Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Friction Facts' High Efficiency Chain Lubricant Formula
I first wrote about Jason Smith's Friction Facts last year and since then it seems he's been keeping busy. Jason's work was even featured as a integral part of Velo Magazine's recent study of chain lubes - and seems to have caused many to question the meaning of life; much less their choice of chain lubricant.

I must admit to a little soul searching my self as my long-time favorite: ProLink was found to be among the higher-friction choices. Granted - we're talking about a very small amount of wattage here - probably the same amount my average output fluctuates given my varying fitness levels these days.

So, in spite of these revelations - or perhaps because of them - Friction Facts has released the recipe for the low friction chain treatment. I choose the word treatment because it really is a process and not as simple as just slapping on a new chain and using a different bottle of lubricant than before. So; for those still inclined to search for marginal gains - here you go:

A brief 'run in' period is necessary first to smooth out manufacturing burrs and imperfections, The chain is stripped completely clean using an ultrasonic tank and lacquer thinner and then rinsed in a second bath of denatured alcohol. This should result in a chain that's wholly devoid of any lubricant or factory anti-corrosion treatments. 
The recipe for the UltraFast lube is simple: 
  • 1lb of household paraffin wax 
  • 5g of pure PTFE (Teflon) powder 
  • 1g of pure molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). 
Heat the wax until melted at approximately 180°F, add the powders, and blend the ingredients thoroughly with an agitator (Smith uses a common battery powered milk frother). 
Pour the paraffin mixture into an ultrasonic tank, and add the cleaned chain – which should also be preheated to 225°F. Agitate in the ultrasonic tank for 10 minutes each side (20 minutes total), remove the chain and hang vertically to cool. Then 'run in' the chain once again using your bike on an indoor trainer or rollers. 
Smith suggests physical agitation of the chain in a sealed container as a substitute for a proper ultrasonic tank if you do not already have one at your disposal or wish to procure one.  
His estimate is that consumers should be able to get within a single watt of his decidedly more rigorous process, thus saving around a couple of watts of wasted power compared to a new chain that isn't properly lubricated – or even more for a chain that's dirty or lubed with lesser products on the market.

And there you have it: the formula that according to testing produces the lowest friction chain.

What is interesting to me is that the process is a little more rigorous but not too dissimilar to the paraffin wax treatment we used to give chains in the '90's (which I admittedly did once and then abandoned because I'm just not that OCD).

Given that I have an ultrasonic tank I might be inclined to give it a try once; just to see if I notice a difference, so keep an eye out here for the test if I do. But; lets be honest, I'm a father of three boys who rarely gets the time to ride as much as he'd like between writing; fitting and working on clients' bikes, and being a dad - which is to say: don't hold your breath.

My final thought: as I have covered here before - I think most of us make enough mis-steps in the care and lubrication of our drivetrain that we are likely to experience bigger gains from proper maintenance of our bicycles. The silver-bullet solution is nice, but can we get 80-90% of the way there by simply improving our own habits? Probably.

So; what are your thoughts? Do you plan to give this method a try or have you already? Or do you plan to change something else about your bike care routine due to Jason's findings? Let us know in the comments section.

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