Latest News #20 – Lets get Factory Grease sorted once and for all!

(random internet pic, not one from my testing).

Hi! Hope you have all been super well, riding lots, staying rubber side down. And staying low friction!

K – if you have been following / reading my stuff for any length of time you will no doubt have read the clear instruction that even if not waxing, the first thing you need to do with a chain is removing the factory grease before you put your chosen top drip lube on.

The question of what one should do with factory grease was answered way back in 2012 thanks to Friction Facts which proved it was very slow.

And if one has even one iota of a logic chip installed, it is pretty obvious that factory grease is going to be a contamination magnet, so its starting bad, and only going to get worse.

As time has gone on and we are now in the golden age of lubricants with quite a good number of known absolutely brilliant lubricant choices – again it has been pretty obvious that these lubricants will not go so well applied directly over the top of factory grease – ie how will a chain coating type lubricant be able to bond to clean chain metal if there is factory grease on the chain? It won’t. So if you don’t want to run a slow, contamination magnet factory grease (which will then be high drivetrain wear rate)  but instead wish to run a super clean low friction lube choice – the factory grease simply has to go.

All of the genuine best manufacturers making the genuine best lubricants have been pretty clear re getting rid of factory grease as step one for a good ol while now.

I thought it was mostly a case of ensuring the message reaches cyclists who have somehow missed the last decade of discussion on chain lubricants & chain friction.

However – to my great (GREAT!) surprise and extreme disappointment, recently GMBN ran  a you tube video on the top 10 mistakes re chains – and number one was removing factory grease. The video was sponsored by KMC, and so there was a bit of plug as to how amazing the grease is that you get with your KMC chain, the last thing you want to do is get rid of that, and that it will often last life of the chain etc.

I think its up to nearly 230,000 views now so that’s about 230,000 people advised to drastically shorten the lifespan of their drivetrain and ride with much higher friction (plus however many cycling friends those 230,000 people told not to remove factory grease).  Most awesome. Thankyou major cycling media – no don’t bother checking any facts just take the big cheque from KMC. (*Note against defamation suit, I am making an assumption no fact checking was done, it is hard to believe one would arrive at that advice if fact checking was completed. And I’m also assuming they received a cheque from KMC. Maybe they didn’t, but I sure would be surprised. Anyhoo – the preceding sentence is my opinion and I am not stating as fact).  

Anyhoo – I did a bit of an update re that and then moved on.

And then recently Velonews hosted  head tech guy  from Shimano to talk about what makes a fast chain, and in this podcast the shimano guy expresses much frustration re the message of always the first thing one should do is remove the factory grease, if only people knew how amazing their factory grease is, it will in most cases last life of chain etc etc.

Okay – so then I got fairly mad.

Something that I really thought had been largely dealt with is now an area of chain lubrication where cyclists are getting a pretty major mixed message. We have ZFC, Jason smith, Josh Poertner of marginal gains and silca and other top lubricant manufacturers advising remove immediately and apply top lubricant choice, and major media hosting major chain manufacturers who are advising that removing factory grease would be a big mistake.

Pretty confusing stuff if you are a cyclist wanting a low friction long lasting drive train.

So, despite being frantically behind on testing and projects I had to do something I never thought I would need to do, and that was to do a factory grease test.

The reason I never bothered before, is simply I just never expected I would need to. To me it’s akin to jumping off a building onto some rocks to check that gravity is working in that area. I have pretty firm idea how that test would go, as does anyone else who thought about it for just a little bit – do we really need to do that test?

But since two major media outlets have had two major manufacturers pumping out the message that for love of your chain do not remove our factory grease, with much annoyance the test that should never needed to have been done had to be done so I could get the data and settle this once and for all.

Okay so for all the awesome peeps who work in science (seriously, you are awesome, never forget it – science rocks) and need to be aware of confirmation bias with any test and am worried that it may have crept in here – worry not – my test is pretty simple, which makes it very robust, and so the results are pretty conclusive – it is about the same level of confirmation bias as testing for the presence of gravity by jumping off my roof. Simple but robust test.

If this is long enough for you already and want the quick outcome, the quick summary is the factory grease performed rather terribly. In fact, It is not even in the same city as where the ball park is located for the top known lubricants.

(Factory grease test was with a shimano Ultegra 11spd. For the record I believe shimano likely makes the best & fastest factory grease – KMC / YBN are probably pretty close, campy is notably stickier, srams axs road is not as terrible as its 11spd road and mtb chains which are more akin to factory glued vs factory greased – in short i have enormous doubts that any other manufacturers grease will perform much better than the shimano factory grease test – we will just attain slightly different grades of terrible vs top known chain lubricants).

So if you desire a chain that will quickly zoom to becoming really high friction and that will eat through your drive train, then yes absolutely – leave the factory grease on.

If you want to have a day in day out super low friction chain and extremely long lasting drive train, as advised by anyone credible in this space for the last decade, remove the factory grease and use a top know lubricant choice.

When I get a chance, I will try to crank out a quick detail review, but I’m extremely pressed for time at the moment and so very quick numbers – block one – clean block of 1000km with no contamination added the factory grease chain had around 4 to 5 times the wear rate vs the top 4 or 5 lubricants tested to date.

Block 2 where contamination is added things became a lot worse – I haven’t even had time to punch the numbers in yet, but its bad. Really bad – just looking at the running sheet circa 10x as bad as the top 4 or 5 lubricants tested. I had to call test at the end of block 3 (which goes back to clean – no contamination, to give lubricants a chance to clear things from block 2 as a common claim for lubricants is they “clean as they lube”.

By the end of this block the chain was making one heck of racket, there was a worrying level of chain suck, and chain is so high friction it is was extremely hard to back pedal with no load / back pedal – if it wasn’t a 20w+ loss chain by then,  I would eat a cycling helmet. A DH racing one.

There was also significant wear to chain rings and cassette as well as the chains rollers. Putting a new chain on post this test, the chain started to jump on cassette at 200w load. So that’s 3000km, the first half of which things were decidedly poor, the second half of which things were running decidedly horrendous, and that’s your drive train done as well as chain.

Compared to say mspeedwax, silca ss drip, silca hot melt, ufo drip v2, ab graphene etc – by the end of block 3 they have recorded barely any wear, are still extremely clean, drive train component wear is absolutely nil, and everything is running like smooth silk lightning.

Again there is just such an enormous gulf between where the factory grease chain was at by the 3000km mark vs the top tested lubricants – I will revise my initial statement and say that factory grease is not even in the same state as the city of where the performance ball park is located for the top known lubricants.

Even by the end of block 6, where the top lubricants have been subjected to a very harsh wet contamination block 4, and an extreme contamination block in block 6, everything is still in VASTLY, HUGELY better condition than where the factory grease chain was after just block 3 by which time it has had 2 x clean blocks and 1x dry contamination block only.

Honestly – aside from being pretty peeved I’ve even felt the need to run this test, I am also genuinely confused. Again, it is not like it even remotely close – as in yep factory grease is pretty darn good but there is better if you want to take the time to remove and replace it with a top lubricant choice.

I am confused because I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that someone of the experience and technical expertise of level of the Shimano chain tech expert hosted on Velonews podcast GENUINELY believes that factory grease would beat the likes of UFO / Silca / Mspeedwax / ab graphene etc.

Find me a world tour team running factory grease?

How many world record attempts have been done using factory grease?

I believe the answer would be……… none.

Alas if the Shimano head tech guy IS AWARE that the top known lubricants would outperform factory grease (and again I just have to stress, if one works in this space, it is just so hard to fathom that one could believe factory grease will outperform the top aftermarket lubes. It would be a bit like a NASA scientist also being a Flat Earther) then the situation is even more concerning. This would mean that one is towing the company line with the full knowledge that this will lead to much higher friction and faster wearing drivetrains. And that, is very far from good corporate behavior.

Similarly with Doddy – the tech guy for GMBN – it is again hard to believe that some who is MTB focused genuinely recommend taking factory grease chains out into the world of dust where it will all stick to the chain. Is that REALLY what Doddy recommends, or is that what Doddy recommends thanks to a big KMC cheque?

I doubt either the shimano guy (im not going to publicly name him) or Doddy will ever answer me, and likely they will be mightily peeved should they ever read this news update and my impending factory grease detail review – but – after being peeved if they could then take the time to explain why they recommend leaving the factory grease on vs removing and using a top known lubricant choice, I really, really, like monumentally – would love to know how / why their recommendation of leaving factory grease on is their genuine honest to goodness, hand on heart – best advice for cyclists to follow for their drivetrain running.

K – so I better get back to grindstone, I have still have to do final bits to get two new test machines up and running, I am way overdue on getting UFO Drip v2 detail review done as well as silca hot melt detail review – short version is they both absolutely killed it and if you are wondering if they are worth your money – oh my goodness they most certainly are – I have synergetic test about to kick off next, as well as graphene wax, and have approximately 12 months of private testing work booked by major manufacturers. For the UFO and hot melt detail reviews I also need to do a full graph revamp as existing graphs are getting too crowded so I am changing them to a much more relatable format expanding the cost to run graphs across multiple groupsets and disciplines vs one figuring out performance on a block by block basis, as well as a lubricant choice matrix, top friction hints and tips, top maintenance hints and tips docs to get done. Im super mega ultra premium busy. All with super fun stuff. Yeehaa.

But as im super busy and also terrible on the social media front – I need your help. If you see you tube vids, hear podcasts where it is advised that it would be a big mistake to remove factory grease, please put on a RESPECTFUL comment advising there is proven information advising to the contrary, and refer them to Zero Friction cycling latest news 20 document on ZFC website. With luck if there are enough respectful comments, Doddy and the shimano guy will make contact and we can start a dialogue and we can all understand better what is going on here and why. Whilst overall I’ve been pretty harsh here – it is because I have genuinely been pretty darn peeved, and pretty darn confused as the test results confirmed what we already pretty well knew – I would like to build bridges and expand networking into GMBN and Shimano vs burn bridges – that is the only way I will ever get to understand what is going on here, and hopefully it is not what I fear.

So help save your fellow cyclists from destroying their drivetrains by making sure you share proven independent information vs manufacturer sponsored information that’s a little (aka -a lot) worrisome, and if there are enough comments on the vid / podcast – then maybe just maybe I will get a dialogue going whilst you help save hundreds of thousands of drivetrains.

K – back to the grindstone, again sorry been a bit of long delay between next detail review and updated data – but I am going as hard as I can and the latest reviews and data updates from latest tests are imminent, the new machines are nearly up and running and holy batman am I excited to soon have 3 test machines running vs one!!!

I will also be on a couple of you tube vids soon (will update which ones when done) and you can bet I will be covering the above if they will let me hahahaha 😊 Stay tuned!


Pic from factory grease test – note the clear wearing of metal from chain ring teeth – this is after just 3000km.