If you want the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Hour Record, you’re up against stiff competition — so you’d better optimize everything you can.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Bikerumor.
The Hour Record commands respect for multiple reasons, but the most elemental might be its simplicity. Start stationary in a velodrome; crank for an hour; if you go farther than anyone else ever has, you own the record.
Dan Bigham captured the UCI-sanctioned benchmark on Aug. 19, covering 55.548 km — blowing the existing record out of the water in the process.
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The British rider beat the old mark by almost half a kilometer, possibly thanks in part to a super-lubricated £6,000 ($6,794) Muc-Off NTOC chain.
Muc-Off didn’t bother to itemize the huge bill, but most of it’s probably tied up in R&D. You’d need 100 bottles of the brand’s most expensive lube (at retail price) to rack up $6,000 in expenses. And the process that it used to lube the chain is, believe it or not, highly scientific.
Bigham often works with Muc-Off as an engineer for Ineos Grenadiers, so when his teammate Filippo Ganna decided to challenge his Hour Record mark, you could probably predict what would come next.
Correct: Muc-Off announced on Sept. 16 that it would “optimize” Ganna’s chain, too.
$6K Chain: How and Why
The method worked wonders for Bigham, according to the company’s calculations. Muc-Off estimated the final chain iteration saved Bigham 15% of watts lost through his drivetrain. That, combined with its hardware choices, bought him an estimated total of 87 m added distance.
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In a press release, Bigham spoke about the professional relationship he shares with Muc-Off, and its role in his success.
“In my role as Performance Engineer at INEOS Grenadiers, I’m used to working closely with the team at Muc-Off and have first-hand experience of the gains their products and processes deliver for the team,” he said.
“Their attention to detail on this record was incredible: Machining their own bespoke test componentry, painstakingly completing round after round of optimization … they took complete care of the drivetrain, leaving me to focus solely on getting the job done out on the track.”
Muc-Off ultimately chose an Izumi Kai half-inch track chain for Bigham’s record-breaking rig. It then (painstakingly and scientifically) slathered the chain with its high-test lubricant: Ludicrous AF.
How do you slather anything painstakingly or scientifically? In this case, Muc-Off did it via a process it calls Ultrasonic Chain Optimization.
Here’s how it works. Muc-Off uses an ultrasonic tank to heat the lube to the “precise temperature required” to reduce it to optimal viscosity.
That lets it penetrate deeper into the chain, to coat the most chain contact points possible. The “all-over” coating seeks to minimize friction in the links, which increases the wattage that makes it through the drivetrain to the rear wheel.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Muc-Off said coating each chain and ring Bigham brought along for the record attempt took about 17 hours. Each chain went through the full 11-step optimization process seven times. Muc-Off points to “Ludicrous AF’s unique chemistry [which] yields greater and greater levels of efficiency with every application.”
The brand said it’s pulling out all the stops again for Ganna’s upcoming attempt. As of Friday, the team had resumed its search for even more wattage savings as it geared up to help put the record “further out of reach than ever before.”
Ganna announced his Hour Record intent that day. He spoke to the physicality of the challenge — and to the ever-critical equipment aspect.
“I’m looking forward to taking this event on, even though it’s going to be an hour of pure suffering. It will be interesting to see how my body holds up, and just how far I can go,” he said. “I have been training on the new bike and it’s super-fast — I like it. The team puts so much time and effort into these projects, they’ve done their part now it’s my turn.
“Mentally that’ll already give me some extra meters.”