I’ve got OCCCDC

Ingredients for chain waxing. The coffee filter enables limited reuse of solvents.

Besides physical ailments, there’s something else weighing me down of late — Obsessive Compulsive Clean Chain Disorder Complex (OCCCDC).

I’m not the only one. Have a look on YouTube. I’ve reviewed dozens of videos about the process so I could find the best formula.

A prerequisite for becoming OCCCDC is to have lots of time on your hands and a place where you can heat smelly wax and clean your chains. I qualify on both counts.

The degree to which the affliction affects people runs the gamut — from GCN, which almost makes light of chain waxing, to Oz Cycle, a likable Aussie whose obsessive compulsive personality regarding cycling knows no bounds.

After reviewing the variety of formulas and toxic chemicals employed, I came up with my own. It’s tailored for California, where petroleum-based solvents are disappearing from store shelves faster than N95 face masks.

Our state is literally banning solvents.

So, the chemicals I recommend may or may not be available down the road.

Before launching into my alchemist’s elixir that turns candle wax into the world’s best chain lubricant, here’s why I decided to give it a try.

Studies have shown that wax is the best chain lubricant, hands down. No other commercial product compares, and the ones closest to wax are mostly made of wax.

It’s also the cleanest. It doesn’t attract road grime. Chains and other drivetain parts last WAY LONGER.

So why do only a tiny number of cyclists run wax on their chains?

It’s a hassle. There’s no getting around it. It only lasts about 180 miles (300 km). Once wax evaporates, the chain begins making noise, metal on metal.

The up-front cost is modest,  but, as I mentioned, a location outdoors is highly recommended for chain cleaning and waxing.

Melted wax has an odor, although not terrible, and it’s messy. The process of chain cleaning calls for using nasty chemicals, all of them hazardous to humans. But what isn’t? They’re not as bad as asbestos, but much worse than dish soap.

Here’s the two-step process:

A. Clean the chain of lubricants, even if it’s new.

  1. Soak the chain in Mineral Spirits overnight. (Gas, Diesel, Kerosene can be used, but it’s not sold in stores)
  2. Rinse the chain in water and dry.
  3. Soak the chain in a Degreaser for 10-30 minutes. There are many brands. Clear liquid is preferred.
  4. Rinse the chain in water and dry.
  5. Soak the chain in Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone for 10-30 minutes. You may have to repeat Step 5, until the solution is mostly clear.
  6. Rinse the chain in water and dry.

B. Heat the chain in melted wax

  1. Use a clear paraffin wax, food grade or equivalent, which can include clear/white candles.
  2. Heat the wax on a hot plate outdoors in a pan, or in a crock pot. I prefer a hot plate because it’s faster than a crock pot, which takes 90 minutes to melt wax.
  3. Heat the wax to about 90-93 degrees C, about 200 degrees F.
  4. Let the chain soak for 15-30 minutes.
  5. Remove chain and give it a quick wipe, or let it drip dry. Some recommend letting the chain cool until there’s a thin film of cooled wax in the pot for better adhesion. Not sure this matters.
  6. Flex the chain on a doorknob or equivalent — even flexing in the hand works — before installing.

Part A is only necessary the first time you wax your chain. After that just brush off the chain before rewaxing.

Assuming the chain lasts about 150-200 miles before needing waxing (body weight/torque, weather, and road surface has a lot to do with variations), if you have 3-4 chains ready to go, you can go for more than a month without chain waxing, assuming you ride a lot of miles. It could be two months for riders who don’t do so many miles.

The chain melting process isn’t all that bad. It’s the cleaning that’s a hassle.

Additives that may or may not be useful are PTFE (Teflon by Dupont), which comes in a powder or spray, and Paraffin Oil, also called lamp oil. PTFE is not something you’ll find in the local store, although Paraffin Oil is more readily available.

These additives improve wax lubricity. Whether or not they increase mileage between waxing is unknown, to me anyway. I’ll let you know.

Next up, my experience riding a waxed chain.

Note: I recommend checking Molten Speed Wax for more details. They mention 300 miles between cleanings of “training” chains, which I think is about right. They also recommend changing the wax after 8 to 16 cleanings. I agree. The wax gets dirty.

4 Responses to “I’ve got OCCCDC”

  1. Stephen Smith Says:

    My goodness! I remember the old days when Jobst and I cleaned our chains in gasoline, drip dry then put them in a coffee can with heavy axle grease and heated the grease until hot. After cooling we wiped the chains off and used the grease again for the second chain, usually mine. ca, 1958 – 1960

  2. Jon Blum Says:

    Please don’t use gasoline as a solvent. It is toxic and flammable, and the vapor is heavy. It will creep along the floor until it finds your furnace or water heater pilot light, and then it can explode. All this stuff should go in hazardous waste, not down the sewer. I don’t know the flash point of all these things, but heating petroleum products has some risk, too.

    • Stephen Smith Says:

      Oh please, that was in the 1950’s. Now I have s Ph.D. in Chemistry, from UC, that is Bioorganic chemistry.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    On the subject of flammability, melted wax is not flammable. It’s the gas from the burning wick that creates a candle flame. You can take a blow torch to melting wax and it won’t catch fire. That’s why I suggest melting wax with good ventilation.

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