Will swapping your chain lube make you faster?

Chain lube is coming of age - we explore some of the newest creations

This week AbsoluteBlack released a chain lubricant which it claims will unlock dramatic power savings – and it’s not the only brand to be touting the benefits of swapping this everyday consumable to a more premium option with the promise if performance gains.

Long gone are the days when riders had a simple toss up of either a wet or dry lube, or just slathering on any old 3-in-1. Now you can choose from an almost unfathomable variety of chain lubes including some pretty hi-tech versions that supposedly offer the ability to tap into lost watts.

>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<

Most known for producing impressively machined chainrings, AbsoluteBlack has brought to market GRAPHENlube, what it calls the ‘world’s fastest and longest lasting’ lube.

As the name would suggest, this hydrocarbon-based lube (that’s wax-based to you and I) is infused with graphene.

AbsoluteBlack is claiming that a single application will not only save between three and ten watts of power over any other chain lube but will also stay on the chain and be effective for up to 1800 kilometres of riding. These are big claims but AbsoluteBlack has the independently tested data to back it up.

In the double blind test, chains were prepared by Zero Friction Cycling, then numbered and sent to an external company which conducted friction tests at 250 watts and a 100 rpm cadence. Each chain had a 50km ‘break in period’ and heat and humidity were kept consistent.

You can see the data and comparison brands on the AbsoluteBlack website.

Power Loss vs distance travelled among different lubricants. Results from an independent, single lube application, double blind test where the test chains were appropriately prepared by Zero Friction Cycling* then numbered and sent directly to Wheel Energy company to conduct a friction test at 250W resistance, 100rpm cadence, 40km/h speed, 25deg C and 25% humidity. The test continued until chain reached 10W losses. Chains and testing machine had around 50km warmup/break-in period. (* “Muc-off Nano” was a factory NTC chain)

The results certainly impressed pro teams – and GRAPHENlube is now the official lube of UAE Team Emirates and supplier to Lotto Soudal.

Graphene carries many advantageous properties – an extremely low friction coefficient in all environments, more stronger than any known material and it can cling tenaciously to metal, protecting friction surfaces from excessive abrasion. In addition it repels water and is impermeable to air, reducing the likelihood of oxidation occurring on a metal surface.

Vittoria use it in its top-level tyre ranges and ill-fated British company Dassi produced a carbon frame impregnated with graphene. But the simple reason graphene isn’t widely used is the cost; graphene is prohibitively expensive.

A 140ml bottle of GRAPHENlube comes in at £114.99, which is certainly an investment. However, it’s an awful lot less than the cost of a new, aero optimised frame boasting a similar saving – but it won’t look quite so pretty parked up outside the coffee stop.

The competition

AbsoluteBlack is not the only brand putting a big focus on chain lube.

Muc-Off, itself a producer of hi-tech lubes and nano-treated chains, has revealed that it has partnered up with two of the UK’s leading research laboratories: the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) to undertake a detailed research project into bicycle lubrication.

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.

It is hoped that the testing protocols and data gathered through the research will enable Muc-Off (and hopefully other lubricant producers) to test and improve its existing lubes. The results and findings are due to be released later this year.

In the mean time, here’s what’s currently available…

Muc-Off Hydrodynamic

Price: £17.99

Contact: Muc-Off

The Hydrodynamic Chain Lube is the first to be created by the Muc-Off research team in collaboration with Team Sky (Ineos). Created from a blend of esters coupled with aerospace quality based oil lubrication and extreme pressure additives. Creating a high strength film forming lubricant which prevents metal to metal contact to ensure peak performance, even under the most extreme workloads.

Silca Secret Lube

Price: from $44, UK price TBC

Contact: www.saddleback.co.uk

Developed in secret to aid Victor Campanaert’s latest hour attempt, Silca’s new lubricant is claimed to be have the lowest coefficient of drag outside of a full hot wax treatment yet far easier to use. This slipperiness is down to the use of dissolvable wax particles mixed with nano-scale Tungsten DiSulfide, a technology first used in Indy Car racing. You’ll need to really clean your chain before you can use it properly but it should be worth it.

CeramicSpeed UFO Drip

Price: €70 (£61.95)

Contact: CeramicSpeed

According to CeramicSpeed the UFO Drip lubricant is the world’s fastest product for chains. It is applied like any chain lube and dries to form a hard surface. It is claimed to have 20% lower friction than the second fastest bottled lubricant in initial pre-ride friction, 83% lower than the second fastest bottled lubricant in post-ride friction and a 36% decreased drivetrain wear vs wet lubes. Each application should last a minimum of 200 kilometres.