Formulating Bike Lube Systematically

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Formulating Bike Lube Systematically
Photo: gielmichal/stock.adobe.com Bicycle gears and rear derailleur

A British supplier of bicycle cleaning products devised a process to determine the performance characteristics of chain lubes, which can be the difference between winning and losing in the fiercely competitive cycling world, according to one cycle racer.

Muc-Off’s in-house research and development team partnered with the United Kingdom’s National Measurement Laboratory to find out what combination and quantities of chemical components made for the optimum formulations. The NML was able to delve deeper into finding out specifically what combination and quantities of chemical components made for the quickest and most durable lubrications using bespoke tests based on mass spectrometry, gas chromatography and direct analysis. Meanwhile, the company collaborated with the National Physical Laboratory’s tribologists to measure the effects of various formulations on friction between the chain’s pins and side plates.

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The complexity of modern gear systems on bicycles mean the chain is an ever more essential part of the drivetrain.

“Too light a chain oil can be rendered ineffective by weather conditions,” Steve Gordon, a former competitive cyclist, told Lube Report. “Too heavy an oil can impact performance. If the chain isn’t properly oiled, the gears will be unreliable.

“Missing a gear change on a climb can cost valuable seconds to the racing cyclist; therefore, having the right lubricant is vital,” Gordon said.         

The research’s primary objective was to create a fast, highly reproducible novel measurement and analysis process to determine and score lubricant performance and durability. It also aimed to assess the environmental impact of lubrication formulations, Muc-Off said in a press release. 

“This research project gave us a better, more transparent understanding of performance, faster product development with fewer iterations which will ultimately lead to more targeted performance gains for the end consumer,” the company added.

The development of chain lube can be time consuming with much of the additive technology borrowed from other applications, Muc-off explained. Blending a chain oil is often based on the blender’s experience rather than taking a formal tribological approach.

The National Measurement Laboratory and the National Physical Laboratory are the U.K.’s official measurement and metrology standardization agencies and maintain the country’s measurement infrastructure.

Photo: gielmichal/stock.adobe.com

Bicycle gears and a rear derailleur. British cycle cleaning product company Muc-Off devised a process to determine the performance characteristics of chain lubes.