Wax or Oil to Grease the Bike Chain, Which is Better?

Wax or Oil to Grease the Bike Chain, Which is Better? Let’s Explain

Greasing or lubricating your bicycle chain is a fundamental maintenance operation you should not forget. It would help if you did this frequently so that the transmission runs smoothly and the life of the chain, sprockets, and chainrings is extended.

When choosing the ideal lubricant, cyclists are divided between those who prefer oil and those who prefer wax. Let’s say neither of these products is better than the other. The choice will depend on how you use your bike, the terrain you ride on, and whether the chain is dry or wet. Price-wise, both are on the same level, so that wouldn’t be a deciding factor.

So it’s time to go into detail and explain the composition, properties, advantages, and disadvantages of wax and oil when it comes to chain lubrication.

Wax: Properties, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Wax: properties, advantages and disadvantages

Wax-based lubricant, also called dry lubricant, is mainly made of water and ceramic particles, and its characteristic colour is white. When applied to the chain, the water base evaporates while the ceramic part sticks to the different parts of the chain. These particles form an invisible protective film that repels dust and reduces friction when in contact with the chainring teeth.

Water-based wax is biodegradable and respects the environment.

Advantages of Wax

  • Reduced friction: Wax can help to reduce friction between the chain and other moving parts of a bike. It can lead to improved performance and efficiency.
  • Reduced wear: Wax can help to reduce wear on the chain and other moving parts of a bike. It can extend the life of the bike and its components.
  • Protection from the elements: Wax can help to protect the bike from the elements, such as water, dirt, and salt. It can help to prevent rust and corrosion.

Disadvantages of Wax

  • Low water resistance: The wax is less resistant to humidity as it is less dense. However, it can withstand a wet ride without major incidents. It is a lubricant that is highly recommended if you live in a dry region or for your summer walks. Also, if you wash your bike with water, you will need to oil it completely again, as most of the wax will be gone.
  • Limited durability: You must lube the chain more often, at least every two rides or 70 km if you haven’t washed your bike.
  • You must lubricate the chain beforehand: for the wax to be effective, you must apply it to the chain the day before your ride. If this is not possible, do it at least 20 minutes before the start of the race. Thus, the liquid will have time to evaporate, and the protective particles will adhere well to the metal of the chain, preventing dispersion.

Some additional tips for using wax for bikes:

  • Clean the bike thoroughly before applying wax. It will help the wax adhere to the bike’s surface and prevent dirt and debris from getting in the way.
  • Apply the wax evenly. It will help to ensure that the bike is adequately lubricated.
  • Allow the wax to dry completely before riding the bike. It will help to prevent the wax from getting on your clothes or hands.
  • Reapply the wax as needed. The frequency of reapplication will vary depending on the type of wax you use and the conditions in which you ride.

Oil: Properties, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Oil: properties, advantages and disadvantages

It is available in two versions: dry or wet chains. The first contains less oil and is mixed with Teflon, which makes it less dense and more transparent. This composition allows it to retain less dust and dirt than the wet oil version.

The second type has a higher oil concentration, is more viscous, and is blue or green. Its higher density allows better protection of the chain against water. It helps prevent premature rusting of chain gears over time.

Oil Benefits

  • Long-Lasting Lubricant: Unlike wax, oil sticks to the chain much longer, extending lubrication even after a water wash.
  • Water Resistance: Both oils repel water very well, especially wet oil. Travelling a long distance with a wet chain without friction problems is possible. However, once the trip is over, it is advisable to clean, dry, and re-oil the chain, especially since it will have picked up dirt, mud particles, etc.
  • Immediate effectiveness: unlike wax, it is unnecessary to wait a few hours for the liquid to dry and for the lubrication to be effective. You can start rolling as soon as you apply the oil to the chain and distribute it a bit by turning the cranks and changing the sprockets.

Disadvantages of oil

  • Holds more dust or mud: Due to its higher density and viscosity, dust and mud adhere more easily to the chain. Dirty roads and paths cause the chain to rotate with greater friction, causing the chain, chainrings, and sprockets to wear out quicker.
  • It makes the chain dirtier: the oil, especially if it is dense for wet chains, can retain and accumulate a large amount of dirt (dust, mud, etc.), so it is necessary to clean it carefully the chain, pinion, chainrings, and pulleys with water (or using a degreaser) so that the mixture of oil and dust does not remain impregnated and does not solidify between the teeth.
  • The effectiveness depends on the state of the chain. Special oils have appeared in recent years with wet and dry properties. Still, in general, it’s better to get the most suitable oil depending on the terrain and how you usually ride.

Conclusions: What is The Ideal Lubricant for My Chain?

Your choice will depend on how often you ride your bike and what condition your chain is in most of the time, whether dry or wet. If you frequently ride on dry terrain, it is better to lubricate the chain with a wax-based lubricant, which is more effective in these conditions. However, its duration is a little shorter.

On the other hand, if you ride on wet ground or your region is subject to frequent rain, we advise you to opt for oil. This option is also recommended if you ride or occasionally train, as the oil stays on the surface of the chain longer.

Finally, depending on your cycling type, a wax-based lubricant may be more suitable if you ride mountain bikes, as it repels mud and dusts better. Its limited durability is suitable for the shorter duration of the courses. However, due to its longer-lasting protection, oil might be better suited to road cycling. In addition, the amount of dust or mud it is exposed to is much less on the road than on dirt roads.


Marcelline is a writer and covers several categories thanks to her multidisciplinary expertise.

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