Muc-Off is 21-years-old this year. It was a spin-off from X-lite, a manufacturer of high-end MTB accessories such as the Chicken Stix brake levers. The wash-n-lube brand has recently returned to its high-tech roots by partnering with Sir David Brailsford’s Team Sky.
Muc-Off subscribes to the Brailsford philosophy of making lots of little performance improvements, the so-called “aggregation of marginal gains”. A manifestation of this can be seen at the front of Muc-Off’s Eurobike booth. It’s the chain testing rig used to grade chains given to Team Sky. It was also used in the successful Hour Record set by Sir Bradley Wiggins in June.
The aggregation of marginal gains even extends to the naming of this testing rig. It was formerly known as the Chain Lube Efficiency Dynamometer, or CLED, but is now known as the Chain Lube Optimisation Dyno, which offers the more pleasing acronym of CLOD.
Alex Trimnell, general manager of Muc-Off, said the tie-up with Team Sky meant the family-owned company had to prove its chain lubes were the fastest on the market. “We had to quantify the time savings you could make with a chain lube so we built our own dynamometer.”
Muc-Off employs an in-house chemist and also works with experts in the science of tribology. This is the study of interacting surfaces in relative motion.
“Our tribologists found a new additive, and this was used in Bradley’s hour record. It’s a military grade additive, with a huge reduction in friction.”
Muc-Off is working on commercialising the treatment services pioneered for Team Sky.
“We aim to do a consumer chain service where we treat chains using a very detailed process of cleaning, running in and treatment.”
These treated chains will be available only as after-market items. Trimnell said the running in process is also critical. “Some teams fit new chains for every race but a new chain is a slow chain. It’s tight and it’s crammed full of grease. Just like a new car engine, a bike chain needs running in to get to maximum efficiency.
“We can save a couple of watts just by running in our chains. We speed grade our chains, treat them, measure them again, then clean them again. And this is before they’ve gone anywhere near one of our chain lubes. Then we add the additive, and grade the chains again. They then go off to the team, in speed order.”
That means Chris Froome gets the fastest of these treated chains, then? “Oh, yes,” confirmed Trimnell.
While there will be major improvements in chain treating tech on the way, according to Trimnell, consumers can already get their hands on lubes developed with Team Sky, such as Muc-Off’s C4 chain wax.
Muc-Off claims that this wax can reduce chain friction by up to 80 percent, and save seven watts per rider over a 60-minute time trial. It all adds up to good business.
“We’ve just had three record months back to back,” said Trimnell. “We generated £6.5mturnover in the current financial year, up from £5.4m last year.”
He added: “We’re forecasting £8.5m for the financial year starting 1st October.”