I can’t remember thinking I needed a revolution in lube and cleaning products for my bike. You’d think that this would be a huge priority for any Seattle cyclist and occasional cyclocrosser, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but sometimes the finer points of life (cleaning my bike) get lost in the flood of daily whatever. For a while, I’d load up on citrus degreasers and the plastic contraption you clamp over your chain, and it was what it was.
So when Muc Off contacted me last summer offering the Team Sky clean and lube kit for trial, I had two reactions. One was, I had nothing to lose. And two was, if it’s good enough for Team Sky, it was worth a look. I struggle to root for Sky as much as most of us, but their brand is undeniably linked to technological innovation. And it’s the UK. They know something about riding in slop over there.
What arrived... was definitely more than I expected. It was the Team Sky Kit (minus the drybag), and it covered all the bases, some I didn’t even know about. I’ve cleaned, I’ve lubed... but I haven’t applied protective layers before. For all that, I needed to wait. For ‘Cross season.
Backing up, here’s what they Sky kit contains:
- Nano Tech bike cleaner, which may or may not clean off dirt at the atomic level, my eyes aren’t that good, but it certainly gets the grime off.
- Bike Drivetrain Cleaner, a grease-cutting spray for the chain and gears.
- Bike Protect, which is the protective layer that goes on your clean bike to ward off the next round of gunk.
- And the Team Sky Hydrodynamic Chain Lube, their longest-lasting product.
Plus some brushes and sponges, but never mind that. The concept is simple, there are three steps to ideal lubrication and protection — clean, coat and lube — and the way to make a name for yourself in this realm is to find a way to do those things better than the others. That’s the marginal gains the Sky folks are said to be on the hunt for. That’s what Muc-Off delivers.
The Nano Cleaner seems to do fine, getting through some grease spots on the matte finish on my road bike that another cleaner didn’t get around to. I don’t have much more beyond a few uses’ worth to go by, but the nanotech approach is not a mirage. It’s the flagship product that put Muc-Off on the map. It’s why the company isn’t named Lube-On or what have you.
But the product that means more to me is the Drivetrain Cleaner. I like a clean frame, but I spend a lot more time trying to see the original material in my chain. The Drivetrain Cleaner just sprays on and gets to work, brushes optional. Compared to the system of loading up a chain cleaner with five or six ounces of citrus degreaser, just a few sprays does the job. Very well. Muc-Off do sell a Dirty Chain Machine device to clamp on and crank, but unless you’ve really caked on the crud, the Drivetrain Cleaner works fine on its own.
The Bike Protect is another reliable product. I tried another brand’s frame coating, and it was messy and difficult, and not up to the job of ‘Cross season. But the Bike Protect contains more oil than its competitors, which drives out water and prevents dirt from sticking. It gets your bike clean and keeps it that way.
The lube products consist of their well-known and appreciated C3 Ceramic Chain Lube, in both wet and dry versions for your climate. One insider friend assures me that the shop guys swear by it. But the Sky kit comes with an updated product, their Team Sky Hydrodynamic Lube, which has been out for a couple years and now includes a special yellow Tour de France version.
Yellow? Colors? Yep. And surprisingly enough, it’s not a ridiculous gimmick (Team Sky can conjure up enough of those on their own). The color (previously blue) refers to a UV dye that is added to the product so that you can observe whether your chain is fully coated. Apply it (after a thorough cleaning and on a dry chain, then ideally wait a couple hours) and then check to see if you have total chain coverage, using the keychain flashlight that comes with the lube to light up the lube. See any conspicuous gaps? Hit that spot for best performance.
That’s kind of a neat feature for the fussiest of us, but what matters most to me is simply that this is an incredibly durable, multipurpose lube. It’s been on my ‘Cross bike as well as my road bikes, for some six months now including a CX season, and it lasts at least twice as long if not longer than any of the lubes I had been using. Mind you, I am used to constantly applying the lightest lube I can find and steering well clear of anything waxy for dry conditions, thanks to the Seattle Slop. But this is the most durable, comprehensively useful lube I have found, and I know I’m not alone in that opinion.
If there’s a downside to Muc-Off it is that their products come in a bit on the high side of the cost range. On Amazon the lubes range from $16-27, at least double the cost of the usual suspects, but that difference is tempered a bit by the durability — you won’t run out as fast — even before you consider higher quality and the fact that that “surcharge” is still not much more than the price of a decent sandwich. The Drivetrain Cleaner is an extra $5 over some of the usual brands too, but again the fact that it works better means you use less of it.
Bottom line is, Muc-Off has rolled out both some particular products as well as bike care sets that are the top of the line (plus related products like brushes and mechanic’s gloves) that will help you protect your precious crotch-rocket, mountain masher or whatever you ride. Check them all out here.