I recently bought a new chain for my bike and it came full of chain wax. I was wondering if this was a better lubricant then regular chain lube, or if it had some other qualities that the manufactures thought would be better than lube?

  • ...the make and model of this chain is? Commented May 24, 2011 at 14:03
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    Unimportant as far as I know. The question is about the merits of wax as a lubricant and why they ship chains like that. If make and model make a difference that should be addressed in the answer. If the info is important I can dig it up later. Commented May 24, 2011 at 14:51
  • People have been putting wax instead of oil on chains for a long time now, the pros/cons discussed at length many a time in magazines and forums. However, I haven't seen chains-in-wax on the market over here yet, that is new to me. And the box it came in - did it have the rationale/sales talk? Commented May 24, 2011 at 15:02
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    @wdypdx22L until someone invented the solvent-based wax lube and it became as easy to apply as any other lube in a squirt bottle. White Lightning, for example, was doing this before 2000 (when I did a 3 month tour using it).
    – Мסž
    Commented May 24, 2011 at 22:57
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    Intrigued by what this mystery pre-waxed chain is - please dig out your receipt, or the box from the bin and let us all know what this secret pre-waxed chain is. There do not seem to be many of them on Google either so I am suspicious as to why the make/model is 'unimportant'... Commented May 25, 2011 at 10:55

3 Answers 3


I suspect that it's cheaper for the manufacturer. Or if they're advertising it, it may just be a market differentiator. Regardless, leave it there rather than trying to remove it because it's right inside the chain where you need it. By all means wipe off any excess on the outside, but don't use a chain cleaner.

The different types of chain lube have been discussed at length on the web and elsewhere, and to the best of my knowlege the definitive answer is "it depends".

Broadly: oil-based (wet) lubes are more water resistant but attract gunk and turn into black sticky goo on your chain, grease-based (wet) lubes are more water and mud resistant but attract even more gunk, and wax (dry) lubes attract little gunk but wash off more easily. You also get various additives (usually teflon) to reduce friction. Then there are solvents used to remove gunk, like WD40 and kerosene. Despite sometimes being called oils, they are not useful as lubricants except in the immediate "stuck bolt" sense - they evaporate very quickly.

The consensus seems to be use wet lubes in the wet, dry lubes in the dry, and caution when discussing the subject.


The wax-like chain lube on a new chain primarily serves to keep it from rusting in storage and transit. Oil would leak off and make a mess, while not protecting the chain as well.

You can use old-fashioned chain wax on a chain but it's a pain to apply -- basically you have to remove the chain and dip it in melted wax (which was generally thinned with kerosene, creating something of a fire hazard). Modern liquid lubes are available in a variety of "wetnesses" from quite "dry" to gooky-wet, so no need to use old-fashioned wax. (The "dry" liquid lubes basically contain a wax-like substance "suspended" in a "vehicle" that evaporates rapidly.)

With modern chain cleaning systems much of this is no longer a big deal. You can easily clean your chain once or twice a week (or after every ride if you wish) and apply new oil, so much less need to worry about "tuning" the lube for the conditions.


To my knowledge, chains are not shipped with wax-based lubes. Sheldon Brown always recommended using the chain "as shipped" until the factory stuff wore off... Choice of lubes tends to be highly contentious and engineering types go to great lengths to get every possible extra mile of chain life...

Generally, waxes work well but need constant re-application. They do not tend to attract dirt much. Petro-based lubes offer excellent protection but also tend to attract dirt.... Frequent cleaning seems in order. Systems like wax/grease that require you to heat the substance up and then dismount the chain and immerse... Effective but messy. Personally I find normal, petro-based commercial chain lubes seem to work pretty well regardless of brand. I use the "Finish Line" products on the department bikes and a six or seven dollar bottle will last the season.

  • I just bought Finish Line Dry, which is alcohol and Teflon.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 13:02
  • I just opened an SRAM 8-speed chain for my road bike and it has wax on it. Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 21:19

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