We're knee deep in chains and lubricants right now - here's why.
In the world of marginal gains, mountain biking offers lots of places to get finnicky to chase perfection. Tyre pressure, tread choice, bar width, suspension settings, over biking, under biking, crank length, gear range - that barely touches the surface on the basics.
Chasing lower resistance is also very popular, something that brands like CeramicSpeed do, and as such we have tested their eye-wateringly expensive bearings and OSPW X jockey wheels in the past as well.
But there are benefits beyond less rolling resistance, ergonomics and better grip. And it can be one that is felt in your wallet. Having the right chain lube for how you ride, where you ride, and the time you have to maintain your bike goes a long way. It means a drivetrain that works efficiently, is quiet, and lasts longer. Have you looked at the price of a modern day 12-speed cassette? Want to get more life out of yours? Then you might find this feature quite interesting.
Are we testing or comparing?
Here's the truth, here at AMB we don't have a test lab. Without gushing on about testing in the #terrainlab and being commited to only real world testing, the fact is there are limitations on what is possible. Zero Friction Cycling have a lab and have run plenty of tests on chain lubes for wear and less resistance. If you're keen on data on chains and lubricants, there has to be nowhere better to look. Chain waxing is a clear winner with this crew, the problem is - do you have time to remove your chains, wax them, break the hard wax and refit them?
For most people, that's a no. Or if you have time, you might prefer to do something else.
So what I'm doing instead is comparing some wax immersion lubes to other methods, like drip feed, picking a few popular brands but having to omit a whole bunch as well. Each chain being tested is a brand new Shimano SLX 12-speed chain, stripped clean using the chain lube brand's preferred method, and then lubricated as per their instructions.
The chains are then being run for approximately 20 hours without cleaning - or until they are too dry and noisy. Then the chains are cleaned and relubricated as per instructions. All chains are being ridden in similar conditions in a south-east Queensland summer. It's dusty, and a little wet now and then.
What lubes are being tested?
AbsoluteBlack Graphen Wax
This one has to be melted down, and is another option from AbsoluteBlack, after the GraphenLube we tested in 2020.
WeldTite Dry Wax
This is an update from WeldTite who have a few chain lube options. It's a drip feed chain lube, and really easy to apply.
Ride Mechanic Bike Mix
Designed, tested and made in Australia, Ride Mechanic's Bike Mix is their Goldilocks chain lube. It's longer lasting than Bike Milk (which suits frequent lubrication with near zero clean up) but not as thick as Bike Syrup, which suits high power riders and damper environments.
Silca Top Secret Chain Wax
This one is cool. We applied it via immersion (see our new issue!) but you can top it up via drip feed, or even apply it in a shaker pack. That's a few application options for the one chain lube.
This is a bit of a classic, and if you have done any stage races in Europe or South Africa you'll have seen guys rushing around tech/feed zones applying this to those whose chains are crying out for help. It's quite thick and long lasting.
A little thinner than Squirt, Smoove has quickly found a fan base in Australia for it's quiet and clean running. So far, so good!
So - what facts are being found?
Will there be a winner? Unlikely, that's not what is being looked at. What is being discussed is how easy it is to use one lube to another, and how well it lasts, and how easy it is to keep on using - that is, to wipe down and reapply.
So far, the first four chain lubes tested have all had a similar amount of hours before running a little dry, and we're now onto testing two more lubes and Shimano's factory grease.
We'll have a full feature on how each lubricant performed, how fussy application and cleaning was, along with an idea of what other chain lubes in the market will be similar in terms of application and performance.
Stay tuned for the feature in Issue #188 in March.