There are so many lube products for bicycle chains, including wet lubes, dry lubes, drip-on waxes, and hot melt waxes, that navigating the market can be confusing. Things are further complicated by the incredible number of marketing claims that accompany products. It usually suggests that the product will be more efficient or save X number of watts.
And these claims are important because lubricants play a critical role not only in drivetrain performance, but also in extending its lifespan. Using the wrong product can not only reduce efficiency but also cause components to wear out faster.
So can you trust all the marketing claims? And how do you know which chain lube is right for you? We at Zero Friction Cycling, a company that specializes in lubricant testing. We spoke to Adam Kerin to find out more.
What inspired your work at Zero Friction Cycling?
Chains, even more than bearings, are extremely hard-working mechanical parts. Since chains operate completely exposed to contamination, lubricant performance has a significant impact on both friction losses, but more importantly on most drivetrains, wear rates and running costs.
For a variety of reasons, there are no industry standardized tests for lubricant performance in this area. As a result, claims about a product's performance are often just what the manufacturer wants them to say and have no basis in reality at all.
I thought Jason Smith's pioneering work with Friction Facts was great, but I wanted to take it further. We track lubricant performance over thousands of kilometers in real bicycle drivetrains, not just its sheer efficiency in a short test in a clean lab, and we track lubricant performance, including initial penetration issues and dry dust contamination performance. We wanted to evaluate performance more broadly. , performance in wet conditions, ability to remove stains, and long life with a single application.
I simply believe that the performance properties of lubricants used in bicycle chains should be evaluated, and that such testing should hold the performance claims and reality of lubricants for whatever reason, their products and manufacturers. I felt very passionately that there should be an independent body that could shine a light on this. They've done a good job of promoting their product, but concerns have been raised about companies offering some version of liquid sandpaper despite selling the biggie.
I had no doubt that if I could evaluate the above performance of lubricants, this knowledge would be of great value to cyclists. It's important to everyone, not just racers, how much cycling-friendly products can save you on wear and running costs.
I never thought the above would happen so soon, but I just happened to be in the perfect place to try to make it happen. After my little son was born, I was on maternity leave and taking a break in my career, and my super wife is a doctor, so I was in the fortunate position of not needing extra income. Zero Friction Cycling's business model has low start-up costs and financial risks, and the main risk of this business has always been the investment risk of time and effort.
But I love tinkering, and after Friction Facts is acquired by CeramicSpeed, other efficiency loss test labs will no doubt come to the fore, but for me going forward, that alone won't be enough. I was sure it wasn't. .
Complete efficiency testing can be very limited. Complete efficiency testing is currently a highly challenging area, as test numbers vary considerably from facility to facility. Again, this test does not show what happens to the lubricant's performance when exposed to dust or wet dirt, but this is very important.
So if you really want something, you may have to make it happen.
How long has zero-friction cycling been around?
I started in 2016, so I've just turned 8 years old. Believe it or not, time really does fly by.
Also, it was a very slow start. It started with installing an industrial motor on the Tacx Neo [turbo trainer] We then tested different test protocols to arrive at what we felt was a pretty perfect protocol, and then did a ton of testing to check its variance and reproducibility.
Once the testing protocols were finally dialed in, I very slowly began building a league table and finding the first top products to stock and sell. That was his original MSPEEDWAX.
By the end of the first year, I had created four lubricant leaderboards and a fairly small online store. In 2016, there were a total of 22 transactions consisting of MSPEEDWAX sales and pre-prepared chains using MSW (Molten Speed Wax). Over the last few years, we've been selling a similar number of waxes to chains, almost 2000 to 3000 a year, so now the retail side actually covers the cost of the testing side.
What type of cyclist is Zero Friction Cycling suitable for?
Any cyclist who wants to keep their bike running great and extend the life of their drivetrain components. Also, of course, for racers looking to easily save on wattage.
As well as checking league tables to find the right good lubricant options, zero friction cycling includes everything from initial chain preparation, to chain maintenance for your lubricant and riding type, to waxing. Life guide, ultrasound guide and more.
Do you think consumers can be misled or fooled by some marketing terminology, or do you think it's a case of very carefully presented information?
There's a very broad spectrum. Indeed, in my opinion, marketing can be very misleading at best, and even more likely is completely dishonest on purpose.
But most commonly, even if you write to the manufacturer and ask them to back up their claims, the same claims are being made with zero support and zero chance.
Marketing in this area is quite tricky. There are literally thousands of bicycle chain lubes out there competing to buy the bottle next to you. So if a manufacturer makes a claim X and doesn't have to do anything to prove that claim is true, manufacturer Y will likely follow suit. Why wouldn't that be the case until basically everyone claims all sorts of great things?
Unlike most product categories, there is no way for such parties to test their products against standard tests and evaluate them against claims, so it is highly unlikely that they will be subject to false advertising again. If it claims to clean while lubricating, how can regulators say otherwise?
For example, unlike a television that claims to only use 200 watts of power or a washing machine that claims to use X amount of water on a standard cycle, these things can be easily tested on consumer product review sites and have obvious If an issue is presented, the product and manufacturing will be reported and may be flagged as false or misleading advertising.
Just do your best in this area. This is in contrast to a manufacturer who simply buys industrial lubricant Another effect is that it causes significant damage to the manufacturers who introduced it. We know what a lubricant is that was originally developed 20 years ago, it's been rebottled, branded, boomed, and others have invested a lot of money to create a product that's great for a lot of people. You can market a product that claims the same performance as the manufacturer. The specific purpose of lubrication of a bicycle chain is actually a fairly extreme lubrication challenge.
Therefore, it is not only very difficult for a consumer to try to understand all the competing products and claims, but in fact for most people the choice will be a lottery, but it is not worth the time, money and effort. This will be a huge blow to manufacturers who have been affected by this. Try to gain market traction and return on that investment when you don't have the marketing advantage over a product that actually performs better.
Even though we literally have no idea what a bike chain's performance is and competitors can claim the same, in this use case it's literally just a lubricant with unknown performance. The entire nature of the West is in a very difficult situation for everyone. While many objectively inferior products have a very strong presence in the market, some newer, better products and brands can struggle to gain traction.
Zero Friction Cycling has done a lot of private testing, especially in the last few years, as well as open league tables. This provides very robust, brand-independent test results to back up performance claims.
Some manufacturers use this frequently as part of their development process. So we test X number of bases, then test the best base with X number of additives, and then finalize the product before it goes into production.
If you're not racing, why should you care about chains and lube?
Mainly for cost reasons, but also because life is too short to ride a shitty bike.
Again, the chain only does so much mechanical work and is completely exposed to the elements. If the lubricant quickly turns into a liquid abrasive, the lifespan of chains, cassettes, and chainrings can actually be considerably reduced, while the lifespan of most well-known products can literally be many times longer. there is. It is not unreasonable that the time between the best and worst test results can be 10 times longer.
Components aren't getting cheaper, so the impact on running costs can be significant, especially for higher-tier parts. And it's better to spend your hard-earned discretionary money on something more fun, like that new kit you've been craving, that upgraded winter jacket, those cool new kicks and glasses, or maybe some coaching and a proper bike fitting. It's much more fun. Simply burning it out when you replace the chain and cassette can sometimes get it to ring again, but that can cost hundreds of dollars and now you don't have it for something more fun.
It's good to remember that it's usually very easy to save 3 or 5 watts for a good lubricant versus a not-so-great lubricant. That's 3 to 5 watts of energy per pedal stroke to propel your foot further, whereas in the past it literally wore out components faster.
The right lubricant and the best proven lubricant is one of the best win-win situations in cycling.
Watch the full interview in the video at the top of this page. For more technology news, features, interviews and pro bikes, visit GCN Website, linked here.