Now, don't even think of doing this unless you're the kind of person (like I am) who wishes your bike needed more maintenance, more regularly than it does. I love working on the bike (almost as much as riding it, and sometimes more than riding it), and I was looking for something else to do on it.
In my aimless internet ramblings, I ran across this guy's video:
...and this one:
... and a few others, and thought, "That's just the thing!"
I started by giving the drivetrain of the Yellow Maserati a cleaning as if it were going to undergo surgery. I took apart the chainrings and cleaned the with the cranks. Then I took the cluster off the back wheel to clean it.
THAT's an awful job that I'll never do again. I'll buy a new cassette first. And if I ever have to do it for anybody else, I'll find out how much a new cassette costs, charge 'em $125 more than that for the cleaning, and just give 'em the new cassette. The cassette was deep-down grimy with caked lube, metal powder, road dust, and who knows what-all. I gave it a bath in mineral spirits and scrubbed, and got filth all over. I had to clean up the work area when it was done.
After that, it was time to do the wax. Now, paraffin is incredibly flammable; time was when the prevalent wisdom was to do the heating in a double-boiler to reduce the risk of burning down the building in which you were heating it. But, with the march of technology, I was able to get the cutest little nine-inch crockpot you ever saw.
The first time I did it, I used Gulf Wax, which comes as a box of four quarter-pound blocks. It's enough to do a BUNCH of chains... but Michaels sells this 9-lb package for about $27, which makes it almost stupidly cheap. (The folks at Michaels think the wax is for making candles. What do they know?) There will be leftover wax in the bottom of the crockpot, which can be reused if it's clean. In the picture above you can see a disk of wax, ready to be reheated.
The bottom of the crockpot is almost big enough to get the chain in as a single layer if I roll it like a pancake. I leave a bit off the end to make a second layer, and run a wire through to lower it into the wax and lift it out.
In the crockpot, the wax takes about 60-90 minutes to melt. When it's all melted, in goes the chain.
When the chain first enters the wax, a quantity of bubbles are released. The is the wax replacing the air spaces in the links of the chain. Leave the chain in the wax, and come back and agitate it a few times. When you don't see any more bubbles. the chain is fully waxed, and can be taken out of the hot paraffin.
But if you just take it out, the hot wax will fall right off the chain. I have a water bath nearby, and dump the hot waxed chain into the water.
The wax immediately hardens, and the assembly looks like the picture at the top of this post.
There will be a lot of extra wax, and the chain will need to be loosened up. I just run the chain around my fingers with leather gloves on.
There will still be extra wax on the chain, but it will fall off when you mount the chain on the bike, spin the cranks, and run the gears up and down a time or two.
The process is time-consuming enough that I keep two chains, one on the bike, and another ready to be changed on. When I put the clean, waxed chain on, I then have several hundred miles of riding before the other has to be ready.
To facilitate removing and remounting the chains, I use the Wipperman Connex Links, which are removable without tools, and are the only ones recommended for more than a single use. They work with SRAM (my preference) and Shimano chains.
Before waxing, the chain needs to be cleaned. My procedure for a new chain is this:
- Put the chain in a jar, and add enough mineral spirits to cover. Shake vigorously. How long? Bike Snob recommends long enough to play though "Walkin' on Sunshine."
- The mineral spirits clean off a lot, but leave a residue behind that will inhibit the adhesion of the paraffin. So put the chain in a clean jar, add rubbing alcohol (or a mix of about 60% alcohol and 40% water), and shake. This time, you can do "Walk Like an Egyptian."
Finally, in a jar with a water-based degreaser. How about the third movement of Bach's Second Brandenburg?