Rock 'n' Roll Gold Lube
As regular readers of our reviews know, we're happy to experiment. Particularly with lubes. There are a lot of good lubricants out there, but there could always be a better chain lube. Just as important, lube is pretty cheap and needs to be re-applied frequently.
The perfect lube to us is one that goes on easy, doesn't need to be wiped off, dries fast, sheds dirt, and stays on for hundreds and hundreds of miles and doesn't come off in the rain. Doesn't exist. Probably shouldn't exist, as it will run everyone out of business unless it's priced so high that few will want to spend on it.
Last winter, we tested DuMonde Tech lubes. Both the Original and the Lite. We liked how the lube stayed on through the yuck and washings of winter. Often, it seemed as if the chain was cleaner and the lube running better after applying, riding, and washing the bike down. As the season changed, we kept with the lube. In the summer, we decided that since we weren't washing our bike as frequently, the DuMonde was a bit too much. The lube was attracting some dirt, no matter how well we wiped down the chain after lubing. Maybe we never mastered the art of applying minimally.
So we moved on to Rock 'n' Roll Lubrication's Absolute Dry lube. Went on easy, left the chain drier and cleaner and didn't require reapplying as frequently as we were told it would. We kept the Dry on until the start of winter, when we decided to try Rock 'n' Roll's slightly heavier Gold lube. Gold is supposed to stay on better than the Dry; we thought this would be better for the winter.
The 16oz bottle comes with an empty four-ounce squirt bottle. Shake up the big bottle, pierce the top, and fill the little bottle before the heavy stuff in the liquid re-settles at the bottom. While you can work out of the big bottle, the small bottle is easier to use and is much easier to tote on the road (but not when flying).
While Rock 'n' Roll says you don't need to degrease the chain before putting on new lube, we thought it best to start tabula rasa. They say their lube is a cleaner and lube in one. We tried to go easy on the lube as the petroleum-based carrier is so thin, it seemed to be running out of the bottle. We didn't want to supersaturate the chain. Or empty the bottle.
We didn't over-soak the chain, even though Rock 'n' Roll recommends not being stingy with the lube. There was much more left in the bottle than we expected. We wiped the chain down and let it dry overnight. They say it's better to let the chain dry before riding.
We also didn't follow their directions of putting the chain in the biggest gear and dripping lube down from the top of the smallest cog while pedaling backwards. While gravity works well, we're more partial to keeping the lube on the inside of the chain's radius and lubing from where the chain exits the jockey wheel.
We were expecting to have to reapply in a week, as Rock 'n' Roll tells us they go 175mi between lubings. We didn't have to. We decided to run it until it was squeaky. The one application lasted until we washed the bike, at least 300 miles later. Maybe it was 400. The washing wasn't so much the issue. The bike had spent several hours in the rain; with road salt and grit and a thorough washing, we decided the chain was best served by lubing once it was dry.
After the washing, we waited for the chain to air dry. After air-drying, we re-lubed. The chain stayed smooth and clean for a while. One of our own friction tests is how easy and quiet the chain is when hand-spinning the cranks backward. We want the spin to feel as easy and quiet as it was when the chain was new. This happened pretty much every time we spun the cranks.
There is magic in the lube. We like how well the lube seems to stay on our chain and how clean our chain remains. We hope both these factors help increase chain life. In terms of longevity, we're less than halfway through our first filling of the four-ounce drip bottle, which means in three of the messiest months of the year, we've used two of the 16 ounces in the bottle we opened. It could take us two years to finish the big bottle.
But writing about this, and other lubes, is somewhat problematic. We don't really know what's going on in the lube and how it sticks to the chain. We're told, “gel membrane technology keeps dirt and moisture out and the moving and rubbing parts of the chain sealed in lubrication for a noticeable reduction in friction and drag.” The lube gets in to the rollers and then dries there. We don't have a microscope that can look this closely. This troubles us. It's not so much that we have a space to fill with words, but that it's our nature to ask what goes on and not feel comfortable resting until we have a good answer.
The problem is, there isn't a good answer. Or at least one that anyone will share with us. We're not coming down hard on Rock 'n' Roll for not telling us every last ingredient and explaining what each little bit does and how it works in conjunction to create a lube that seems to do a good job getting into the chain links but evaporating off the plates. It seems to be the nature of the business.
Years ago, we read The Emperors of Chocolate, a story about Hershey and Mars and the candy industry. Turns out, most candy company officials claim that the other companies engage in espionage. And most candy companies are loath to reveal anything about their products -- Mars even goes so far as to blindfold contractors who visit their factories. Chain lubes strike us as being similar to candy. That is, they're simple, disposable products that can't be that dissimilar from each other. Cocoa, sugar, milk, some other stuff; it's the other stuff and the percentages that make the difference. Every company wants to feel they've got an edge on their competition. Revealing the magic behind the lube could give the competition that edge. They would know too much, could figure out how to copy your lube, and with that are ever more precariously perched on the precipice. When you make your living off products that sell for around $10 and can last for over a year, you're probably afraid that even a small drop in sales could spell the end of your company.
Rock 'n' Roll tells us that the gold-colored liquid is petroleum based and the heavy white stuff settling at the bottom of the bottle is PTFE. PTFE is PolyTetraFluoroEthylene. Teflon is a brand name of PTFE. The liquid acts as a carrier for the PTFE, which is a solid at room temperature, liquefying at 621 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason PTFE is popular is it has the lowest coefficient of friction of any known solid; Wikipedia says a gecko can't even stick to it.
Gold's magic has something to do with the PTFE and the petroleum. That's probably about as much as we're going to learn without a chemical engineer breaking down the stuff in a lab and explaining their findings. We can live with that for now.
Rock 'n' Roll hasn't made the perfect lube. But it's very good. Since it's sticking to our chain well and the chain is staying clean and feels low-friction, we're sticking with Gold for some time.