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I replaced my old chain with a new chain (factory lube removed) this morning. I applied Squirt lube, a wax-based The instructions for new chains read "wait until dry". I don't know how long that would have been, but... something came up and I had to use the bike to get around town, so was forced to just ride it anyway.

During the ride the chain sounded a little crunchy when pedaling. Nothing crazy, but it had made a noise which I would call "I should lubricate the chain" sound.

Do I have to restart the process from scratch? Take the chain off, degrease, put back on the bike and reapply? Do I just wipe it down and lubricate it now?

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    Just wipe it with a rag. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 28 at 15:51
  • Why would you remove factory lube? It’s the best kind and can last hundreds of kilometres before you have to apply other lube. – Michael Apr 29 at 5:19
  • Not sure if it's just internet lore but I've read places that factory lubes are primarily there to keep the chain from rusting before installation, but whatever they use likely has some reasonable lubrication properties anyway ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Lamar Latrell Apr 29 at 8:31
  • @Michael Kerin (cited in my response) stated that the factory lube is very high-friction. IIRC, to the tune of 3-5 watts. If you're unconcerned about friction, then a more substantive issue is that it is a good magnet for dirt. If applied properly, wax-based lubricants may be more able to resist contamination, which increases chain wear and drivetrain friction. Wax lubricants do require complete removal of all petroleum-based lubricant on the chain, but the OP does appear to have done this. – Weiwen Ng Apr 29 at 22:04
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Zero Friction Cycling has some detailed tests on various lubricants. The site owner, Adam Kerin, is unfortunately not a great writer and is a bit long-winded. However, he has in-depth discussion on Squirt and the similar product Smoove, which is also a drip wax lube. He emphasized in both articles that you are better off leaving the chain overnight. I believe he said that it's ideal to repeatedly apply both products to the chain during an initial break-in period. It might have been something like after every ride for the first 3-5 rides.

The reason is that any lubricant needs to penetrate all the way to the chain's pins. That means it has to pass through some very tight gaps. Smoove and Squirt seem to be pretty viscous lubes, and they don't penetrate that gap very easily. Thus, you need to allow additional time for the lubricant to penetrate. Regular wet lubes (which are probably oil based) penetrate more easily (as does immersing the chain in plain paraffin wax or a commercial alternative like Molten Speed Wax). This is basically a long-winded version of saying that I agree with Nathan that the OP doesn't need to degrease their chain, it's just that they didn't allow sufficient time for the lube to penetrate. The noise should dissipate in time.

For reference for other riders: I believe most lubricants are oil-based. A minority of lubricants are wax-based. This includes the practice of just dipping your (thoroughly cleaned) chain in plain paraffin wax, but it also includes drip lubes like the ones described here. Those put wax in a solvent, and many include other friction modifying substances like PTFE or molybdenum disulfide. And naturally, you could buy those substances and add them to molten paraffin yourself.

There may be a number of negative reviews of Squirt and Smoove on the web. I suspect that many of the reviewers didn't degrease their chains fully before applying these. It appears that all wax-based lubricants need the chain to be thoroughly degreased before applying. The wax needs to adhere to the metal, and oil-based lubricants will interfere with this process. Kerin's writing will confirm this, although it will be a bit hard to follow at first. Again, this is for other readers' reference, as the OP seems to have done this.

As a further side note, some readers might have considered immersion waxing, but are worried about the durability of the wax in very long, dirty events. Kerin does say that riders can use drip wax lubes like Smoove on their own, or that they can take a molten waxed chain and bring said lubricant to top up during the event. I'm not sure how the latter advice reconciles with the fact that he has observed issues with these lubes may take a while to get inside the chain's rollers.

NB: I referred initially to petroleum-based lubes, rather than oil-based lubes. Paraffin wax is often refined from petroleum. Hence, that reference was likely a misnomer.

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  • Sometimes I wonder why there is no chain with a way to lubricate the rollers from the inside - imagine a "grease fitting" in the end of each pin, with cross-drilled holes into the space between the roller and the pin. Sure you'd have to push lube in up to ~110 different points, but it would be well lubricated. – Criggie Apr 28 at 21:29
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    @Criggie I don't know that this would be practical, given we'd be talking about adding lube to 100+ small rollers. Also, most oil lubes seem able enough to penetrate the spaces involved. It's the two drip wax lubes I mentioned that may have more trouble. If you do molten wax, you're covered, plus the molten wax should (according to Kerin) flush any residual contamination out. – Weiwen Ng Apr 28 at 22:11
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Just re-apply it and let it dry. Stripping the old lube is done to get oils off that will keep the wax lube from bonding, but that shouldn't be a problem now.

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    +1 We have the best of both worlds here - the long and short answers.... :) – mattnz Apr 28 at 23:24

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