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by Dave Rome
June 26, 2020
Coming hot off the heels of Silca’s new Super Secret chain lube that claimed to be a hot melt wax in a drip-on bottle, the Indianapolis-based company has launched its own hot melt wax. And of course, it comes with a point of difference.
Exactly as the name suggests, hot melt wax involves taking a solid wax, melting it into a liquid and then submerging a clean chain within that. Once dry, the outcome is a chain that offers a solid-state lubricant in the deepest crevices where it’s needed most. Being incredibly slippery, the wax is highly efficient against load and doesn’t carry the viscous drag of wet lubes. And being dry to touch, it doesn’t collect contaminants, while the solid nature creates a barrier to prevent grit from interring the chain.
Josh Poertner, the owner of Silca and a figurehead in the marginal gains movement, has long been a strong proponent of race-treating chains in a hot melt wax bath. It’s something he’s repeatedly mentioned as the protocol for the countless hour records, time trials, and other key races he’s been contracted for as technical advisor. And while Poertner made some bold claims for the effectiveness of his new drip lube, he did so while saying it was “98% as good as a melt-on wax”.
And Poertner isn’t the only strong proponent of dipping a sterile chain in a bath of molten wax. Jason Smith, formerly of the independent Friction Facts test lab and now the Chief Technology Officer of CeramicSpeed, has said immersive waxing is the pinnacle of chain lubrication for absolute efficiency, and more recently Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling has proven that it’s the pinnacle for drivetrain durability, too.
It’s been slim pickings for do-it-yourself chain wax products. American-based Molten Speed Wax has almost solely owned the market for a number of years.
Despite being so widely acclaimed, hot melt wax products have long remained a niche option that appeals only to those comfortable taking a chain on and off a bike. Requiring a chain completely free of grease and oil, it’s a product that many consider tedious, time-consuming and requiring special equipment (although I’d argue it’s much easier and quicker than many think).
And arguably it’s that niche appeal that’s stopped major brands from entering the space to date. Up until Silca’s announcement overnight, the most widely available melt wax option was Molten Speed Wax, a product that’s loosely based on Friction Facts’ original wax recipe and one that remains tough to find in Europe.
I won’t get too far into the weeds on the topic of chain wax because, no joke, I’m currently 5,000 words into an ‘Endless FAQ’ on the topic. Instead, here are the basics of what to know about Silca’s latest product.
It’s normally recommended that you melt chain wax in a slow cooker, however Silca’s new product aims to make the process a little more accessible and self-contained. Silca’s answer is to use a heat-resistant, food-grade re-useable plastic bag that can be heated in a pot of water. A sous vide chain anyone?
No, it’s not organic muesli.
The bag contains 500 grams of Silca’s “Super Secret” wax blend, which is effectively food grade paraffin mixed with a handful of special friction modifiers, such as tungsten disulfide. That blend is said to be the same as Silca’s previously released drip-on wax, albeit without the emulsifiers to keep it in a liquid state.
According to Silca, the matching ingredients between its wax-based drip lube and this new melt wax means the two perfectly pair together, and the drip-on version is the ideal top-up lube to extend the longevity of your chain between wax baths. And while the likes of CeramicSpeed suggest its UFO Drip is the perfect top-up to its UFO-treated chains, Silca is arguably the first company to offer both an aftermarket melt-on wax and suitable drip-on lube.
Silca’s Super Secret drip lube only recently hit the market. The two products can be used separately, or together.
Using the new melt on wax still requires that you begin with a perfectly clean chain, a process that’s outlined in our complete guide to chain cleaning. And while the reusable plastic bag aims to make the process more accessible, Silca’s wax product can absolutely be used in a dedicated slow cooker.
For absolute efficiency, Poertner suggests placing the provided bag and its contents into a heated ultrasonic cleaner, something that will help get the wax into even the tightest crevices of the chain. However, Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling was quick to point out that swishing the chain in the melted wax, something that may be difficult to do within a bag, is likely even more critical as it ensures all the friction modifiers are distributed amongst the paraffin.
Coming with claims of best-in-class efficiency and that reuseable bag, Silca’s melt-on wax is priced at US$40 a bag, twice what Molten Speed Wax is charging for its product.
Alright, time to get back to that Endless FAQ on the topic. In the meantime, you can see more about this new hot melt at Silca.cc.