Remember the Friction Facts UltraFast chain and lube formula that BikeRadar showed you last November? While average consumers might not be interested in saving a handful of watts, we thought company founder Jason Smith would use the process to ink a high-dollar deal with a WorldTour team looking for an edge. Instead, he's given it away – for free.
Smith posted the then-proprietary formula 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 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's wholly devoid of any lubricant or factory anti-corrosion treatments.
The recipe for the UltraFast lube is surprisingly simple: 1lb of household paraffin wax, 5g of pure PTFE (Teflon) powder, and 1g of pure molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). The wax is 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. Agitate for 20 minutes (10 minutes per side), remove the chain and hang vertically to cool, and then 'run in' the chain once again.
You can now make your own UltraFast chain at home, with or without all of this gear
For at-home DIYers, Smith suggests physical agitation of the chain in a sealed container as a substitute for a proper ultrasonic tank, and says that the two 'run in' periods can be done indoors on a trainer.
He 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 compared to a new chain that isn't properly lubricated – or even more for a chain that's dirty or lubed with lesser products on the market.
Still, why would Smith – who readily admits to having sunk a sizable pile of money into his Friction Facts lab with no profit to show for it – give away what could have been a veritable gold mine?
We remarked in our initial article that his ready-made UltraFast chains seemed awfully inexpensive, with 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 versus other lubes, it's 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," he 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."
Find out more about the Frictions Facts UltraFast formula, and use the comments area below to let us know how you get on if you decide to try it yourself.