Ever wondered what makes Muc-Off products so innovative? Well then you're in the right place - we're diving into the story behind our incredible technical feats, by ‘Meeting the machines’ that live in the miracle lab that is our epic R&D centre.
This is where you can check out all the incredible work our Muc-boffins get up to – specifically, how they develop high performance chain lubes for the world’s best cycling teams.
With INEOS Grenadiers winning the Giro d’Italia last month, we proudly celebrated our tenth Grand Tour win from our supported teams. This fantastic achievement wouldn’t have been possible without pushing boundaries, and to do that, we’ve needed a world-class team of engineers, chemists and the best equipment money can buy. From sophisticated tribometers to bespoke dynamometers, industrial microscopes to 3D printers, the R&D facility at our global headquarters on the south coast of England is a bike fan’s equivalent to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!
Starting with our tribometer - the kit that we use to test new chain lubes. It’s a super sophisticated machine that replicates friction-inducing motion in a way that is infinitely controllable, giving us consistent results that are difficult to replicate any other way. The mechanical contacts from a bicycle drivetrain can be reproduced in every aspect to test how effective a new lubricant is.
Then there’s our double-award-winning chain link dynamometer, which has been used to develop lubricants and prepare chains for Tour de France victories, UCI Hour Records and Olympic finals... a pretty impressive track record if we do say so ourselves. Built from scratch by the infamous and anonymous Muc-Off Research and Development Technical Director, known only as ‘Dr M’, our dyno helps us test new lubes in a variety of conditions. It can even replicate Tour de France routes in ‘Stage Mode’, so we have full confidence that when our lubes are used by the world’s best teams, they’ve already proved they’re capable of handling the extreme demands of Grand Tour racing.
Our Contour White Light Interferometer is a powerful optical measurement tool. This industrial microscope is able to map out the surface topography of a component - such as a chain link - in the highest resolution. The interferometer uses an algorithm to measure the interaction between its own light source and reflected light from the measured sample, to plot a microscopic image of the 'hills' and 'valleys' on the surface of an object. In practice, this means it shows the exact amount of wear that’s been inflicted on a chain.
The interferometer and tribometer are used in tandem – ‘Tribo’ tests are conducted to generate wear and the interferometer is used to measure it. The interferometer can measure the depth of wear scars on link components or bearings, in microns: units of measurement a thousand times smaller than a millimetre! All of this is incredibly useful when developing a new chain lube, as we can see how durable it is, then compare it against other formulas to find the perfect balance.
All of these machines (and many more for that matter) have been used in the development of the various bike lubes used by our teams in the pro-peloton, but our R&D Team do more than just whizz up wicked bike lubes. A fast lube is only one part of the story, as we all know a lube is only as good as the chain it’s lubricating. That’s why in recent years we’ve been providing the world’s best teams with fully optimised treated chains.
We receive hundreds of chains from teams around the world. They're dropped off at Muc-Off HQ, cleaned multiple times using our state-of-the-art Ultrasonic Tanks and specially formulated cleaner, dried, and then optimised on the dyno. We then give them a thorough coating with a chain lube of their choice before packaging them up in James Bond-style briefcases and shipping them back to the world’s best, complete with testing data.
The accuracy of our machines (and the legends running them) mean that we supply our teams with the most reliable chains and data possible, so they know that when they use a treated chain, it’s going to give them the competitive advantage required to dominate at the highest level.