Muc-Off’s nanotube chain (NTC) was first developed by the British brand for Bradley Wiggins’ Hour Record attempt in 2015 and has subsequently been used by Team Sky, now Team Ineos, at the team’s biggest races since. Muc-Off first partnered with the team in 2014.
The nine-step process to treat the Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 chains uses a process of cleaning, bedding in and treating the chains for the smoothest possible drivetrain. The initial process for Wiggins’ Hour Record cost the brand £6,000 in development, with Muc-Off claiming a gain of 337 metres in the attempt versus a standard chain with dry lube.
The NTC chain was developed through Muc-Off MD Alex Trimnell and Muc-Off Research and Design Manager Dr Martin Mathias. During development in 2015, the duo used 30 Shimano Dura-Ace chains and tested them on a proprietary rig, selecting the most efficient chain for the full treatment.
A nine-step process is then undertaken to optimise the chain and for this year’s Tour de France, Team Ineos sent over a number of chains for treatment at Muc-Off’s headquarters in Dorset, UK.
- Muc-Off run the chains through a dynamometer using a specific racing power to measure the individual chain’s performances pre-treatment.
- All of the chains are cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, which uses Muc-Off’s cleaning products combined with ultrasound to remove foreign particles and contaminants. This process also removes the stock, oil-based lubricant on the chain.
- The chains are then cleaned with de-ionised water.
- The chains are placed in an oven for 40 minutes to ensure they are completely dried and all water is evaporated.
- The chains are again treated in the ultrasonic cleaner, this time individually in two-litre baths of the brand’s proprietary cleaner.
- The chains are again placed in the oven for drying.
- Chains are treated with the nanotube formulation composed of graphene, which fills the microscopic gaps and ridges on the metal chains, normally invisible to the naked eye and so ensuring a much smoother running chain and less metal-on-metal resistance.
- The individual chains are then again run on the dynamometer to test performance and individually marked for Team Ineos so they can be used for specific stages.
- Once Team Ineos receive the chains, they are bedded in for four to six hours on a turbo trainer ahead of racing to ensure the graphene nanotubes are bedded into the imperfections in the chain for maximum optimisation.
The exact performance gains for Team Ineos are kept confidential by Muc-Off but the NTC treatment is available commercially with savings of more than 10 Watts versus CeramicSpeed’s UFO chain lube after four hours of racing.
Muc-Off’s data also claims that the performance of the treatment actually improves slightly as the chain is bedded in and remains consistent after four hours of racing - a typical Grand Tour stage. The brand say CeramicSpeed’s UFO treatment, on the other hand, drops off after 18 minutes and has a variance of 10 Watts after four hours of racing versus their treatment.