Is CeramicSpeed's UFO Drip chain lube worth the $75 pricetag and the hassle of careful cleaning and application?
“Jason, are you down in your basement playing with lubes again?”
Friends often teased Jason Smith with that question. And indeed he was. Smith is now the Chief Technology Officer for CeramicSpeed, but for years before that, he was the founder and sole operator of Friction Facts, an independent lab he ran out of his basement to test everything from bearing wear to chain lube efficiency. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows more about lube than Smith (VeloNews collaborated with then-independent lab Friction Facts in 2013 to test a slew of bicycle chain lubes), and now he’s developed a chain lube that CeramicSpeed claims is the fastest drip-on lube on the market. CeramicSpeed recently purchased Friction Facts.
It’s called UFO Drip. According to Smith, the best way to make your chain faster is to use CeramicSpeed’s UFO treatment. “Nothing like this has ever been done on a chain product,” Smith says of the in-house lab testing he conducted on hundreds of lubes in CeramicSpeed’s facility in Boulder, Colorado. And that, he says, is what sets UFO Drip apart from the competition: It’s actually been tested. Few other brands test lubes with even a fraction of the rigor Smith puts them through. “We’ve even tested how to apply it” to get the most efficient coverage, Smith says. Well over 1,400 hours of lab testing went into developing UFO Drip.
Aside from all the lab time, UFO Drip differs in composition from its competitors. It’s a blend of wax, trace oils, and what Smith calls friction modifiers; all told, there are 10 components in the lube that contribute to low-friction watt savings. The texture, once applied to your chain, is waxy but somewhat silky too, rather than the goopy and sticky wax you might be accustomed to. So it goes on wet and dries hard, which helps keep the chain fast and clean.
CeramicSpeed’s goal was to create the fastest chain lube a customer could use at home without having to send a chain in for treatment. So while UFO Drip isn’t quite as fast as a UFO-factory-treated chain from CeramicSpeed, the process of applying UFO Drip is also significantly simpler. It can be done at home, with few specific tools and knowledge beyond a good chain cleaner and some patience.
Why it works
Your chain collects dirt from the road, which in turn works its way into the moving parts, causing friction. But there’s another culprit that’s slowing you down: Chains have high “stiction.” According to Smith, UFO Drip solves both problems.
Stiction is essentially friction between moving parts that prevents those parts from moving independently. In your chain, stiction occurs between the chain plates and the rollers, as well as between the rollers and pins. Smith says there are over 40,000 stiction points in your chain that are slowing you down with every pedal stroke. When you apply a lube that’s goopy, or sticky, or wet enough to collect dirt and other muck, you’re essentially upping your chain’s stiction and slowing your chain down even further.
To combat stiction and dirt collection, UFO Drip applies wet and then dries like a very fine, silky wax. Smith tested the lube’s dirt collection levels by spraying the chain at regular intervals with a very fine sand, similar to the grit that builds up on your chain from road spray. Since the lube dries and hardens, it’s exceptionally difficult for dirt to stick to the chain. This drastically reduces chain wear (CeramicSpeed claims a 42 percent reduction in wear).
How to use it
In order to properly apply UFO Drip to your chain, you’re going to need some time and patience. In fact, Smith recommends riding a brand-new chain for two hours before applying UFO Drip to allow the chain to break in and self-polish. And you’ll need to thoroughly clean your chain before applying the lube. Smith is quick to clarify this point: Don’t just rub down your chain with a rag. Thoroughly clean it with the strongest degreaser you can find, and then let it dry completely, overnight if possible. This allows the lube to penetrate deep into the chain without being inhibited by degreaser residue. This is especially important with chains coming fresh out of the box. New chains are often coated with some sort of protectant to extend shelf life. SRAM chains use a particularly sticky coating that needs to be removed before applying UFO Drip.
Once the chain is completely clean, Smith recommends dousing the chain thoroughly, until it’s basically dripping. This should measure out to about 10 milliliters of UFO drip. This means you should be able to get about 15 to 18 applications out of a single bottle. Once the lube is applied, Smith recommends letting it sit overnight to get the full benefit. After about 30 minutes of drying time you will still see some benefits.
Who should buy UFO Drip?
According to Smith’s data, the UFO Drip chain lube should save you an average of three to four watts, depending on the application method and specific equipment you use. The question is, do those watt savings justify the $75 price tag (180mL bottle) and the application hassle? If you’re using it just for race day, perhaps. But Smith is quick to note that while this certainly works as a race day-only lube, it’s also excellent for everyday use because it should — in theory — slow down wear on your drivetrain components.
And if you’re applying it to your $12,000 race bike, $75 seems like a drop in the bucket for some watt savings and extended drivetrain life. If you’re on a tight budget or you’re lax about your bike maintenance habits, the UFO Drip is best left on the shelf. But if you’re serious about racing and maintaining your uber-expensive bike, UFO Drip might be worth a look. While VeloNews staff hasn’t longterm-tested the lube yet, the numbers are promising. UFO Drip could be a boon for racers, especially those who are already using other low-friction drivetrain and bearing components.