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My colleagues teased me in a past Nerd Alert episode for suggesting that we’ve reached the golden age of chain lubricants. And while it was a hilariously nerdy thing to say, I stand by it. Just in the past 12 months, we’ve seen a bunch of new lubes that can save you watts, last well, and most importantly, stave off drivetrain wear.
Much of this development comes from new research and attention given to what makes a great chain lube, a topic we covered in detail a few years back. The short of it is that a great chain lube not only reduces friction between the sliding components of a chain, but does so without collecting or holding onto contamination. In turn, you save watts and get a longer-lasting drivetrain.
Most of that initial research was spearheaded by Jason Smith of FrictionFacts, who later sold his company and joined the Danish firm CeramicSpeed. Smith helped to popularise melt-on waxes, and assisted CeramicSpeed in creating the original UFO Drip – a product that at its launch was (according to CeramicSpeed) the world’s fastest drip-on chain lube.
That original UFO Drip was an impressive product, one that was truly dry to touch and ran faster than many melt-on wax products. However, it wasn’t perfect. The original formula was extremely sensitive to temperature during application. It wasn’t that durable between applications. And most importantly, it was painfully expensive (although nothing like the recently released Absolute Black Graphene lube). Regardless, Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling, an independent voice in the chain lube testing world, was blown away by the results it recorded in his testing.
Now, with growing competition in the space, CeramicSpeed has announced a wholly new UFO Drip lube. It’s designed for use in all disciplines of cycling. It’s claimed to last for 300 km per application (50% improvement over the last) and is said to be 15% more efficient than the original formula. It can now be applied to the chain in temperatures between 5-35º Celsius. It’s also now non-toxic, non-flammable and biodegradable.
And perhaps most importantly, the price has dropped to €40 / US$45 (previous prices were €70 / $75), all while the number of applications per 180 mL bottle has increased to 35 (or 10,500 km of riding). Add in that a lube like this should reduce the running costs of your drivetrain, and that price is now within the realm of justifiable.
What CeramicSpeed says
According to CeramicSpeed’s in-house testing (same test protocols as those originally created by FrictionFacts), their new lube sets a benchmark for efficiency amongst other top performing lubes on the market. And while I totally understand the significant scepticism you likely have toward a brand’s in-house testing, I can say that in my experience, CeramicSpeed has been more transparent about its test protocols compared to anyone else claiming to do chain efficiency testing (note: Zero Friction Cycling doesn’t do efficiency testing).
The closest lube to the new UFO Drip is the Absolute Black Graphene lube, something that comes with impressive claims in regards to longevity but also carries a somewhat insane price tag of US$150 per bottle.
“Absolute Black presents some strong claims on the potential longevity of an application, yet their own testing shows their Graphene lube consistently increasing in friction after around 150 km and continues upward until the end of their test,” said CeramicSpeed’s Paul Sollenberger, who oversaw the technical data repository for the UFO Drip project. “When we present an expected coating duration life, we are looking for stable, even efficiency numbers. This is repeatable efficiency that a rider can confidently maintain every 300 km.”
What Zero Friction Cycling says
Do keep in mind that CeramicSpeed’s efficiency test protocol is in a sterile lab environment, and the addition of grit can be a significant factor in the real-world performance of a lube. And this is where Zero Friction Cycling’s testing, one that aims to replicate real-world riding, offers valuable insight.
Zero Friction Cycling was commissioned by CeramicSpeed to run the new UFO Drip through its protocol, and the findings were extremely positive. “Following Silca’s Super Secret lube, the UFO Drip v2 is now the second known wax emulsion lube to not have any initial penetration issues with getting into the chain,” said Adam Kerin of Zero Friction Cycling. “It has exceptional dry contamination resistance, a decent ability – for a drip lube – to clear contamination, and it performed very well in both the wet contamination and extreme contamination [test] blocks.
“One area it did outperform [compared to Silca] more clearly was a prominent reduction in wear rate in the clean blocks following contamination blocks. However, this could be due to the fact that the application instructions had me applying more UFO Drip v2 versus the amount of Silca Super Secret I was applying.”
Kerin is very much in agreement that we’re in a golden age of chain lubricants (stop giggling). “Suffice to say some of the latest drip lubes I have had the pleasure of testing this year are simply a different league versus what we had to choose from previously.”
As good as these new drip lubes are, Kerin remains a huge proponent of immersive (melt-on) chain waxing for those that value the most efficient and cost-effective chain treatment.
“What is exciting is that it appears many of the new super lubes have an extremely high-quality wax base and are therefore highly cross-compatible with immersive waxing. This means that lubricants such as Silca Super Secret and UFO D v2 can be used in conjunction with immersive waxing extremely well.”
What I have to say
I’ve had my hands on a bottle of the new UFO Drip for only a week, but early impressions are extremely positive.
Application is simple. Like almost all other wax-based lubes, you must start with a clean chain, something I did with the chain on the bike. I then followed the instructions by applying two coats of the UFO Drip and left to dry overnight (eight-hour minimum drying time). By the morning the chain was dry to touch and left no mark on my skin in doing so.
I’ve since done four hours of sandy, dusty and creek-crossing-riddled mountain biking on that lubed chain. The chain looks impressively clean and still feels smooth under power, although perhaps not as smooth as it did in the first two hours. Interestingly there is some noticeable blackened grit and wax build up around the jockey wheels (which crumbles off) while the chain itself is remarkably clean.
CeramicSpeed states that while two coats are required for the initial lubing, you only need to apply one coat for re-lubing. The fact that my chain started to feel slightly rougher after a few hours has me wanting to try an even more generous initial coating.
With the release of the original UFO Drip, CeramicSpeed published a white paper that showed there’s no correlation between audible noise and frictional levels. And while this new formula is seemingly quieter than the last, it still doesn’t offer a dead silent chain.
The high price aside, I personally never took to using the original UFO Drip due to its fussy temperature restraints. By comparison, the new UFO Drip appears to be the most practical and attainable product to ever wear the CeramicSpeed name. And the fact that it’s non-toxic and biodegradable makes it all the more attractive.