PART SIX:

LANDA

An opportunity

“Project Landa” provided the first opportunity to apply the learnings from our joint research project with the Laboratory of the Government Chemist and the National Physical Laboratory. It also provided the first opportunity to apply the combined insight of an expanded R&D team operating with a significantly increased technical resource.

 

The seeds were sown for a special project to provide Team Bahrain-McLaren’s leader with a substantial advantage from drivetrain efficiency in the pivotal stage 20 time-trial at the 2020 Tour de France almost immediately after Muc-Off agreed a technical partnership with Rod Ellingworth’s new UCI WorldTour squad in December 2019.

 

Armed with scientific insights from our work with the UK’s leading government-owned or approved laboratories, and equipped with tribometers, dynamometers, industrial microscopes and rapid prototyping facilities, Muc-Off worked with the legendary Formula One constructor on a joint hardware and lubricant solution that together would achieve a percentage in watts savings measurable in double digits.

A numbers game

The data from comparative testing of our L.O.P.S technology with leading competitors presents a compelling case for its superiority. In each of the key measures – weight, stiffness and efficiency – L.O.P.S outperformed Shimano’s stock RD9150 Di2 rear mechanism, as well as oversized designs from CeramicSpeed and Kogel.

Stiffness Comparison - Percentage Increase Compared to Shimano

The data is emphatic. The watts saving rendered by L.O.P.S was nearly 40%, compared to a stock Shimano RD9150 Di2 mech and almost 4% compared to the MODEL from CeramicSpeed. The in-plane stiffness achieved was proven to be more than 6.5% greater than the stock Shimano derailleur and nearly 3% stiffer than CeramicSpeed.

 

Performance of the pulley wheel bearings provided the widest margin of superiority: almost 93% less drag than Shimano’s stock offering, nearly 90% less than CeramicSpeed “uncoated” bearings and even 76% less than their “coated” offering.

 

L.O.P.S proved to be 6g or 9% lighter than CeramicSpeed’s OSPW System, and 16g (24%) lighter than the Kogel Kolossos. Our engineers are confident that the production version of L.O.P.S could be lighter still. The final version units shipped to Team Bahrain-McLaren at the Tour de France were 5g lighter even than the figures shared above.

Lighter, Stiffer, Faster

We used a non-homogenous, anisotropic structure, or, expressed in non-engineering terms, a multi-layered construction whose strength is dependent on direction. The goal was to reduce mass while retaining in-plane stiffness.

We used one of our recently-purchased tribometers to create a three-stage protocol to evaluate the normal force required to move the cages tested. And we conducted tests in which the cages were replaced with an aluminium bar placed in the same position on the tribometer, preparatory to applying load in the same area. This test was to investigate the cause of changes in the normal load.

 

Results proved the L.O.P.S design emphatically stiffer than its competitors, despite, in the case of the Shimano stock cage (RD9100), measuring some 8mm longer. We measured in newton-meters the reaction force required to move each cage tested by 2mm. Results showed that the torque requirement for L.O.P.S was significantly greater, proving that our titanium cage is stiffer than each of its major competitors: 6.57 % stiffer than Shimano and 2.7 % stiffer than CeramicSpeed’s OSPW System.

An overarching objective

Tests of the full system performance, made to analyse the cumulative gain against oversized designs from leading competitors and against Shimano’s stock Dura-Ace RD9150 Di2 rear derailleur, were similarly emphatic.

 

Before full-system testing, we measured the distance between the bottom bracket and rear wheel of Mikel Landa’s bike. Further considerations included using competitor products with the same or a similar number of teeth on the pulley wheels. As a further measure against variance, we used the same, 114-link chain, pre-conditioned on our dynamometer to achieve a steady-state performance, throughout.

Bearing, down

We tested more than 40 different bearing types and tested them with our in-house bearing dynamometer, applying a realistic load to each, based on a complex calculation and a pre-load value of 4g to prevent ‘bounce’. Final testing was conducted at a 20KHz sample rate, or 20,000 measurements per second. Data from the comparative tests made a compelling case for our preferred bearing, which reduced the watts required to turn the pulley wheel by 92.95%, compared to its Shimano equivalent. Further, we recorded a 70.46% reduction against CeramicSpeed’s coated bearing, and a reduction of 50.93% compared to the uncoated bearing.

 

The extreme lengths our engineers took to optimise every element of the L.O.P.S system extended even as far as the coating applied to the pulley wheels. Tests revealed our coating to be 88% more efficient than aluminium alloy, 82% more efficient than hard electroless nickel, 80% more efficient than hard chrome, and 71% more efficient than hard anodised.

A formula for success

The achievements of Project Landa included the development of our fastest ever lubricant. The striking visual impression created by the L.O.P.S system naturally led it to command greater attention at its unveiling on professional cycling’s biggest stage, but the lubricant specifically developed for Project Landa and the short, intense demands of a 36.2km time-trial is an achievement of equal magnitude.

 

Formulated from scratch with an exhaustive screening process of more than 200 hours, and tested on dynamometers, tribometers and the road in an intense two-week period with sessions lasting 12-hours a day, the Project Landa lubricant proves emphatically that “green” does not necessarily mean “slow”.

The achievements of Project Landa included the development of our fastest ever lubricant. The striking visual impression created by the L.O.P.S system naturally led it to command greater attention at its unveiling on professional cycling’s biggest stage, but the lubricant specifically developed for Project Landa and the short, intense demands of a 36.2km time-trial is an achievement of equal magnitude.

 

Formulated from scratch with an exhaustive screening process of more than 200 hours, and tested on dynamometers, tribometers and the road in an intense two-week period with sessions lasting 12-hours a day, the Project Landa lubricant proves emphatically that “green” does not necessarily mean “slow”.

A wider purpose

Project Landa held huge strategic importance for Muc-Off; nothing less than an opportunity to validate a seven-figure investment in testing equipment and staff. Failure was simply not an option. The confidence with which our scientists and engineers embraced the unprecedented challenges of a Covid-inspired lockdown provides yet another source of satisfaction.

 

L.O.P.S is being introduced to our consumer range so they can shift like the man himself. But the lessons learned during such an intense period of development, and for such a high-profile project, will inform our strategy for years to come. Muc-Off’s engineers embraced a new product category and new ways of working to develop L.O.P.S in time for the most important time-trial of Mikel Landa’s career. Each of them can reflect with pride on a job well done.