Muc-Off collaborates with UK laboratories on research project into bicycle lubrication

Muc-Off has collaborated with UK laboratories on a research project into bicycle lubrication, funded through the ‘Analysis for Innovators’ (A4I) programme.

The research was carried out by Muc-Off’s in-house R&D team in partnership with National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC. The project was funded by Innovate UK.

The research’s primary objective was to create a fast, highly reproducible novel measurement and analysis process to determine and score lubricant performance and durability. It also aimed to assess the environmental impact of lubrication formulations.

“Muc-Off strives to take the ‘myth and anecdote’ out of bicycle chain lubrication by the application of good science and results-based data,” said Alex Trimnell, CEO at Muc-Off. “This research project gave us a better, more transparent understanding of performance, faster product development with fewer iterations which will ultimately lead to more targeted performance gains for the end consumer.”

The business already owns a Chain Lube Optimisation Dynamometer that provides quantifiable data based on real-world testing and can be used with add-on environmental chamber units and can be placed inside the businesses’ in-house temperature chamber. This dynamometer was used for the development for Bradley Wiggin’s Hour Record NTOC chain as well the hydrodynamic lube which has multiple Grand Tour wins and Olympic medals to its name.

This equipment gives Muc-Off the “upper hand” over the majority of competitors who do not have in-house capabilities to measure performance and use this to refine and improve lubrication formulations.

Dr Martin Mathias, research and development manager at Muc-Off, said: “The development of bicycle chain lubricant is a time consuming and iterative process with much of the chemical and additive technology being handed down from other industries and based on the expertise of the individual blending more than fact-based science. This is something that we as a business aim to change.”

The NML was able to delve deeper into finding out specifically what combination and quantities of chemical components made for the quickest and most durable lubrications using bespoke tests developed using mass spectrometry combined with gas chromatography and direct analysis.

The tribology laboratory at NPL used high precision equipment to measure the effects of multiple lubrication formulations on the friction between drive train components, specifically the interface between the pin and side plates. The team working on this project used first principle mathematics to establish a formula which can be used going forward to calculate accurate loads, speeds and contact pressures specifically for the cycling application.

“This research project with Muc-Off allowed NPL to develop the blueprint Muc-Off needed to set a new level of testing for future analysis and development of lubrication for bicycles,” said Dr Timothy Kamps MEng CEng MIMechE, higher research scientist, advanced materials characterisation, NPL.

Results and findings from this research project and recent Muc-Off in-house testing will be published later this year.

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