Bike Chains, Part 4

Table of Contents


Endless Article

This is Part 4 of a series of 9 posts organized as a single work,
collectively “endless”. There are 8 parts, individually published as
posts on this blog, and a table of contents of the series in the 9th post. The series is organized into sections, numbered for reference, in the series table of contents and in the toc for each post. In March and April 2024 I reorganized and revised the long article extensively. This post has been most recently updated April 21, 2024.


This part:

  • begins with a discussion of the suitability, availability and price of motor oil,
  • proceeds to a discussion of common or popular brands of bicycle “drip lube” lubricants, and notes on pricing
  • proceeds to:
    • a section on people and projects,
    • sections on projects to test chains and lubricants, and
  • sections on some innovations in lubricants.

Some sections refer to subjects and persons discussed in Part 2 in this series, on Roller Chain, and Part 6 on durability.

7. Prices

Motor Oil

Motor oil, the lubricating oil refined/processed/distilled and sold for use in 4 stroke internal combustion engines, was sold in quart containers for most of the 20th century. For decades the containers were cardboard cylinders with metal end caps. Automotive service centers, once known as garages, issued workers spouts that could both puncture a metal end cap, and pour oil into the filler tube of automobile engine. By the end of 1990s motor oil was sold in plastic bottles by the quart or gallon. Motor oil was not and is not sold in 4 ounce (or 2 ounce) squeeze bottles. Most motor oil is formulated with “detergent” additives to chemically affect the productions of combustion left in the cylinders of internal combustion engines.

A few motor oils made for use in automobiless have been tested for efficiency (power lost to friction; see below), and have done reasonably well. Motor oil has tradeoffs:

  1. Viscous friction – it takes slightly energy to move a chain lubicated with a viscous oil than a “thinner” oil
  2. Additives – modern additives have changed the lubrication properties of motor oil. There are
  3. Adhesion – dirt sticks to motor oil, and oil sticks to clothing and skin when the rider contacts the chain or the chain flings lube. Motor oil can only be removed from a chain with detergents or mineral spirits. Cleaning an oily chain can involve removing the chain from the bike frame.

The disadvantage of the additives in motor oil can be avoided by purchasing additive-free oils if available; some bike lube manufacturers use high quality motor oil as a base stock for bike lube. For instance Silca Velo uses a synthetic motor oil, apparently without “detergent”. Other disadvantages of purchasing from the automotive section of the market:

  • having to buy a whole quart (or litre, if that is the standard container), and store it for years,
  • disposing of waste material in an environmentally sound and legal way.

A quart (946 ml.) of high quality Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil cost about $15 (Canadian) at Canadian Tire and other retail outlets in British Columbia in February 2022. Half a cup, valued at about 50 cents per ounce, would be worth $2. Canadian Tire sells other automotive motor oils in 5 liter (one gallon) sizes. It sells its Canadian Tire house brand MotoMaster (distilled by Shell) non detergent engine oil in a 1 quart size for about $6. It sells MotoMaster motorcycle 4 stroke engine oil at $11 per quart. Conversions:

US sizeUS conversionMetric conversion
1 gallon4 quarts3.79 l./3735 ml.
1 quart4 cups/32 oz..946 l./946 ml.
1 cup8 oz.236.6 ml.
1/2 cup4 oz.118.3 ml
1/4 cup2 oz.59.1 ml
1 fluid ounce2 tablespoons29.6 ml.

Gear oils, paraffin

I have not checked the availability and price of the gear oils which some cyclists and mechanics regard as suitable for lubricating bike chains. Paraffin prices (and some science and history) are discussed in Part 7 in this series.

Drip lube – Availability & Price

Lubricant manufacturers and bike shops began to sell bicycle chain lubrication fluids, many labeled “wet” or “dry”, in small bottles in the 1970s and 80s. The online magazine Road Bike Rider made a list of manufacturers or brands in 2019, updated in 2021. It includes:

  • Dupont brand, now held by the successor of Dupont DeMours and Dow, both well known old chemical manufacturersi,
  • the automotive lubricant brand Dumonde Tech,
  • the solvent and household lubricant brand WD-40 (which owns the venerable brand and intellectual propery (“IP”) of 3-in-One), and
  • several brands of bike chain lube sold in bicycle shops and online including:
    • Ceramic Speed,
    • Finish Line,
    • MSpeedwax (Molten Speed Wax),
    • Muc-Off,
    • Park Tool,
    • Pro-Gold,
    • Pedros,
    • Rock and Roll,
    • Squirt, and
    • Tri-Flow.

The list omits some manufacturers, mainly those new to lubricant market since 2019, inclusing Silca Velo, Tru-Tension, Rex.

None of the independent bike shops in Victoria post lube prices online (as of early 2022). Chain stores present in Victoria BC with web sites include:

  • Trek store;
  • Mountain Equipment Coop (a Canadian retail chain selling “outdoor” products);
  • Canadian Tire (a Canadian retail chain selling “outdoor” products);
  • Walmart (retail chain selling “outdoor” products) has a confusing and overheated online market.

None of the lubes listed here have done well in efficiency testing or Zero Friction testing for chain durability. Some have tested as bad by Zero Friction. Zero Friction reported bad results for Muc-Off products and White Lightning. Finish Line Dry with Teflon, a favourite with online reviewers, was assessed by Zero Friction in 2023 as “not terrible”. Zero Friction found that Silca Velo’s Synergetic, a wet oil-based lube, was reasonably good when applied while the chain was run under low contamination conditions, and under moderate contamination for a reasonable time.

Prices in 2022 ($ Canadian except $US in US stores noted) for a 118 or 120 ml. (4 oz.) bottle of common bike lubes. I have not updated prices after inflation in the period 2022-24:

Trek StoreMECCdn. Tire
ProGold Prolink14.95
ProGold Extreme18.95
Wet or Dry
Muc-Off C3 Ceramic
Wet or Dry
Squirt Long Lasting Dry19.95
Squirt Low Temperature23.95
(Trek store house brand)
9.50 (US)
Park Tool CL-113.99
White Lightning Clean Ride
8.99 (US)
White Lightning Wet Ride8.99 (US)
White Lightning Epic Ride9.99 (US)
Finish Line, Wet or Dry9.99 (US)
WD-40 Bike Chain Lubricant
Wet or Dry
12.99 (US)9.99

Silca Velo’s oil based wet lubes: Synergetic and Synerg-e (e-bike lube) are available from Silca by mail order. The price of Synergetic, as of April 2022, was $33.95 ($US) for a 59 ml. (2 oz.) drip bottle. Shipping is free on orders over $99 ($US). Synergetic is available in some bike shops in Victoria – e.g. Fort Street – I have not checked prices.

Drip lubes are more expensive than motor oil. Drip lube prices do not seems to be based on the cost of base stocks. The cost of making, filling and handling dozens of bottles for each quart of product may be a factor. Prices are set by manufacturers and vendors based on supply and demand, and the perceived marginal utility of the product. Cycling lube is often a small product line for chemical processing enterprises or conglomerate enterprises, although a profitable revenue stream.

Drip Lube – Manufacturing

The cycling lubricant field is influenced by the engineering and manufacturing practices of the automotive lubricant industry; lubes are made with base fuids, carrier fluids and additives. Manufacturers acquire fluids distilled from petroleum – solvents or oils (respectively, mineral spirits or mineral oils), mix them with additives, package the product in small plastic drip/squeeze bottles or aerosol or spray vessels, sell to bike shops and department stores, and market. The bottles do not have:

  • detailed ingredient lists,
  • use instructions, or
  • warnings about the product’s durability.

Dry-drip lubes made of volatile carrier fluids are popular. A selling point of dry-drip lubes is avoiding entanglment of clothing in or contact with the dirty, oily chain, and avoiding the fling or spray of oil droplets from the chain without using devices (e.g. pant clips) to restrain clothing, metal or plastic chain covers or chain guards.

Pedro’s Ice Wax, marketed as an “advanced natural dry lube” is a drip lubricant. Pedro’s describes its history as a lubricant maker:

In 1989, roommates Bruce Fina and Andrew Herrick founded the Pedro’s brand around a revolutionary chain lube called Syn Lube developed by Bruce’s tribologist brother. Friends of Bruce and Andrew were living and racing mountain bikes in the Pacific Northwest and couldn’t find a lube that would last an entire race in the muddy conditions. The other Teflon-based chain lubes couldn’t handle the mud. Formulated with extreme pressure additives, corrosion inhibitors, and tackifiers to provide incredible wear protection, lubrication, and staying power in extreme wet and muddy conditions, Syn Lube quickly became the lube of choice. Once mountain bikers tried Syn Lube and experienced its performance, word spread, demand skyrocketed, and the Pedro’s brand was officially off to the races!

About Pedro’s (North America)

There were and are other drip wax lubes. The old “dry” drip waxes differ from wax based or related “chain protection” fluids

The wax in “wax” dry drip lubes is probably paraffin. The formulas are not declared on the bottle or package. The original formulation of Pedro’s Ice Wax, as tested by Friction Facts in 2013 (below) was relatively inefficient. Pedro’s introduced Ice Wax 2.0 and “Slack Lube” later. There are several other dry drip wax lubes.

Teflon – Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – has been an enduring favourite additive in dry-drip lubes. PTFE is a fluorocarbon. Rock ‘n Roll and some other dry-drip lubes with Teflon did well in Friction Facts efficiency tests (below). Finish Line USA markets itself as a firm specializing in cycling, and markets its Finish Line dry lube for coating chain parts with Teflon. Teflon is a Dupont brand and trademark, and the common name for PTFE. Finish Line USA is the manufacturer of the Dupont brand of bike lube. Finish Line USA states in its marketing that it was founded by an engineer who had worked for Mobil, the automotive lubricant distiller/manufacturer.

Some lubricant manufacturers, in the 21st century, disparage competitors for using fluorocarbons, which are greenhouse gases.

Other additives used and promoted by manufacturers:

  • “ceramic”additives;
  • carbon tubes or particles or nano additives.

The article Bicycle Chain Lubricants Explained at the BikeGremlin site canvasses most of the additives in use in products in 2021.

Bicycle lube manufacturers often claim that drip lubes clean while lubricating. These claims are never supported by evidence or test results. Few manufacturers even venture to explain how a lubricant can contain or coexist with detergents and solvents. Riders can hear an unlubed chain, a dry chain, or a corroded chain and may notice dirt sticking to a chain or caking on the chainwheels, cassette cogs or derailleur pulleys. Riders may apply large amount of lube to “flush” out dirt. Lube can work on a chain that has dried out after being wetted with water. The chain flings off water and dries, and can then be lubed. Fresh lube may help to dissolve surface corrosion on a lightly oxidized chain. Flushing out dirt contamination “in” the chain with lube is a theoretical possibility but has not demonstrated.

Lube manufacturers claim that their products are superior. Some ignore efficiency reports. A few make explicit efficiency claims based on proprietary/confidential test reports. Such behaviour by established brands tends to conceal or discredit claims that innovators have created superior lubricants.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, as was said by working people about bars that offer a free lunch to patrons who buy alcohol (as remembered by the Speculative Fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, and cyclists who read mid-20th century SF). Consumers know, as matter of principle, we can not rely on and should not trust marketing claims. The law in most of the industrialized world – and particularly in the UK and USA makes it hard for consumers to hold manufacturers liable for misleading claims of quality. The leading legal principle is caveat emptor (buyer beware). Courts traditionally brush marketing claims off as puffery.

While consumers think they can detect bullshit, most are overconfident about their capability. Consumers rely on indicators of quality – e.g. brand, packaging, price? Often consumers buy because they need something, and will accept whatever they can find.

8. People and Projects

This Section

This section provides some details of some of the sources that have been mentioned in this series, and who are mentioned in this post and other posts in this series. The sources may have Wikipedia entries or be referred to in Wikipedia page references. They may be mentioned on some or many pages on the Web, but the projects, results and work will not be connected or apparent in a simple search.

The projects have academic and business aspects.

People challenges the consensus narratives of the the engineering profession, the lubrication industries and bicycle component manufacturing and sales industries by

  • testing bicycle chains and lubricants;
  • publishing the results of testing in journals, magazines, web pages and social media, and
  • developing, producing and marketing durable chains and lubricants that provable reduced chain wear.

The effects of the projects and the publications were an increased in knowledge and awareness and some changes in the bicycle markets.

BTI Site and Writers

The Bicycle Technical Information pages written and published by Sheldon Brown were noted in Part 1 in this series. The pages on that site were written by Sheldon Brown and other authors including John S. Allen. I have cited papers by the late Jobst Brandt on lubrication and cleaning. Brandt is the author of published books including a book on bicycle wheels, and was involved in many ventures including the Avocet cycling computer, one of the first cycling computers.

The persons listed here had a combinations of curiosity and economic interests or hopes. Their inventives, plans and goals would have have economic factors. I mention the economic factors to understanding how manufactured items operate, and which ones were sold and distributed.

Journalists, Cycling Publications

VeloNews was a printed magazine about cycling, and at of 2024 is an online publication. It covered technical issues seriously at one time. In 2018 it was folded into the Outside magazine brand which treats sports as a consumer lifestyle choice. (Caley Fretz, once a technical writer and editor at VeloNews later became editor in chief at CyclingTips, and later at Escape Collective).

CyclingTips was an online cycling publication that was folded into the Outside magazine brand in 2022 and effectively closed by the new owners of the company.

Jason Smith, Friction Facts

Jason Smith, an engineer in Boulder, Colorado, USA started and ran a business called Friction Facts (“FF”) in the period from 2012 to 2015. I have not read articles that explain his business model for FF. He followed up on the idea of testing the efficiency of bicycle chain lubricated with various products, and became an expert of testing methods and drive train friction.

He disposed of the FF business in 2016, and became an employee of or consultant to the Danish firm Ceramic Speed, which manufactures and sells bicycle bearings, bicycle drive train products, the UFO brand of bicycle lubricants and several automotive products.

The lubrication and cycling accessory firm Ceramic Speed has developed lubricants, cleaning products, and other products. While Jason Smith was running FF, some of the test results were published. The main FF test results can be accessed on a Ceramic Speed web page. Ceramic Speed continued to test lubricants, and components for chain efficiency, but does not publish. It has shared some results, and some results have become available. Note – a seach engine may direct a reader to a site in a domain called Friction Facts. That domain, as of 2022, contained puff reviews of cycling products. It may have been acquired by a cybersquatter.

John Thompson & Molten Speed Wax

John Thompon is a businessman in St. Paul, Minnesota USA. He communicated with Jason Smith while Jason Smith was working on the FF project, and established Molten Speed Wax to manufacture a commerial paraffin “hot wax” that could be applied to bike chain immersed in molten wax. Molten Speed Wax’s story:

The hot wax technique has likely been around since “Mile-A-Minute Murphy’s” era [about 1899?], so why did we wait until 2013 to try it?

Our family’s history racing bicycles dates back to the early 70’s when waxing was somewhat common; we certainly were aware of the technique. To add insult to injury, we’ve sold cross-country ski wax in our winter business for over a decade. We know wax like the back of our hands, including all the eclectic additives and myriad application techniques. You’d think we could put two and two together.It took a clever engineer named Jason Smith to put us on the right path. Jason figured out that a waxed chain rivals the efficiency of a perpetual motion machine. He added a little PTFE (the non-stick coating on your frying pan) and molybdenum disulfide / MoS₂ (dry lube that’s hard to pronounce) to paraffin and published the info for everyone to see. Before we knew it we were “cooking chains” in our basement and experimenting with our own additives and techniques. Now our wax is made in large batches with high tech industrial machines the size of small cars.

Everyone has a Eureka moment in life. For us, it was realizing that we could virtually end chainring tattoos on cyclists’ calves. Seriously, we saw an opportunity to help DIY folks by premixing the ingredients into an easy to use, packaged product. Waxing for top performance is simple if you don’t have to source and mix your own PTFE and MoS₂. We also created in-depth, step-by-step directions with helpful tips so it’s nearly impossible to mess up. If you can make instant pudding, waxing a chain is child’s play. 

Molten Speed Wax (web site), About page (quote taken 2023-10-08)

The history of paraffin as a bicycle chain lubricant suggested may have document in newspapers, magazines, journals, fanzines, letters and correspondence but is not easily located in a internet/web seach program.

Adam Kerin, Zero Friction Cycling

Adam Kerin was a law enforcement officer, and a cyclist interested in road riding, cyclo-cross, mountain bikes and off-road riding. He started Zero Friction Cycling (“ZFC”), a firm in Adelaide, Australia, in 2017/18. It is a shop specializing in maintaining and selling bike chains and lubricants. Adam Kerin developed test devices and methods to run different chains with different lubricants for thousands of kilometers with electric motors in his test machines. In 2021, ZFC launched a YouTube channel which is a tool and platform for Adam Kerin to report on his research and explain his ideas. He also presents his finding in reports and other documents published on the ZFC web pages. His style is discursive.

Adam Kerin was reviewed by the Australian mechanic and cycling tech writer Dave Rome for CyclingTips in March 2018. The interview is still online – the new owners have repackaged the content within other Outside magazine branded cycling content.

ZFC tests chains and lubricants. He makes a serious argument about for the economic advantages of using quality chain and lubricants, and investing time and effort in chain cleaning and maintenance. He has compared the marketing of most wet and dry lubes, to the marketing of “snake oil” in 19th century patent medicines, but has not claimed the marketing is illegal or fraudulent. American law banned false medical claims about drugs in 1906. There is no effective consumer protection law against vague claims about lubricants.

Episode 11 of the Zero Friction Cycling (“ZFC”) YouTube series complains that some lube manufacturers market lubes with claims mainly based in efficiency testing done by those manufacturers or private labs. In some instances manufacturers imply that their product performs better, or that competing products performed poorly in the manufacturers’ tests. ZFC YouTube Episode 12 criticizes most cycling journalists for reporting on lubes based on short observations of whether a bike chain appears to run quietly and shift smoothly.

ZFC has identified the manufacturer of the Muc-Off products – which have not fared well in ZFC tests – as using its own efficiency tests to disparage competitors. ZFC’s post or page Muc-Off Files Part 1 (notes of its discussions with Muc-Off in March 2022) and ZFC YouTube channel Episode 16 and Muc-Off files Part 2 (Cycling Most Dishonest Marketing?), ZFC YouTube channel Episode 20 explainsAdam Kerin’s doubts about Muc-Off’s efficiency claims. Adam Kerin

ZFC sells Molten Speed Wax, but also sells lubricants by Silca Velo and products by other lubricant. chain, component and tool manufacturers and distributors. Adam Kerin was and is an advocate of paraffin lubrication.

Josh Poertner, Silca Velo

Silca Velo, is a retail business in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA led by the engineer and consultant Josh Poertner. Mr. Poertner was an engineer with the component manufacturer Zipp (it made wheels; it was acquired by SRAM and operated as SRAM subsidiary) and has been a consultant to modern road racing pro teams. He set up a Limited Liability Company which acquired the Italian Silca brand in 2013. Silca was known for pumps, tools and components. Silca has improved the pumps and tools under Josh Poertner’s leadership. It fabricates titanium parts – shoe cleats, bottle cages, a computer mounts – and sells cycling clothes.

Josh Poertner is an enthusiastic engineer, and a reasonable credible source of information. Silca sponsors or operates the Marginal Gains Podcast, and operates the Silca Velo YouTube channel. Much of the material is informative about cycling and technology. Jason Smith and Adam Kerin have been guests on the Marginal Gains Podcast. Marginal Gains has done several episodes on chain lubrication (and The Pipeline Problem in June 2021 on the supply chain/logistics backlogs in cycling parts and supplies).

In June 2020, on the Silca Velo YouTube channel, Josh Poertner presented Chain Friction Explained. In April 2024 he presented Stop Wasting Your CHAIN LUBE! Know the BEST Way to Apply It which corrected an earlier video about the use of Silca’s Super Secret (wax compatible chain protection drip lube), and showed how fluid moves into a bushingless chain in a segment about 8 minutes long, starting about 7 minutes after the beginning.

Silca sells several modern, high tech products or improved modern versions of cycling tools and accessories. Silca sells expensive stuff. Silca emphasizes that some of its products faciliate “marginal” gains in performance. It markets the “Mensola” computer mount (produced in a 3D printer with titanium powder) as stronger than aluminum mounts machined with modern CNC machine tools. Aluminum, in some grades and thicknesses, is prone to fracture. Titanium and titanium alloy plates and tubes are lighter than steel and less prone to fracture than steel or aluminum. The 3D printer gives Silca the capability to fabricate with metal powder. Many of Silca’s titanium product are small peripherals – this may be efficient in terms of production cost, and the use of metal. The titanium computer mounts have been mocked in cycling podcasts as penis shaped, and criticized as expensive luxury items.

In broadcast audio and video Josh Poertner agrees that the lubricant category is full of snake oil claims – by other manufacturers. Silca started to sell lubricants, including Silca NFS (which seems to have been Silca branded Nix Frix Shun, which was well regarded by ZFC in 2017-2018), and released some new lubricants and cleaning products 2020-2024

As a guest or host of a technical or industry podcast, Josh Poertner is an honest expert, well informed, engaged and focussed on issues. He presents himself as nerdy, keen, sincere and helpful – a sincere mid-Western business person. He is generally persuasive.

Josh Poertner promotes Silca products and makes a case for the quality and value of those products. His commercial comments make him look and sound like a character like those played by the late Robert Preston in The Music Man and The Last Starfighter, or Ray Stohler (played by Paul Dooley), the father of the cycling-struck teen in the 1979 movie Breaking Away, used car dealer who has a medical event and emerges from a coma indignantly screaming “… refund ??” in response to complaint by a buyer.

9. Efficiency Tests (Friction Facts)

Most chain and lubricant testing was private. It was not mentioned in academic or professional literature frequently before Professor Spicer (Johns Hopkins University) paper in 2001, discussed in the Bike Chains, Part 3, or section 5 of the endless article.

Friction Facts (“FF”), began to test lubricants for efficiency. Friction Facts with test machines, to measure friction losses in a chain moving under load, by the methods of Professor Spicer’s team, with a lower range of error. An overview of FF testing:

  • the chains were new, cleaned with warm mineral spirits in an ultrasonic cleaner for 5 minutes, and dried,
  • lubed by dripping fluid (i.e. drip) lubes,
  • tested on a machine that
    • puts out 250 watts at the chain wheel for a test interval of 5 minutes,
    • measures the power at the chain wheel
    • measures the power at the cog on the drive hub;
  • The loss of power, due to friction in the chain parts, is reported as watts.

For more, at the Ceramic Speed site, follow the link “Why Ceramic Speed” to Test Data Reports/Chain Lube Efficiency Reports.

Efficiency testing did not generate information on which lubricants extended the durability of chains. FF did not test, directly or indirectly, the “factory grease” that chain manufacturers apply to bike chains.

The FF chain testing protocol was addressed a post published by Ceramic Speed called Chain Efficiency Testing. Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling (“ZFC”, below) summarized the Friction Facts methods:

Full Tension Test … has a chain ring, a cog, a weight pulling back cog to tension chain equivalent to 250w “load”. There is a drive motor and a braking motor. A $6k usd torque sensor is mounted on shaft driving chain ring and braking the cog.

This test method is extremely precise if you have the right equipment (ie the quality of the motors, the power supplies, the torque sensors – the calibration protocol that has all components up to temp and stable, and all tests are conducted at same ambient temp and humidity).

… the measure is taken between two extremely precise torque sensors mounted on the shaft driving the chain ring and the cog. The difference between what goes in and what comes out – that’s your loss from the chain. If you are using the same calibrated control chain, then you have the loss figure for your lubricant efficiency.

… Friction Facts found that many lubricants exhibited a sudden and very high jump in loss if kept running for long periods on an FTT machine as both the top and bottom span of chain are under tension (due to tension being by way of a weight pulling cog to introduce tension).

As such for longer test runs (ie to see how lubricant performs over hundreds of kms. Possibly with contamination introduced etc at certain points) the chain – after a short (few mins) efficiency test on FTT machine would be moved to Full Load Test Machine (basically just set up as a bicycle drivetrain to allow slackening time through bottom span of drive train for lubricant to re align and reset).  Long run intervals done on Full load test, then moved back to FTT for periodic outright efficiency measure.

ZFC “Latest News” No. 27

Several FF tests were reported in VeloNews by Caley Fretz in March 2013 and February 2014. The VeloNews articles have pictures of the test machines and many details. VeloNews reported that FF:

  • compared lubricants on viscosity by letting some lube run along an inclined metal surface;
  • commented on “longevity” which meant how quickly lubricant wore off or dried up. FF said that some lubricants wore off fast. The methodology of measurement is not clear.

The VeloNews articles appear to be the only accessible reports of the efficiency tests. The articles and test results can be tracked down:

  • VeloNews – in print; Web copy of the relevant issues were paywalled after VeloNews was acquired by Outside;
  • In versions of the VeloNews articles republished
  • Lubricant manufacturers make claims about efficiency to market their products . Some have interpolated their products into copies of the 2013/14 FF/VeloNews bar graphs.

When Jason Smith moved to Ceramic Speed, Ceramic Speed published the VeloNews articles with additional results for Ceramic Speed’s new wax emulsion drip lube, UFO Drip (original; v1); see also the Ceramic Speed paper with the VeloNew articles in pdf.

The best lubricants in the FF/VeloNews articles are those that show the lowest “watts expended”. A lube that tests as losing 4.5 of 250 watts is 98% efficient. According to some reports, some chains with some lubes lose may lose as little as 3 watts – i.e. are 99% efficient. These reports are anomalous, or reflect some improvements since 2014. FF tested, among others:

immersive waxParaffin (ordinary retail)
petroleum synthetic wax.
≅ 4.8
motor Oil3-in-One≅ 6.3
“household” lubricant3-in-One General Purpose≅ 6.6
bicycle chain dry lube
with Teflon
Rock ‘n Roll Gold ≅5
bicycle chain dry lube
with Teflon
Finish Line Teflon dry≅ 5.8
bicycle chain dry lubePedro’s Ice Lube≥6
bicycle chain wet lubeProGold ProLink≅ 7.2
immersive waxMolten Speed Wax≅ 4.6
wax liquidSquirt
slack wax
paraffin byproduct
≅ 4.7
Cooking (olive) oilDel Papa extra virgin≅ 5.1
bicycle chain wet lubeNFS Nix Frix Shun
? in 2022 NFS Ultimate
(not Silca NFS)
≅ 5.5
motor oilMobil 1 (5W-20 weight)≅ 5.6
lubricant additivezinc dialkyl dithio-
phosphate (“ZDDP”)
≧ 6.4
personal lubricant Vaseline Petoleum Jelly≅ 6.4
bicycle chain dry lubeWD-40≅ 6.4
bicycle chain wet lubeProGold Extreme≧ 6.9
bicycle chain dry lubeWhite Lightning Epic Ride≧ 7.9

Ceramic Speed released some of its later efficiency test results to CyclingTips as above and in 2019:

Ceramic Speed was willing to share some of its recent and typically-secret data about which chains perform best with the UFO V2 race treatment process. The process for applying the secret-formula wax-based submersion lubricant (after a multi-stage cleaning process) is the same across all chain models, and so it provides a clear and precise indication of the most efficient chains.

CyclingTips, 2019, Finding the Best Bicycle Chain

10. Chain Wear testing


ZFC began its program of testing chains and lubricants for wear in 2016. ZFC tested chains and lubricants with an industrial electric motor attached to a stationary bike trainer to measure the wear on chains run under a set of standard conditions:

  • on reference chains that have been cleaned and treated with tested lubricants, or
  • on tested chains lubricated with a reference lubricant product.

Adam Kerin refers to the wear tests as tests for “longevity” or “durability” and discusses

  • what features of a chain resist wear, and
  • which lubricants resist wear.

ZFC produces data on tested lubricants in spreadsheets, reports and comparative charts. ZFC projects the cost of replacing chains into “cost to run” calculations for some chains and a couple dozen lubricants. ZFC identified:

  • lubricants that perform well in reducing chain wear, and
  • some durable chains.

ZFC has published a few dozen narrative reports about lubricant results as of March 2024. ZFC’s work on the effect of lubricants on longevity (wear) was featured in CyclingTips articles:

ZFC does not test efficiency. At one time, as noted in some of its reports on products, it commissioned efficiency tests by a service.

ZFC regards paraffin wax, applied immersively, to be the best lubricant for protecting bike chains from wear. ZFC also regards some liquids, mainly the “chain coating” wax based liquids, to be effective.

The ZFC measurement methods are explained in the CyclingTips article How to Check for Chain Wear and the ZFC Test Brief statement. Adam Kerin starts with a new, clean (factory grease removed with solvents), lubed chain and adds lube at intervals. The chains are all the same. I have not found the name of the reference test chains. He runs the chains in fixed intervals adding up to 5 x 1000 km test blocks, unless the chain fails before reaching the last blocks. The failure point is .5 mm elongation wear over an 8 link span, which is close to the standard .5% chain replacement recommended by chain and drive train component manufacturers and bike shops. The test machines and the way dirt and water are applied to chain are demonstrated in Episode 9 of the ZFC YouTube series.

ZFC measures chain elongation with a KMC digital caliper chain checker device that measures to .01 mm.

Using an industrially motorised Tacx neo smart trainer to control interval load and distance, plus specific intervals that include either no added contamination, dry contamination, and wet contamination – lubricants can be properly assessed over thousands of km’s of controlled testing. Not only can we determine a lubricant’s overall performance – but we can get a break down as tohow a lubricant handles different types of conditions, as well as how it stacks up vs the manufacturers claims.

Flat vs Hill Simulations – The chains will be run on a calibrated smart trainer (Tacx Flux) at alternating intervals to simulate flat riding and hill km’s. If just run on flat all the time the km’s clockup too quickly. Most riders ride up hills to some degree so having intervals where the chain is still subjected to 250w load but km’s clocking up slowly delivers an overall average speed for the test ofaround 29kmh (depending on what block test finishes). It also allows me to rotate through mor ecogs on cassette and between small and big chain rings for longer wear rates on test components. Flat sim intervals will be on cogs 4, 5 and 6 on large chain ring and be 400km long, Hill sim will be on cogs 1,2 and 3 on small chain ring and be 200 km long. The interval lengths are halved during contamination blocks to 200/100 km.

ZFC measures chain elongation after each test block:

1Lube lubricant penetation of spaces where metal bears on metal
2Dirt performance after chain has been contaminated
3does lube abate dirt contamination effects
4Watereffect of water on chain already contaminated by dirt
5does lube abate contamination effects

ZFC adds lube at fixed intervals. Lube intervals:

Re lube intervals will be every 400 km on Flat simulation intervals, and 200 km on hill simulation intervals UNLESS this rate of re-lubrication would be detrimental according to manufacturer instructions with regards to if re lubing too frequently risks gathering too high a level ofcontamination. If an adjustment to re lube intervals vs base levels is made this will be noted accordingly in test.

During contamination blocks, the rate of re lubrication is doubled – every 200 km of flat simulation and 100 km hill simulation – as it would be normal behaviour that riders re lubricate more often if riding in harsh conditions, as well as giving lubricants more of chance to “clean as they lube” etc. Again this will be adjusted if manufacturer instructions are clear that this rate would be detrimental and noted accordingly.

The re-lube procedure for immersion (melted) waxes during testing is not clearly stated. Or, I did not find it in the material.

Adam’s Analysis

In Episode 2 of the Zero Friction Cycling YouTube series (published June 2021) Adam Kerin categorized lubricants:

  1. “Dry” drip lubes. These use “carrier” fluids which dissipate or evaporate leaving some kind of material on the chain. Most of these lubes test poorly in wear testing;
  2. Oily “wet” lubes. All of them lose effectiveness because they trap dirt. All of them work for a while under wet conditions but lose effectiveness as they wash out in wet conditions. A few modern products are effective for a long time under adverse conditions;
  3. Immersion (hot) waxes. These are applied when wax is heated to liquid and penetrates the load bearing spaces where it accumulates; the wax cools to the waxy semi-solid state. The wax fills the space, which protects against contamination. The wax is the lubricant. These lubricants work for hundreds of hours but need to be redone or refreshed. Applying these takes some tools (including a slow cooker or Instant Pot), knowledge and time.

Adam Kerin has clarified his views and considered other lubricants 2021-24.

ZFC have consistently reported immersive waxes – paraffin with additives – to be the best lubricants in protecting against chain wear. Video Episode 4, Wax Part 1 provides a narrative explanation. Adam Kerin suggests that plain paraffin, in blocks or in the form of manufactured products (melting down candles) is inferior due the low manufacturing standards. He recommended modern immersively applied paraffin wax products – MSW and Silca Secret Chain Blend (and a few others). This lubricant is discussed in Bike Chains Part 7 in this series.

ZFC also recorded good results with some modern fluid products which he describes as wax emulsions or chain coatings. Mr. Kerin initially differentiated between “traditional” “dry” drip wax lubes and some chain coating such as Squirt & Smoove. ZFC tests showed Squirt & Smoove work well, for a time. He had reservations about Squirt and Smoove – they may not penetrate depending on conditions, and can make it hard to clean or reset a contaminated chain. ZFC has tested the wax based fluids Silca Super Secret Chain Coating and Ceramic Speed UFO (new formula)(March 2021).

In an interview with Dave Rome and James Huang of CyclingTips in the CyclingTips NerdAlert podcast released March 16, 2022 “Finding the best chain lube for your needs” Adam Kerin discussed his experience with modern liquid wax products including products by Ceramic Speed UFO, Silca and Rex Black Diamond, and updated his assessment of drip lubes. He suggested that traditional dry-drip lubes had large amounts of carrier and too little lubricant material to coat the chain parts properly, while modern wax-compatible chain coating products coat the chain better. Some of the chain coating liquids dry into a solid wax or paste.

ZFC largely dismissed nearly all “traditional” drip lubes, wet or dry, including the wax drips, and most oily lubes.

Factory Grease; Cleaning; Waxing

ZFC tested chains treated with Shimano “factory grease‘ by testing Shimano chains without removing the factory grease (see lubricant spreadsheet). ZFC favours removing factory grease before the chain has been contaminated with dirt and water before putting any lubricant on a chain. ZFC says it is worth cleaning a new chain to remove factory grease. His usual routine, use in wear tesing includes removing the chain (assuming it has a master link) and rinsing it by immersing it in “mineral terps” (mineral spirits) to dissolve the grease, and agitating (shaking). (In Canada, mineral spirits are sold as such, but also available in a more refined and less odourous formulation sold under the Varsol brand). Adam Kerin also does a further rinse in methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) to remove the residue of the mineral spirits. The rationale and method are discussed in Episode 6 “Chain Preparation FAQ” of the ZFC YouTube series from 2 minutes 15 seconds to 10 minutes.

It the spreadsheets, which are complex:

  • ZFC calculates the of cost to run a lube, $ per 10,000 Km on assumptions about replacing chains and groupsets. ZFC refers to Shimano 11 speed road chains and components – Ultegra and Dura-Ace, as well as GRX. There are sheets for different conditions. I think the currency in the material from the ZFC site is $ Australian and the prices are in Australia;
  • The wear refers the replacement standard of .5 mm. across 8 links. Wear in Blocks 2 and 5 is cumulative;
  • Chain life is a calculation assuming the correct use and periodic reuse of the lubricant;
  • Some “Immersive” lubricants – e.g. MSW were wax pellets; in 2022 MSW changed to selling cakes of wax; – the wax is melted and the chain is immersed in hot melted wax.

ZFC reviewed more “traditional” drip lubes in 2023, including Finish Line Dry (with Teflon), Finish Line Ceramic,PrestaCycle One, Wolf Tooth WT1. In 2023-24 he tested paraffin candle wax, and a light generic machine oil.

ZFC added some video commenting on manufacturer/retail product claims and the quality of advice from the staff at bicycle shops.

Chain Durability

ZFC has measured chain wear on new chains to test the chains for durability. As of February 2022, 31 chains had been tested. These tests are similiar to the lubricant tests. ZFC runs the test machine(s) on chains lubricated with White Lightning Epic Ride, a low viscosity dry-drip lube. The tests are explained:

ZFC graphed the results in bar graphs showing the Km before the wear reaches the accepted replacement point of .5%. The actual total wear, over the length of the chain will vary. An ANSI 40 pitch chain has links 1/2 inch (12.7 mm.) long. A chain will normally be more that 100 links long. A road chain may have 108 links or several more; a gravel or mountain bike chain could be longer. It depends on the length of the chain stays and the diameters of the largest chain rings and cogs. A chain of 108 links is 1371.6 mm long. The replacement elongation of .5% of that chain is a fraction more than 6.8 mm. Most drop-in chain checkers measure a span of 8 to 14 links. ZFC measures a span of 8 (half) links, with a precise KMC micrometer chain checker, at two points along the chain. ZFC defines or calculates the .5% replacement point based on wear on an 8 link span as .5 mm. ZFC reports elongation in a graph “km’s to 0.5% wear – Digital Chain Wear Checker (0.5mm across 8 links)”. The Km to .5% wear graph identified a few chains that last 3,000 Km. with the test lube. The average of the 11 speed chains was just over 2,000 Km. The KMC X11 SL (the semi-premium Super Light model) was above average at about 2,500 Km. [My factory chain had been an X11, but not the Super Light model]. The KMC X11 E-bike chain reached the replacement point at about 1,700 Km. [My new chain in spring 2021 was a SRAM 1170, which tested at about 2,700 Km to .5%. My experience, experimenting with cleaning and lubes has been better. I have not used White Lightning; I used a Dupont household lubricant for only a few rides before staggering into other products].

In the test brief ZFC discusses chain material, surface hardening and surface coating. On the chain tesing page ZFC says:

Budget chains … will be made of lower grade steel,  and will  likely have no surface hardening or low friction treatments or coatings applied (or limited parts receive treatment – i.e inner plates are treated but not pins or rollers.) Premium chains you can expect will be made of higher grade of steel, manufactured to tighter tolerances, and may have numerous treatments such as chromium carbide hardened pins and/or rollers, nickel plating or titanium nitride plating on inner/ outer plates, and again a variety of low friction coatings applied to some or all working parts of the chain.

It is expected that premium chains will be lower friction due to a number of factors (design, manufacturing, low friction coatings), and if have had surface hardening treatments, should be longer lasting.

Adam Kerin makes observations of chains during ZFC’s businesses of preparing chains, and testing – e.g. whether lube is expelled from the chain, and the sounds the chain makes as the test blocks proceed. Some observations are based on measurements. He consults with engineers in the cycling lubricant and the chain manufacturing businesses and mechanics and riders. He employs a model or idea of what happens in a moving chain. He says chain wear is not linear and does not proceed at a uniform pace – a chain has tipping points. He is concerned with whether a lubricant penetrates the spaces where lubricant is need, how well it is distributed, and with when and how contamination becomes distributed. The observations are in the narrarative reports and web material, or in occasional cumulative “key learnings” papers (May 2019 paper; and updated v. 2.3a paper). His 2022 summary starts with these points:

  1. Do not use wet lubricants if you ride offroad.
  2. Remove factory grease before installing or using a chain.
  3. Immersive waxing is the lowest wear option
  4. If you ride in wet weather, you must reset contamination in chain.
  5. We now have some amazingly long lasting lubricants.
  6. Do not underestimate the drivetrain cost to run difference between lubricants.

[Update: Adam Kerin recorded a YouTube Video Episode 18 Key Learnings from Lubricant Testing published on the ZFC channel May 8, 2022. It is nearly an hour long. He also consolidated his “key learnings” updates in update 2.3a, including notes on e-bike requirements.]

Chain strength

ZFC uses a load cell device by LoadCell Supplies to test chains for tensile strength. As of February 2022 ZFC has published results on 16 chains. The results and procedure:

ZFC has done a tensile testing video on its YouTube channel, Episode 19 Chain Tensile Testing.

11. Other

Journalism – Connex/Wipperman

Lennard Zinn published an article “We went to Germany to test the most popular bicycle chains” in VeloNews in January 2020 about a visit to the Wippermann/Connex chain factory in Hagen, Germany, a chain breakage test and the company’s continuous chain-durability tests. The tests ran chains until chains were elongated 13.6 mm, which is 1% of the average chain length (calculated as 108 links on a road bike with 50/34 chainrings and an 11-29 cassette, at 12.7mm per link = 1371.6 mm. Removing the master link, 107 links x 12.7 = 1358.9 mm).


The COVID-19 pandemic affected demand by consumers for bike and repair parts in 2020. Bike shops first had no business, then had problems operating, then could not get new bikes, then had orders delivered all at once as demand collapsed.

The pandemic must have affected demand for lubricants and information, but I have not seen a discussion or numbers.

12. Innovation

MSW, Ceramic Speed UFO

For a few years, MSW was manufacturer of the principal paraffin bike chain lubrication product in a small market. Scrutiny and competition inspired innovation in engineering, manufacturing and marketing lubricants and chain cleaning products 2017-2023:

  • Ceramic Speed launched its UFO fluid chain lubricant product.
  • Silca Velo released a hot wax, a wax chain coating, and wet lubricants in 2020 and 2021.
  • Ceramic Speed released an new version of UFO Drip in 2021.
  • In 2021-22, Molten Speed Wax began to market and sell a new formula.
  • In 2023 Silca released a new hot wax
  • Rex released the Black Diamond chain lubricant fluid and race powder in 2022.
  • Silca Velo and Ceramic Speed released chain cleaning fluid chemicals


Immersive Wax, and Chain Coating Fluid

Silca Velo’s immersive wax product, Silca Secret Chain Blend, became a top lubricant in ZFC lubricant wear tests. Its chain coating drip fluid wax Silca Super Secret Chain Coating, is superior. Its prices are higher than the prices of competing lubes but less expensive than several lubes sold as professional grade (racing) lubes.

In videos and podcasts, Josh Poertner says that Silca had been making paraffin wax pellets for a professional cycling team(s) for a few years, and that Silca put the product into production for retail sale as Silca Secret Chain Blend, announced or released in June 2020. Silca followed up with advice videos and promotional videos. Silca did not claim advantages over other immersive waxes – it does not mention them. The first mover in modern immersive wax production had been Molten Speed Wax. MSW and Silca Secret Blend paraffin wax products have to be melted. Each has some additives. Immersive wax was seen as a difficult way of lubricating chains when Silca brought its Secret Chain Blend to market.

Silca’s entry to the market inspired MSW to improve its formula and change its presentation from pellets to solid pucks or disks.

The sales of wax products have not been reported or published.

Silca Super Secret Chain chain coating fluid lube was announced in April 2020. In some ways, it competes with Ceramic Speed UFO Drip and with a few liquids made from paraffin precursor oils, or natural oils:

  • Effetto Mariposa Flower Power,
  • Squirt,
  • Smoove.

Silca says its Super Secret Chain chain coating fluid lube uses the the same paraffin as its hot wax Secret Chain Blend, with water and alcohol to make the product a low viscosity fluid; the fluid it is supposed to dry out and remain in place as a lubricant wax. The marketing is that this is as good as hot wax, and easier to apply. The label on the containers advises the product should be use on an “ultra clean” chain, new or used. This means, after reviewing Silca’s videos and podcasts, a chain with factory grease and residues of old lubricant and dirt removed – deep cleaned with solvents with the chain off the bike. The reviewer at noted this, and some problems with the application of this lube in a review posted in October 2020. It is runny. Most of it falls off the chain at the moment of application. I found this to be true.

Silca Velo suggests Super Secret Chain Coating be left for 24 hours after application to let the lube penetrate and dry into a wax chain coating. Silca’s product release information about Super Secret Chain Coating did not discuss the conditions limiting the use of this product – although more information was published by Silca.

Josh Poertner answered questions comparing Silca Secret Chain Blend, Super Secret Chain coating and Synergetic in March 2021 in the Marginal Gains channel video “Choosing the Best Chain Lube“. He said that Super Secret Chain coating had to be left for 12 to 24 hours after application, before use. Mr. Poertner said that a user planning a long ride in dirty or wet conditions would choose, among the Silca products, the wet lube Synergetic. (Further discussion of using Super Secret Chain Coating as a wax-compatible drip lube to refresh or top up immersion wax on a chain in Bike Chains 7 in this series).

Synergetic Product Release

Silca announced Synergetic wet lube in November 2020. Synergetic superceded Silca NFS, which had been on the market as Silca’s wet drip in 2018. (Silca NFS had been endorsed by Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling in his discussions with Dave Rome of CyclingTips for the March 2018 Seeking the Holy Grail article). Mr. Poertner said that Silca Velo had been unable to obain some ingredients and decided to drop Silca NFS and offer a new product.

Silca’s wet lube Synergistic was discussed in the a 22 minute Silca Velo YouTube video November 17, 2020 Announcing Synergistic Web Lube. The video shows the use of an abrasion testing machine with Synergistic and with Silca’s previous web lube, NFS. Silca has done other videos with the device to claim the superiority of Synergetic to Pro-Gold drip lubes and the superiority of Silca’s e-bike wet lube. The development of the product was discussed in the Silca Marginal Gains podcast Lubes & Chains & Marginal Gains, November 30, 2020. The dominant theory has been that there must be enough oil on/in the chain to form a durable liquid barrier film on the surfaces where metal bears on metal and can cause wear. The video shows the wear that occurs where the oil does does not adequately coat the metal. For bicycle chain and other roller chains, this is generally believed to be due to the failure of the lubricant to penetrate or the displacement or dissipation of the lubricant.

In the podcast, Mr. Poertner referred to the racing car motor oils, Polyalphaolefin (“PAO”) and other “synthetic” base stocks, high quality type 5 (100% PAO) – the original Mobil 1 synthetic lubricating oil, the invention of hydro-cracked synthetic oil’ litigation between Mobil and Castrol and changes in the motor oil industry. He mentions Silca’s testing and comparison of Mobil 1 with Silca’s NFS wet lube product and the new Synergetic wet lube. The podcast discusses the additives that Silca uses. Wear testing establishes that Silca wet lubes with zinc dialkyldithiophosphates and tungsten disulfide are better than other wet bike chain lubes. Mr. Poertner said that Synergetic is formulated with a high quality synthetic motor oil as a base oil. Silca contends this product coats the chain parts with lubricating tribofilm(s). The application of this product requires a film of oil to supply more additives to maintain the tribofilm, and as lubricant.

The dripper bottles initially had pharmiceutical dripper tips made to dispense small drops on rollers, with little waste. This is useful in aiming the drops at the edge of the rollers, and in limiting the flow to a few drops. Silca dropped that feature later and started to use conventional dripper bottles.

In November 2021 Silca released the e-bike lube Synerg-E which is like Synergetic with an additional “tackifier” additive and/or calcium sulfate to enhance adhesion to the chain.

Silca sells wipes and microfiber cloths. Silva claims that its products are superior to other products. Its technical material indicates that there are reasons to prefer microfiber to cloth made of cotton and many synthetic fibers, and to paper.

Silca justifies its prices based on its brand name, and selling the products to demanding cyclists.


Silca used marketing gimics:

  1. Silca, like Ceramic Speed, has used a bar graph that looks like the Friction Facts or VeloNews friction efficiency graphs, with its products interpolated;
  2. The Marginal Gains episode on the Silca Secret Chain Blend immersive wax pellets show an Instant Pot, the Silca sous vide bag package, and a non-contact infrared thermometer. These props will interest some consumer with spare cash and a yen for conspicuous consumption.

Silca’s material about Synergetic puffs the ease of use by minimizing the time and effort of cleaning chains lubed with the product. Josh Poertner, in the 22 minute Silca Velo channel (YouTube) video November 17, 2020 Announcing Synergetic Web Lube used a blue machine. The videos shows the use of a machine with Silca products and with some other drip lubes:

The machine is used for product demonstrations to criticise popular lubricants (cheap compared to Silca, but moderate in the price world of chain lubricants) – the White Lightning products are less expensive, the Finish Line products are mid price. Based on FF and ZFC, the products were low reputation:

  • ProGold
    • FF had showed around 7 watts
    • ZFC does not show any testing of ProGold products;
  • White Lightning
    • Clean Ride – FF had showed around 6 watts, and
    • Epic Ride – FF had showed 9 watts; it had failed ZFC testing.

In the videos, Josh Poertner demonstates himself with a machine that he calles a Timken machine, an ASTM machine and an ASTM G77 machine. The manufacturer is not named, but it may have been made by the American manufacturer, the Timken Company. The machine is probably identifiable from images. The machine can be used for block and ring testing on the ASTM standard. Silca may have followed the ASTM G77 standard, in part, to make the video. A block of material held against the ring. In the video a metal sample pin (not a pin from a chain) is held against the ring of the device. Some lubricant is applied to part of the ring and the sample pin before the machine is turned on. The revolving ring flings lubricant. The lubricant that adheres to the ring and the sample pin form a film on the ring in a few seconds. The ring abrades the pin. The length of the wear mark is measured. The videos shows the wear that occurs where or when lubricant film does does not adequately coat. The amount of lubricant applied or “flung” is not measured; no time is allowed for distributing or settling the lubricant. The ring and pin arrangement is different than the interior spaces of bike chains. A surface area of the machine ring is much larger than the surface area of bike chain pin or the interior surface of roller. The discussion of lubricant being flung seems to be a distraction given a ring powered by an electic motor will fling any liquid on the surface.

Silca demonstrated that wear marks left by the machine on pins lubricated by Synergetic were small compared to the wear marks made by other products,. In the ProGold/Synergetic video, Mr. Poertner says that he surprized by how small the wear marks left on pin after the ProGold sessions are, implying he expected larger marks. In the White Lightning/Synergetic video, Mr. Poertner showed how rapidly and badly the sample wore when the ring and the sample pin were wetted with the White Lightning products.

A failure of a lubricant to form a film on on the moving or load-bearing surfaces in a roller chain can be due to the failure of the lubricant to penetrate into the chain between the moving metal surfaces, or the displacement or dissipation of the lubricant. Some products – e.g. Silca Velo’s Synergetic- use an automotive motor oil base oil and additives that coat the chain parts with metal lubricating tribofilm(s). Mr. Poertner said that the lubricating ingredients in White Lightning and Finish Line products were diluted in a carrier fluid and did not lubricate effectively, which is are fair points, supported by testing and observation.

In the White Lightning video Mr. Poertner said the White Lighting products and some Finish Line products contained small amount of PFAS “forever chemical” additives. The environmental accusation apparently is that the products contain Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and persistant organic pollutants. White Lightning markets Clean Ride as a wax lube, and Epic Ride as made of “non-petroleum based synthetic oils”. White Lightning does not use the trademarked term Teflon or claim that its product contains PFTE. White Lightning does not list ingredients and did not respond to ZFC questions. Mr. Poertner may have information that others do not, but he did not explain himself.

That is not to say that I think that the White Lightning and Finish Line products are good or good value – just that these Silca Velo videos were not very informative.

All lubricants are chemically engineered products, and lubricants are almost always made with the products of petroleum distillation. Perhaps “natural” means something in marketing foods.

More Innovation

Silca released a chain cleaning product in 2023, which competes with Ceramic Speed UFO Drivetrain Clean. Both are innovative, and different than mineral spirit solvents. Both are supposed to be biodegradaable, perhaps avoiding the enviromental and regulatory problems of disposing of used solvents and petroleum products. Both are expensive.

Other manufacturers entered the immersive paraffin wax market in 2022 & 2023:

  • Rex wax lubes;
  • A firm in Belgium introduced CycloWax lube and dedicated wax pot.

In early 2024 Silca released:

  • an additive wax to mix with other hot waxes to strip factory grease on a new chain in a one-step process, and a special melting pot.
  • a dedicated wax pot with high temperature settings to melt the new addititive wax and remove factory grease and wax a new chain in a single operation.

There were announcements in early 2024 that major manufacturers in the drip lube industry were planning to release immersive waxes, chain coating fluids, and improved drip lubes.

Prepared chains

Shops including MSpeedwax, and ZFC sell and ship new chains, with factory grease removed, prewaxed with a branded immersion wax, ready for use. The chains will have to regularly reset by users by successive immersions. These chains have had the factory grease removed and melted paraffin applied. A buyer can test the riding a waxed chain, and purchase a new chain. If the rider is not happy with paraffin, the paraffin washes out and the user can dry the chain and use it with the user’s lube of choice.

Some vendors, e.g. Silca Velo, offer to provide a chain that has been prepared and polished. A shop can polish or treat the metal on the inside of a chain that has been rivetted together by suspending diamond fragments in a lubricant to create a paste or slurry – which has to be removed by throrough cleaning. The benefit of micro-polishing would be a true marginal gain.

13. Choices

Many or most modern chains are not durable. Most lubricants do not help to make chains last longer. The main options for a user or rider, after purchasing a bike with a non-durable chain involve recurring costs:

  1. Monitor chain wear and
    • replace the chain every few thousand Km., or
    • buy and use a better chain to replace the chain supplied by the manufacturer;
  2. Keep the chain clean and lubricated; and
  3. Use better lubricant.

Bicycle chain lubricants are chemically engineered petroleum products. Cleaning a chain involves other chemically engineered products, often solvents. While lubricant manufacturers make greenwahing noises, all lubricants and solvents are chemically engineered petroleum products.

The main lubricant choices:

  1. immersive paraffin waxes
    • Manufactured pucks or blocks of processed paraffin and additives, including:
      • Molten Speed Wax,
      • Silca Secret Chain Blend,
      • other products developed by competing manufacturers – e.g. Rex, and
    • paraffin that some consumers have access to (blocks, candles etc.);
  2. drip (including most “wet” and “dry”) lubes,
    • Most are not very good:
      • expensive products from vendors that market widely and aggressively e.g. Muc-Off;
      • apprarently inexpensive products by brands including White Lightning, Finish Line, WD-40, Muc-Off, etc. ;
    • A few are effecive but fairly expensive e.g. Silca Synergetic,;
  3. chain coating fluid waxes or “wax-compatible drip waxes”,
    • Ceramic Speed UFO;
    • Silca Super Secret Chain Coating;
    • Tru-Tension Tungsten All-Weather (wax emulsion);
    • Smoove;
    • Squirt;
    • other innovators;

Iimmersive waxing involves deep cleaning a chain to remove factory grease, and regular immersions in heated (“hot”) wax. Deep cleaning is discussed in Bike Chains 5. The repeated immersions involve a minor amount of time. The proprietary paraffin waxes are available from the manufacturers and from some bicycle supply companies:

  • MSpeedwax in Shoreview (St. Paul) Minnesota ships its Molten Speed Wax (“MSW”). MSpeedwax also is the American distributor of YBN chains and master links. MSW has been available from online retailers in the USA, although online retailers had product shortages in 2022;
  • Silca Velo in Indianapolis, Indiana in the USA, ships its Secret Chain Blend and other lubricants;
  • As of April 2023, Rex Black Diamond wax is on the market but not widely available.

Zero Friction Cycling, in Adelaide Australia sells Molten Speed Wax, Silca Secret Chain Blend and other lubricants. ZFC encourages consumers outside Australia to order lubricants from the manufacturers or local vendors where feasible to avoid the shipping costs for orders that involve shipping product from Australia. ZFC sells chain, including YBN chains and some other merchandise.

Dry-drip and wet lubes are easy to apply. The chain has to be cleaned often, and the chain wears in spite of cleaning.

Chain coating fluids are applied by dripping. Some (Silca Super Secret Chain Coating and Ceramic Speed UFO Drip), perhaps all, require deep cleaning the chain to remove factory grease. The grease occupies the spaces that should be lubricated, and affects the operation of the lubricant. These fluids have to be refreshed, and the chains have to be cleaned. Chain coat fluid waxes require a a period of at least a few hours after application(the chain has to have time to dry).


2 responses to “Bike Chains, Part 4”

  1. […] Facts, efficiency tests and the publication of the early efficiency tests results is summarized in Bike Chains 4 in this series, under the heading Efficiency […]

  2. […] Lubricant Prices, Testing, Innovation – What is available? Who is testing lubricants and chains?; […]

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