Thursday, September 19, 2013

NFS Chainlube: Rain or Shine

NFS Chain Lube/ VS Still Life
2,000 miles. That's about how long it took for my chain to need lubricating again after I applied this stuff earlier in the summer. I should specify that all of those miles were done in "4 seasons in a day" Northern Ireland, a good percentage of them in overshoe-worthy rain over gritty, filthy, crumply chipseal farm roads. 

In the past several years I have used a number of chain lubricants, pretty much the usual suspects you'll see in bike shops. Most of them have worked splendidly in good weather, and anywhere from decently to poorly in bad weather and gritty road conditions. What makes the NFS Chainlube stand out for me, is that it truly excels at the latter. Not only does it take longer to wear off in the rain, but it somehow attracts less grit and sand than the Other Brands I've used.

I should note that I am generally not big on bicycle chain maintenance. I don't go by any kind of schedule and only oil my chain when it starts making noise. In stretches of good weather, it can be a long time before a chain needs re-lubricating. The trouble is my penchant for cycling in bad weather. There have been times I've ridden in conditions where my chain has needed maintenance after a single sub-100K ride. That has not happened since I switched to the NFS Chainlube. This product goes on light, and fairly little of it is needed. This, in combination with how long it lasts, makes a $15 bottle go a long way.

NixFricShun Chainlube (NFS for short) is a product brought to you by the framebuilder-oriented cycling forum Velocipede Salon and it comes with a backstory. It's a fine story, but I won't focus on it here, because I feel it muddies the point. Point being, that this chainlube does not need a story, cause, or hip affiliation to help sell it. Though initially I bought this product to support Velocipede Salon, once I used it I became a convert. Then I bought a couple more bottles to give as gifts, and the cyclists I've given them to have become converts as well. Rain or shine, with an emphasis on the former, for me this stuff has gone the extra mile.

34 comments:

  1. Sounds too good to be true but on the off chance it really is(and because I blindly follow those who seem cooler than I)I believe I will purchase me some.

    You didn't mention if it is good to eat though, it seems like non of the other chain lubes on the market even try. I'm waiting for the lube that lasts and lasts but is also a tasty condiment for powerbars and warm smashed banana.

    Spindizzy

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    1. That reminds me of the mother & daughter SNL commercial (early 90s I think) about a menstrual-related product that's also great on salad.

      (Be warned, I have not tried the NFS chainlube on salad.)

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    2. OMG, I can't say ANY of the stuff I'm thinking now about this lube that lasts and lasts and only needs an occasional wiping to be all super lubey again and reminded you of THAT. I'm sort of ashamed of myself really. Laughing through my nose but a little ashamed just the same...

      Spin

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  2. Have you tried Chain-L? http://chain-l.com/

    I'm a convert. Not only does it last through wet-riding, it has made my drivetrain quieter than ever before, even quieter than with a new chain.

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    1. Yes, I've tried Chain-L. Good stuff, but the NFS lasted me longer.

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    2. Chain L rocks, but is very application-technique dependent.

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    3. Could you say a bit more about the differences between the two? I didn't like Chain-L (didn't last longer and was messier than other wet lubes). Thanks!

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    4. I'm a total Chain-L convert. I apply it, let it soak in, wipe it down with mineral spirits and put it on the bike. I'll then wipe it with spirits one or two more times and then not worry about it for a couple of months.

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  3. Good to know. I've had a lot of issues with needing (seemingly) constant chain lubrication lately, and have been on the hunt, so this could be the answer. Thanks much! :O)

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  4. "It's a dessert topping AND a floor wax!

    Mmm Mmmm Mmmm

    and just look at that shine!"

    Been meaning to get a bottle. Thanks for the reminder.

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  5. Remember to follow the instructions and wipe the side-plates after EVERY ride. Just keep a rag where you store your bike and run it backwards through the rag a couple of turns and your done. No chain cleaner required. The stuff works best as self-cleaning along the theory of "only clean with lube." Sometimes a cheap natural bristle brush helps get grit off, but so little of it sticks, it's really not necessary. I tend to reapply lightly every 150 miles or so, but I'm a nut-case when it comes to keeping my chains clean and lubed. My chains are lasting 3-4 times longer with this stuff. It really is Baller.

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  6. Gosh, I lube my chain every 100 miles whether it needs it or not. If I let it go much longer than that I start to notice a real difference... I can't imagine waiting until it starts to make noise!

    I use White Lightning Clean Ride which is a paraffin based dry lube, and I've been real happy with it - no chain marks all over my legs, and no nasty teflon to worry about. Is this stuff a dry lube or is it the messy kind?

    Anyhow, just curious what other folks do... Am I being over the top with my every 100 miles thing?

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    1. I think you're right on! IMHO, a clean and lubed chain is a happy one. Depending on weather and road conditions every 100 might be "over the top" but you certainly aren't doing any harm.

      I've been happy with Boeshield T-9 but am willing to try something new.

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    2. That's what I used to use, and it performed well for a wet lube - I suppose one could argue that it does a bit better in terms of longevity and wet weather.

      BUT, like any wet lube, it just attracts dirt and grit, and in very short order the chain is full of gunk. Since I switched, the gunk factor has just gone away. I wipe the chain clean before I lube it, and seriously, there's hardly ever anything on the rag.

      I suppose if you hated lubing the chain this wouldn't be the way to go. I don't mind it though, I just make it part of my weekly maintenance routine.

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  7. Any chance we can get a post about your bicycle maintenance philosophies (cleaning, etc) if there are any at all?

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  8. Is it biodegradable?
    Or at least non-toxic?

    Because everything that's washed off a bike ends up in the ground...
    I'd rather stick with a 100 mile lube, that's biodegradable if it isn't.

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    1. Of course it isn't - is a petroleum product.

      Everything biodegrades eventually. What they don't tell you is the half life.

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    2. Paraffin is a petroleum product. Don't believe me, look it up. Unless you are melting cakes of paraffin and soaking your chain in it you are using products that have been modified and supplemented with additional petroleum products. And it's not even good lube. It may keep your chain quiet, it will cause your chain to wear out much sooner. Your chain is a manufactured product that used a lot of energy, little of it pure and clean. You are way ahead of the game if you extend the life of your chain by expending a few milliliters of oil. Preferably good oil that lasts.

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  9. Hm, I was greatly disappointed by the previous wonderchainlube I got suckered into buying by glowing and in hindsight implausible sounding reviews. 2000 miles in rain sounds even more implausible. Okay, I'll buy three.

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    1. Hm, 10 dollars flat rate shipping to the US, 20 to Canada. You might want to add that to the article (unless the stuff is available in some LBS, too).

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    2. I got a refund with no explanation when I tried to buy some anyway. So I guess I won't be trying it. :(

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  10. Hands up to whomever resorts to olive oil! mineral oil! canola oil! Almond, sesame, avocado, sunflower, safflower, rape oil! Come on, admit it...
    I am terrible with chain maintenance, and in the winter when it rains alot and the roads all gunky and muddy, yikes! Often when scrambling to get ready to work we'd use whatever we had. Some bike mechanics swear by mineral oil, so fine. It never makes any difference to me whether or not we have official chain oil or left over salad/cooking oil. It has to be reapplied, do not want something toxic.

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    1. Since no one else has stepped forward to be the curmudgeon on this one I'll take it. Any vegetable oil applied to a chain is going to dry, cook, and create varnish which will prevent lubrication. Once that varnish is in there it will not come out again. Maybe a month in a sealed jar with paint stripper would clean that chain.

      Lubricating with vegetable oil is in the same category as using quick releases as wingnuts. People are gong to do it, nothing will ever stop them. But it does not work. Vegetable oil does not have the film strength to function at all as a low speed, high load lubricant. It makes a mess. Very high friction and very short chain life.

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  11. Old family legend has it that my Grandfather once used spoiled bacon fat on his boots in the depression only to have the rats at the mill make ravenous/amorous passes at his feet.

    Lots of stories in my family, many based in fact...

    Spindizzy

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  12. If you have done a lot of miles in the rain and you are still far from home and your chain is getting rough and there is no NFS in your saddlebag there is a remedy at hand. Stop at the next gas station. Go to that trash can between the pumps. There is an "empty" quart of motor oil in there. Empty is a relative term. That empty bottle has enough oil for three chains if someone was patient and enough oil for twenty chains if someone was impatient. And that bottle is always there. I have been doing this for 45 years and that bottle is always there.

    Applying oil to a chain from a quart bottle while standing in the rain is imprecise. You will use too much. Wipe off the excess. There are paper towels in the same trash can or you can take fresh ones. Motor oil is good chain lube. It is much better chain lube than rainwater or road salt. The ecological cost of using lubricant that was headed for the landfill is less than zero.

    All the chains in our house are 1/2" as all the chainrings and sprockets in the house were cut for 1/2". We don't hold by these newfangled 12.7mm chains. Buying NOS vintage chains means paying Too Much and it also means some chains are at the Right Price (0). Average cost is about like budget questionable new chain. Realistically most surviving 1/2" chain will not be sold, it will be scrapped. So our chain is also waste stream and has no significant ecological cost.

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  13. I haven't tried NFS lube, but have tried just about everything else. Best I've found is so far is Chain-L, which is a total pain in the ass to apply, but only needs to be applied about 1/4th as often. I live in the rainy Pacific Northwest and commute by bike pretty much every day, rain or shine. Applied correctly: chain cleaned thoroughly, dried, layed out on paper toweling, one drop on each link, let soak in, run through the hands to work into links, wipe the crap out it with a rag, reinstall and ride 800-1000 miles without re-lube. Of course, running with full-coverage fenders keeps the road spray off the chain, which is part of the long-mileage secret.
    Still....I'm a sucker for new lubes and will probably have to try this new stuff.

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  14. I use grease intended to be used on automobiles' suspension-joints. In hot/warm weather the grease works its way into the pin/busing area. So you see, none of this high priced, unproven, and trendy kid-stuff chain lubricants for me!

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  15. What Paul said. I put Chain-L on (and wipe it down) with the chain hot from a heat lamp. It comes away dry but lubed inside, and stays quiet for ~1000 km. It might go longer but I can't do it. NFS sounds pretty cool too; I may have to try it. So yeah, what Paul said.

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  16. Wow, you are running a chain 2,000 miles! Here in Seattle, wet riding and the attendant road grit and moisture are a constant battle. I've had the best luck with the wax-based lubricants mentioned by others and first developed for mountain bikers. The wax-based lubricants don't seem to attract as much dirt and seem to last longer in the wet. I also learned the hard way that not replacing my chain soon enough, meaning for me every 1,500 or 2,000 miles, is a false economy and can prove costly. Once the chain stretches from wear, it wears the soft aluminum chainring teeth to match and eventually you get skipping. Skipping is not good. Then you get to buy new chainrings with your new chain - as a new chain will no longer fit the worn chainring teeth. Sometimes you get to buy a new cog set too.

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  17. The idea of a good chain lube back story muddying the waters made me laugh. Surely the waters would be clean and free from gunk!

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  18. Of course, no one should be lubing a chain before a thorough cleaning, degreasing and drying beforehand. You're all doing that, right? Otherwise, the fresh oil is just a vehicle to carry all that grit inside the chain link bushing.

    Typically I only have to re-oil my chain once every riding season (about 1000 miles), but I always remove it, soak it in simple green for a few hours, rinse well under hot water, pat dry with a rag, bake in the oven for an hour to ensure there is no trapped moisture, then apply Chain-L while hot. After, I wipe the outside of the chain dry and reinstall. It would be an absolutely ridiculous exercise to do every 150 miles, but again I only have to do this once per season.

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    1. I lube it after a half-hearted cleaning. Like I said, I am not the most diligent when it comes to chain maintenance.

      Not sure whether these are sold in the US, but there are chain lubricants in local bike shops labeled "wet weather" that specifically state there is no need to clean the chain before applying.

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    2. Heavy viscosity lubes like chain l are wrt lunes by definition- good on the wet.

      The capillary action isn't significant tme. What does more damage is doing a mineral spirits complete strip - all the good stiff is being displaced along with the exterior gunk.

      Hence my earlier comment about rain.

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  19. Bought the NFS and it is now on all the bikes. No longevity claims yet. In the meantime it makes the chain quiet and makes the drive feel smooth. The quiet part is so pronounced that other people notice it. Directions say "apply sparingly", somewhere on Velocipede Salon they recommend 10 drops for the whole chain. Ten drops is plenty.

    As for chain cleaning, it's just not necessary. NFS appears to go through chain gunk to the metal and float the old gunk off. After lubing with NFS you will need to wipe the chain after each ride because the gunk floats and spreads. Also wipes off pretty easy. After a few rides the chain looks cleaner than a bike chain looks. The sprocket teeth have a lubed look too. It's all just different than anything we've been used too.

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