Cheap and Easy Speed?

If you have arrived here looking for stimulants – sorry to disappoint. We don’t do that here: this is a doping free zone.

However; if your search is one of looking for “marginal gains” (as the British Cycling Federation has so famously been quoted lately) I may be of assistance.

I’ve highlighted some articles here before that speak of new testing facilities that have aimed to put some quantitative and objective data behind some of the qualitative speculation many of us cyclists have followed for decades. Most recently; Friction Facts’ founder, Jason Smith in Boulder, Colorado has set about doing just that.

Jason has competed in cycling – most notably as an XTERRA triathlon athlete – and so his interest in marginal gains is a natural one. Once you begin matching yourself against other athletes you observe just how big of a difference a few small percentage points here and there can make over the course of an event. His educational and professional backgrounds in materials engineering and measurement devices respectively also has equipped him with the knowledge to begin to scientifically test and quantify some of the gains that can be had by small changes on your bike.

Here’s a few of his findings:

3-watt difference between two of the most commonly available new chains
1.5w savings by changing pulleys
1+w savings by switching to and from certain pedals
5 w increase in friction when using a popular chain lubricant compared to the factory treatment

Curious to me is the observation that by some of our hap-hazard choices in equipment and maintenance we can cancel out small gains in one area with a poorly informed choice in another. If we use the above examples as an equation: we could have had a 5.5 watt gain if we’d have only used a different chain lubricant. Instead; we are left with an imperceptible 0.5 watt advantage. Similarly; something as simple as correct derailleur pulley selection can save you up to 6 seconds per hour of racing (at 250 watts average). Jason, I am intrigued.

Smith is also interested in developing some products – which he appears to be selling at an almost zero profit margin once you factor in labor – to provide his followers with the advantages he has discovered. One example is his “UltraFast” chain. Ingredients: the fastest chain he has tested (Shimano Dura Ace 7901) which is ultrasonically cleaned and then treated with his custom lubricant blend ( Paraffin wax, pure PTFE Teflon, and molybdenum sulfide). He claims this produces the lowest consistently measurable friction loss of everything he has tested. Hard to argue with that!

The UltraFast treatment is also available as an “Optimizing Service” where he will treat your chain with the same process for $39 (convenient if you use Campagnolo components and the 7901 chain is not compatible with your drivetrain).

Smith views himself as the “Consumer Reports for cyclists” saying: “I buy everything myself – there’s no advertising on the site and I don’t plan on advertising. I hope I can make a little bit of money because I really enjoy doing it.”

I know that I’ll be anxiously awaiting more data from Jason and I would love to test one of his chains one day. You know that if that happens you’ll be sure to read about it here!

© 2014 Road Rage Cycling Blog