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Tech news: Friction Facts releases UltraFast chain lube formula

By:
James Huang
Published:
February 14, 2013, 0:28 GMT,
Updated:
February 14, 2013, 8:12 GMT
Friction Facts founder Jason Smith has experiemented with lots of different chain lubricants - both homemade and off-the-shelf.

Friction Facts founder Jason Smith has experiemented with lots of different chain lubricants - both homemade and off-the-shelf.

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This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

Remember the UltraFast chain and lube formula from Friction Facts that we showed you last November? While average consumers might not be that interested in saving a handful of watts, we thought for sure that company founder Jason Smith would ink some sort of high-dollar deal with a top WorldTour team looking for an edge. Instead, he's given it away – for free.

Smith posted the then-proprietary process on his forum and also sent it out to his newsletter subscribers. As he puts it, the process isn't expensive but it is time consuming and it helps to have a couple of ultrasonic agitators/cleaners on deck. Some of the chemicals involved aren't especially friendly, either, so exercise care if you decide to have a go yourself.

After a brief 'run-in' period to smooth out any manufacturing burrs or imperfections, Smith first strips the chain completely clean using an ultrasonic tank and lacquer thinner. It's then rinsed in a second bath of denatured alcohol. The result, according to Smith, should be a chain that is wholly devoid of any lubricant or factory anti-corrosion treatments whatsoever.

The recipe for the UltraFast lube itself is surprisingly simple: 1lb of "household paraffin wax", 5g of pure PTFE (Teflon) powder, and 1g of pure molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). The wax is first melted at approximately 180°F, the powders are added in, and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed with some sort of agitator (Smith uses a common battery powered milk frother).

Next, the paraffin mixture is poured into an ultrasonic tank and the cleaned chain – which should also be preheated to 225°F – is added in. Agitate for twenty minutes (10 minutes per side), remove the chain and hang vertically to cool, and then 'run-in' the chain once again.

For at-home DIYers, Smith suggests physical agitation of the chain in a sealed container can substitute for a proper ultrasonic tank and the two 'run-in' periods can be done indoors on a trainer. Smith estimates 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 as compared to a new chain that isn't properly lubricated – or even more for a chain that's either dirty or lubed with some lesser products on the market.

Still, though, why on earth would Smith – who readily admits to having sunk a sizeable pile of money into his Friction Facts lab with no profits to show for it – simply give away what could have been a veritable gold mine?

We remarked in our initial article that Smith's ready-made UltraFast chains seemed awfully inexpensive with just a measly US$20 upcharge on top of a standard Shimano Dura-Ace chain. Apparently, Smith eventually agreed.

"The UltraFast chains don't generate much profit (if any) due to the high amount of labor involved, and more importantly, because of the labor requirements, the chains are taking too much time away from testing and experimenting, which is what I really like to do," he told BikeRadar.

More importantly, however, Smith's strong sense of ethics and his goal of full transparency were eating away at him.

"Technically, the UltraFast chain creates a conflict of interest with the testing side of the business," he said. "Even though I haven't formally published comparison data of the UltraFast lube vs. other lubes, it is getting into the gray area of fair testing practices. I promote the fact that I don't have any outside commercial influences yet I am selling my own proprietary products."

"Therefore, I decided to share the formula and process to align with the full-disclosure environment and minimize conflicts of interest," Smith continued. "I'm still going to offer UltraFast chains if someone would like for me to do the optimization, but the customer now has the option of doing it themselves too. Maybe disclosing the formula is not the best business decision but I think it is the right thing to do to maintain a neutral position."

Head here for the full details on Frictions Facts' UltraFast formula – and let us know how you get on if you decide to try it yourself.

 

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