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Ultimate upgrades - Muc-Off Nano Chain

James Spender
30 Sep 2016

If Mr T did bike chains, he would pity the fool who didn’t ride with a Muc-Off Nano chain.

Designed by Muc-Off, purveyors of bright pink bike cleaner, the Nano Chain began as a project to help propel a certain Brit to Hour record glory and has since become another marginal gain in the Team Sky and British Cycling playbook. Its mainstream release grabbed headlines mainly for it being the world’s most expensive bike chain – costing up to £167 – yet that’s only half the story. 

While the chain the Nano uses is certainly worth a few quid (this one is a £36.99 Shimano Dura-Ace), it’s not made by Muc-Off. Instead it’s the specially developed lube that makes the Nano so eye-wateringly pricey.

‘The Nano Chain is a chain treated with our Nanotube Chain Lube, which we developed for Team Sky,’ says Muc-Off’s managing director, Alex Trimnell. ‘Nanotubes are nanometer-scale tube-like structures composed of a large number of carbon atoms, which help keep friction to a minimum. We can’t disclose the cost of the nano powder, but it’s phenomenally high, plus the treatment process is done by hand and requires a lot of dynamometer time.’

A Nano starts life as an ordinary chain, which is run on Muc-Off’s custom-designed Chain Lube Optimisation Dynomometer, or ‘Clod’ – a machine that measures chain efficiency in watts. The chain is then cleaned, treated with Muc-Off’s secret formula and re-tested. For the Sky pros the chain is ‘speed graded’, with the fastest being used in this year’s Tour de France time-trials. Or, it ends up on the track with Sir Bradley.

‘For the Hour record Brad wanted us to focus on drivetrain efficiency, something I’ve been obsessed about for the past three years,’ says Trimnell. ‘This resulted in us not only developing the formula, but also us running in the chainrings so they paired perfectly with the chain.

‘Depending on the original chain we’ve seen savings of up to six watts,’ Trimnell enthuses. ‘In the velodrome we saved Bradley 16.08 seconds, which equates to 238.65m on our simulation using his data. The chain will happily last on average 640-plus kilometres in the dry, or 250km in the wet and mud.’

Of the first point, Wiggins beat Alex Dowsett’s previous Hour record by 1.589km, notching up 54.526km on the boards, so while it wasn’t decisive, the Nano Chain definitely helped. But of the second? Many riders easily ride more than 640km a month (albeit that a diligent one will re-lube a chain during this time), which makes the Nano look somewhat less appealing. But fear not, Nanotube lube is available separately for a mere £68 for a 50ml bottle. And can you really put a price on the psychological benefits of knowing you have the very best?

Team GB, who all used Nano Chains to notch up 12 Olympic medals this summer, might argue that you can’t.

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