax to see what it’s capable of and whether it’s worth the extra effort.
Is chain wax the ultimate drivetrain upgrade?
Enough with claims and guesswork, how does chain wax actually work? As the name suggests, the oil and grease of traditional lubricants are replaced with highly refined, laboratory-grade paraffin. However, this method requires you to degrease the chain beforehand, which has a few drawbacks – but more on this later. Unlike oil, wax won’t get washed out, sticking to the chain. SILCA use a high concentration of 3 specific sizes of nano-scale Tungsten disulfide, which is supposed to reduce friction due to its highly lubricating properties. However, a smoother chain not only makes you faster, but also minimises drivetrain wear. According to SILCA, your chain will last 5 to 6 times longer when using their hot melt wax. Although we didn’t get this far with our waxed chains, we noticed significantly less wear. And there’s one thing we clearly see and feel every day: a clean chain! Wax doesn’t stick, preventing dirt from accumulating on the chain and thus making a black drivetrain a thing of the past – at least in theory. In our experience that’s also true in practice, and the wax layer remains strong even with pouring rain.
Chem-lab apron and safety goggles to lube your chain?
WEB only: Chem-lab apron and safety goggles to lube your chain?
All of this sounds pretty exciting, but how do you get the wax onto the chain in the first place? Well, the procedure is rather more complex than just squeezing some oil out of a bottle, and might be a little daunting. To begin with, you’ll have to remove all the grease and oil with chemicals, just like in chemistry class or, for the grown ups amongst us, in a drug kitchen.
So, what do you need? To remove the grease and other residues, you’ll need a classic degreaser. We used Effetto Mariposa’s biodegradable Allpine cleaner, which worked particularly well for us because it leaves no residue on the chain and can be washed off simply with water. However, the grease itself isn’t exactly environmentally friendly, so make sure you dispose of it appropriately. Ideally you should wash your drivetrain in an ultrasonic bath, but a big, sealed preserving jar and vigorous shaking will do the trick just as well. Once you’ve rinsed everything off with water it’s time for the ethanol bath. The alcohol deals with any residual water and trapped air bubbles, without leaving residues, leaving you with bare metal for the final waxing!
SILCA deliver their chain wax in the shape of pellets inside a practical sous-vide bag: just put the bag in hot water until the wax has melted. While you’re waiting, you can make a hook for the chain by bending an old spoke – that’s what we did!
Once you’ve submerged the chain in the melted wax, remove the bag from the water pot and wait until the wax sets. Using the hook, slowly pull the chain out of the bath and wait until the wax on the chain has cooled down – and make sure you wax the chain lock too! Now you’re ready to install the chain on your clean drivetrain!
Chain wax – different planet or not much of a difference?
So, is it worth the effort then? While at first the chain still feels a bit choppy, once the excess wax flakes off, the drivetrain works like clockwork, ensuring crisp, butter-smooth shifting. While we didn’t feel the claimed efficiency increase directly in our legs, just the idea of riding with a smoother drivetrain made us push harder, both on tarmac roads and gravel tracks. Even a few rides in, the drivetrain’s still nice and clean, with only small residual wax flakes decorating the frame. We’re also impressed with the lazy washing habits we got away with while using the SILCA chain wax, piling up around 500-600 km between washes. In order to keep the wax layer in healthy shape, we recommend complementing the wax treatment with SILCA’s Super Secret liquid chain lube.
Our conclusions about the SILCA Secret Chain Blend
While waxing your chain might be more time-consuming and complicated than oiling, the advantages are clear: ditching oily lubricants for a cleaner drivetrain alone is worth the effort. Moreover, wax reduces component wear and is a very cheap efficiency upgrade. And while chain wax might not be everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re a keen home mechanic who wants to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their bike, it’s undoubtedly your next logical step towards your dream bike.
- Improved efficiency at lower wear
- Chain doesn’t get dirty
- Makes it clear what ambitions you have on the bike
- Much effort for marginal gains
More information at silca.com.
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Words: Calvin Zajac Photos: Jan Richter