Words & Images by Adam from Zero Friction Cycling
My business model is based on finding genuinely best-in-class products that pass extremely robust testing. That way I know what to stock and what to avoid. By stocking only genuinely amazing stuff, customers are always super happy, which leads to good sufficient revenue to fund ongoing testing.
Friction Facts started the ball rolling all those years ago and without his ground breaking work we would not have race chains, Molten Speed Wax etc, but so much was still left to be done, but then we lost FF to CeramicSpeed so no more independent testing.
ZFC's focus was always going to be on lubricants first, as the "chain" is the hardest working mechanical part by orders of magnitude over bearings, and not only that, it is operating completely exposed to contamination. So the low hanging fruit of drivetrain friction savings is chain lubricant. Not only that, the watts you save there, are now propelling you forwards faster, instead of being lost/eating through your drivetrain components faster. An irresistible siren song for nerdy ol' me.
Lubricants are massive business, and everyone claims they are amazing and do amazing things – many of them physically impossible. Round one of lubricant testing was to a) get some baseline data, b) find some genuinely great products to sell and c) put some of those with the boldest claims around new tech to the test to see what we learn.
The Friction Facts testing was extraordinarily accurate – but its 25k machine and the test runs were 5mins long, clean chain, clean lab, lubricant ultrasonically applied. This is not representative of how users at home ride. A lubricant with a good lab performance can increase in friction by multiple watts in short order, once one starts riding outside.
- Do lubes clean as they lube?
- Do lubes have any initial penetration issues?
- Do they repel dirt and grit?
- Do they form a protective membrane / film preventing metal on metal or contamination on metal contact?
The above are just some of the claims that almost all lubes put on the bottle, but scant few come remotely close. The ZFC testing is thousands of km’s long with specific clean, dry contamination and wet contamination blocks to much better assess how a lubricant will perform in the real world.
Much was learned from round 1, and I have about a years worth of testing already booked for round 2, most of it requested by manufacturers. In fact, I have paused a chain test project for CyclingTips to do a couple of urgent tests for a manufacturer so they know whether to go into production with current formula or if it still needs work.
I am fortunate in that I do not have revenue pressure, I do not need to stock brand names or products with powerful marketing just because they will sell lots, I can take my time to build up a select base of products that I know will deliver outstanding performance and longevity for the customer. So ZFC is part-boutique, fact checking new products and claims, development testing, and as much as possible educating customers how to run lower friction and save lots of drive train running cost $.
As aero friction is super important as well, I have just commenced branching into that area and will be building stock range and depth of the simply awesome Nopinz race kit.
Keep an eye out for the next article in CyclingTips in a few months - that will cover a bunch of cool stuff regarding chains and wear, and then will also be testing the longevity difference between various levels of maintenance that was covered in an article a few months ago, in amongst getting through the backlog of testing for manufacturers. If only I had room for another machine!
CCACHE is an authorised dealer for ZFC brands such as Molten Speed Wax and YBN chains.