Latest News 50 – Marketing Contrast

A little bit of different one for fun today. There are a bunch of other immersive waxes out on the market around the world, not just Mspeedwax & Silca Hot Melt – but I haven’t paid too much attention to them to date.

Reason – basically each ZFC test takes A LOT of time, resources, both for the test, and the review (and man am I behind on detail reviews, but will be making progress soon now that Andrew is really getting cracking on the retail side).

Having already found two awesome products, which is the main goal initially, curiosity tests of other immersive waxes has just not been high on the list vs oh so many other tests to get done (and I’m pretty booked out with tests for many manufacturers).

However, a couple of new wax releases that have been brought to my attention I thought would be fun to show / discuss just from a marketing perspective.

I am going to be doing an article and video in future on the biggest and honestly most full of shite / complete logic+ physics fail marketing claims in the bicycle chain lubricant world, and this can be a mini entrée towards that.

We have one product release where I am really impressed with the approach the company is taking, more so after a great chat with the founder. And there is another product where I held grave concerns re the marketing, and the main concern was certainly not allayed by chatting with the founder.

Let us quickly cover the concerning one first and then finish on more positive notes.

Pyramid Cycle Designs – Velo Cire wax

Alrighty first things first – overall I have always admired PCD as a small company. I have always thought they made some awesome chain rings, I have one of theirs myself to try for fun and have been using it for years (54t large ring on road training bike) – love it. I think they have an excellent reputation for quality and customer service / support – so don’t let the below overshadow all their other great work – this is an article about marketing concern for their product.

Also, I am not claiming that their immersive wax may be poor, I didn’t find out what wax base it is (although founder advised it is not paraffin), or specifically what are the additives, and I haven’t tested it. For all I know it is amazing. Or rubbish. Or something in between. Unknown. PCD are a little vague on performance claims – which actually I think is perfectly fine – I much much prefer for a company to have vague general performance claims as opposed to very specific and very lofty marketing claims that are completely unsubstantiated – and a lot of claims really are very difficult to genuinely substantiate – so no red flags there.

Also, I do quite like their key differential of marketing their wax and the paste, taking into account that the paste is not sold as you can just apply and lubrication deep inside chain, but it is there to help protect the wax coating inside from the elements and have that coating last longer between waxes especially if hitting harsh conditions. Until (if) I ever get a chance to test how this goes I don’t know if it does prevent and protect as claim, but being that its PCD, and this approach is not without merit, and they seem to have done a good amount of field testing – on first blush – I like it, and I like this as a key differentiator for them in the market.

But one of the main marketing claims – dammit – it just to me really brings a whole load of concerns in.

“VELO CIRE products contain 50 micron (0.05mm) spheres which act like tiny ball bearings to give improved rolling friction within the chain. We have added a UV fluorescent pigment to allow you to check coverage”

The founder was also on a cool podcast (cycling time trial podcast episode 160 – Thankfully in the podcast whilst he mentions the “perfect spheres that are so slippery” – he didn’t say they act as ball bearings – but combined with the marketing on website, they are painting a pretty clear mental picture for cyclists considering the product that there are all these perfect spheres acting as ball bearings between the metal chain parts.

And that picture being painted is just oh so incorrect. And the founder would absolutely know that this picture is incorrect – and so we get to the problem.
(before I move into that however I will say overall it is a good podcast – a number of differences of the approach to wax by PCD, and in general some really good information re chains, friction, immersive waxing, chain prep etc – I enjoyed and thought everything was presented and explained well, good questions by the host – groovy).

Back to ball bearing spheres – now some really pesky physics gets in the way of this claim. And may I say really, really basic physics – Not such that I would expect the average cyclist to twig to the above with concern, but holy batman – if you are involved at the level of developing said lubricant – the odds on not being aware of the physics… I just believe it would be impossible not to know this claim is false (and so, then why make it…)

Simply – 50 micron is pretty tiny. And pressures inside the chain from rider load are pretty huge (as in high hundreds to thousands+ psi).

Point loads on small bearings are super high. Point loads on 50 micron size sphere under any kind of load would be simply phenomenal.

Hopefully pretty obviously now, one would realise that 50 micron spheres, if they were hard enough and strong enough not to be crushed to dust under the pressures inside chain, would then absolutely act as EXTREMELY ABRASIVE particles. They would cut into all the chain metal parts and abrade the hell out of them in short order.

Handily, I happen to have some testing from a major bearing mfg on 50 micron size contamination particles re what they do to very hardened steel bearing races;

Ok, so we have some basic logic, and physics, and even test samples – suffice to say, NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND IS GOING TO ADD SUPER HARD 50 MICRON SPHERES to their lubricant to act as ball bearings, and if they are not incredibly hard, they will not remain spherical at all on first loading, they will be crushed.

So this claim can only go one of two ways, the spheres immediately become not spheres but flattened / crushed whatever they are, which is not having them act as ball bearings at all, or, they are incredibly hard such as not to be crushed, in which case they would incredibly damaging and abrasive, cutting into the chain metal surface, and I don’t think anyone would really claim that happening is them acting as ball bearings either.

It is just a bonkers claim that really detracts from what is otherwise possibly a great product launch from a great little company that I have always admired, which is part of what is frustrating me so making me type so much!

Now, friction modifier particles are often added to lubricants / waxes to improve surface condition of chain metal but this is done via platelets of say molybdenum, tungsten disulfide etc as you may have seen in marketing for other products – and one of its key missions is to fill in the microscopic troughs in the metal surface and have the surface really smooth and coated in something super slippery.

Again, just imagine the carnage 50 micron size super hard spherical particles would do, vs super slippery, super smooth platelets. The latter is the approach usually taken, for obvious reasons. It would be frankly insane to try and have tiny ball bearings in your lubricant – hopefully I have conveyed that point strongly enough.

So putting the above to the founder at PCD, after a fair bit of dialogue back and forth, we got to here;

“The integrity of the spheres in use is the most interesting question. The best way to think of the spheres is as spherical PTFE powder, they are a hydrocarbon, although not PTFE, so even if they were to flatten they would not act as an abrasive as you suggest, because they are still softer than steel, but as a low friction plate”

Okey dokey. So they are softer than the chain metal, so they will flatten (allow me to say immediately on first loading) and not remain as spheres, but as a low friction plate. So…… platelets…… just like as in hot melt / ss drip / mspeedwax / and oh so many more – it is really the only viable approach – super smooth, super slippery surface, not small hard particles (unless the aim is MAXIMUM ABRASION).

Fine, fine, fine – just….. seriously – so frustrating – the founder is a really good, really smart guy as best as I can tell, with a great little company and may well have a great wax product on the market- and he knows, he absolutely knows (in my opinion….) that he does not have 50 micron spheres acting as ball bearings in his wax.

Am I am being a bit harsh to really go to town on just one erroneous claim out of what is overall a possibly really good product launch from a really good little company? Maybe…. But to me, I just don’t subscribe to view that honestly and integrity is ok most of the time. If a company is going to claim something that sounds amazing but is completely nonsense, and do so just because it does sound amazing and they can take advantage of the fact that the huge majority of their potential customers simply won’t pick up that it is a completely false claim – I think that’s a bad slope to start going down. If they are going to be knowingly false on one thing (in my opinion re knowingly false), then do we need to dig deeper on everything they claim. Wouldn’t it better if a company genuinely has absolute integrity in the products they sell and their business and marketing supporting that – they are able to go to market with a good and genuine product differential, and we can have great trust in all of their product marketing claims.

This is an impossible utopian situation to achieve for the industry, but some very good companies I believe do this, I think PCD have been and should look to remain one of these companies, and this particular claim was just so incorrect, from a source that I personally believe knows better, it simply made for a good entrée example for my upcoming expose on supremely false marketing.

Let us look at a product launch that I think ticks all the good boxes.

Introducing….. CYCLOWAX

Cyclowax is founded by Jakob Lorre – who tried a good immersive wax once upon a time and just instantly fell in love with the cleanliness and smooth running (sounds just like Mr ZFC….). Why battle constant cleaning of a black mess when you can like… not battle a black mess. And have day in day out super low friction and wear. And have your chain looking brand new every time it comes back out of the pot = cathartic feeling. That line of thinking just clicks for some (well, like, A LOT these days), and immersive waxing seems not like some difficult faffy process as seems to be stuck in some peeps brains, but easy and just flat out logical.

For many other cyclists, the benefits of immersive waxing call to them, however making the step from dripping on a lubricant – a process they understand and is all they have ever known, can be daunting, and it can take some time and consideration re how to implement the move to something they understand will really help extend the lifespan of their drivetrain, and be a lot cleaner with basically no maintenance.

Jakob / Cyclowax – their launch approach is one of how to make the switch to immersive waxing & enjoying the benefits of such the easiest possible and to have a guaranteed great experience.

Typically, when someone starts into immersive waxing and they have purchased their wax, they also need to get a slow cooker or crock pot, they need to make or buy a swisher to loop the chain on. They need to figure a place to hang the chain whilst excess wax drips off and wax sets. They need to clean factory grease off chain so it can be waxed, or buy a pre prepped chain. They need to clean their drivetrain of their existing wet lubricant ready for their beautiful new wax chain and may not have good cleaning solvent to do so.

None of the steps are difficult, but it is simply a bunch of decisions & actions that must be taken, and for some – simply working the ol noodle around so ok what are the things I need to do to get waxing and when / if I can I will sort out taking those steps if sufficiently motivated by the benefits to put in the effort.

Cyclowax have launched with a starter kit that has basically taken care of all of those extra steps and decisions.

First and foremost is the starter kit which has almost everything one needs to just get waxing.

It has the wax. It has a pre waxed chain. It has a brush, cloth and cleaners to clean your drivetrain. It has little spay bottles of good drivetrain cleaning agent. It has a custom made pot for heating the wax. It has a custom made holder and swisher to neatly hang waxed chain over the custom pot. It has a mat for the pot to catch any stray drops of wax as you hang so they don’t get onto your counter top. And it is all done in a very neat, stylish, space efficient and attractive way.

From there they have a variety of wax tablets ranging from their Performance pro tablets with their highest concentration of friction modifiers, to performance tablet with a lesser amount, to something I have wanted to see on the market for a long time – a basic wax tablet.

Now, not to be confused with DIY waxing – I’m not going down that rabbit hole here except to summarise that some DIY waxing is done well if using a top base wax, a lot is a disaster giving immersive waxing a bad name by using candles or a cheap base wax that is oily and gunky, and or adding an unlimited number of things that may or may help, at all. In short if your DIY waxing is working well for you – yeehaa – keep going, keep enjoying, don’t feel insecure about it and write to me to ask to test it – I have had circa 4.7 billion DIY wax formula test requests. If it is gunky & dirty not really providing much of a drivetrain lifespan benefit over whatever random lube from LBS, stop and try a proven top wax, and stop giving immersive waxing a bad name with a gunky wax. I get the allure to tinker and DIY, I do a lot of that on a lot of things myself, but I also know when a professional product simply works better and often not much more $$. Ie, I can fix a lot of things, but I am not going to make my own suspension fork oil. Or disc brake fluid. I have some knowledge in the area and I could make a pretty good DIY wax, but I cant make one that will match the best known waxes on the market, and they deliver the lowest cost to run, so I happily skip the allure of DIY for my chain lubricant. If the allure works for you, again, awesome, just follow good advice, be wary of the huge amount of terrible DIY wax out there on the ol interweb, every backyarder and his dog has pumped info out on how to best DIY wax, for ZFC DIY wax enquiries have unfortunately become a time black hole I am more and more trying to get reduce – if I answered every enquiry about DIY waxing from around the world, that is all I would do all day every day. Anyhoo, sorry that paragraph came out longer than I expected when I started typing it.

Back to the basic wax tablet by cyclowax now that I have hopefully distanced this product from DIY waxing.

Over time the trend is very much that many cyclists who do not race, and do not need friction modifiers added, they just want a super clean, still super low wear top wax blend to immersive wax their chain – they want something like mspeedwax or silca hot melt but sans the additives, just the base wax blend.

In short, a lot of waxers are paying extra for fancy friction modifiers that they do not want or need. In general, paying more to obtain something you didn’t want in the first place is less desirable than paying less to get the product you do want.

I have been onto mspeedwax for a long time re the above to release their base wax only – sans additives, alas to date this hasn’t been possible as they barely can get enough supply of ingredients to make enough base wax for their core product to keep up with demand (as we can see really, they are PUMPING flat out and really having fun keeping up, immersive waxing with a top product like mspeedwax, it is not a niche anymore, it really just makes so much sense to so many cyclists now, ZFC has been an open cheque with msw for a long time now – the standing order is send me as much as you can as often as you can and I just pay for it, and ZFC has for about 2 years now been either on the edge of being out of stock, or out of stock).

I am hoping it is on the cards as their base blend would be amazing, but we need to let Mspeedwax be able to keep up with demand first before they may be able to play with bring out the base wax product – if that is a path they agree they should take (I think it is, clearly – but I respect they need make their own product decisions).

Now – caveat – I do not know if Cyclowax’s wax is actually any good – either their base wax or their level one wax or their pro blend wax. They keep performance claims pretty broad as they have not been able to (I do not believe) have any such testing they can verify its outright efficiency etc, However they have put a huge amount of genuine resources into their field testing with all level of athletes from world record holders to weekend warriors– so that is something. And considering the global basket case situation for lab testing of bicycle lubricants anyway, I am not holding broad performance claims against them at all, in fact I VASTLY prefer broad claims vs claiming something specific that is full of shit or completely unsubstantiated.

What really came through in the chat with Jakob is just such a genuine clear passion to get cyclists off dirty and thus abrasive lubricants, and onto something clean, that needs no solvents for ongoing maintenance to remain clean, and that greatly extends drivetrain parts lifespan. I felt like I was talking to myself in the mirror at some points – except that the mirror was much younger and better looking than my actual mirror.

I just really like this product launch overall. Some of the information I personally would do differently,

  • Many times cyclists do not actually need to remove cassette to clean drivetrain, and most times it should take a lot less than 2 hours.
  • The recommended tablet replacement at 8 times – I think that should vary taking into account wet or dry weather – ie one only riding in dry conditions the amount of contamination brought into the wax in pot is very low such that 15+ waxes should be no issue, at all, and still that wax will be miles ahead re how slippery it is vs what drip lube user have on their chain just adding more lube and wiping. 8 times I think would maybe after 8 wet rides etc, and 15 to 20 re waxes for dry rides.

But that is just my / ZFC opinion from a fair bit of experience with immersive waxing across all cycling disciplines. Aside from little things like that, there is just so much to admire about this product launch.

I am going to get a kit / extra wax and will be trying to see if I can somehow test this year, I am mostly interested in the base wax tablets, and if it makes commercial sense with freight costs – I am going to see if it is viable to stock their holder and swisher. Alas the pots would cost waaaay to much to get and also to send around Australia even if I could get them, which is also why other players typically do not sell pots and waxers just need to grab one from supermarket / amazon.

The starter kit may not be cheap, but for what you get, and considering of course everyone has to make a viable / survivable margin – I think the price is fair (assuming of course the wax rocks – I am giving that strong odds just from the genuine effort and user happiness focus approach that is the foundation of this new wax company – I just don’t think they would launch with a crap performing wax, if was dry quickly / high wear, or dirty – they would know about that from their extensive field testing, and they just wouldn’t launch with that customer experience in my opinion – I can never be sure until I test, but all signs really do point to a great product launch here).

If you live in / near Belgium I think this launch is worth a look indeed.

(not sure what the shipping situation will be further a field re starter kit as the pot will make shipping costs fun, but their tablets should be easy if you want to try their wax – and it will be great if they make the holder / swisher combo available as a separate item as well, I think that is a winner of a product)

Not to make mspeedwax or any other products I have actually tested and recommend and stock mad in recommending peeps in Europe I haven’t even tested – but as this is a fun article / novel on marketing gone wrong / gone right – I just think Cyclowax have nailed it from a launch perspective, and if they do have a great wax product, I think they deserve some traction over there for helping make the switch to waxing as easy as possible (*mind they are going to need to have some 12spd chain options soon too or will miss a lot of opportunity – 12spd has been out awhile now across road, mtb and gravel).

Summary and conclusion

For the academic purposes of this article, I think the two examples show that you don’t need to go market with completely made up claim, that you know is made up (in my opinion) to try to stand out with a differentiator. You can go to market with some great differentiators to stand out in very good way if you put the effort into finding what hasn’t been done as well as it could have been to date, and then put in the genuine effort to execute the desired improvements.
(in PCD defense I think they have done this well on a couple of fronts, I think PCD wax has a solid chance of being a great product too, just that claim really, really annoyed me and made for a good entrée article before I start work on the biggest and boldest terrible marketing claims – that should be a fun article and video for all I hope!).

Suffice to say though that marketing landscape is a Battlefield, and history is littered with great products that never got off the ground, and terrible products that continue to sell like hot cakes – many times off the back of powerful marketing claims that are extremely questionable, at best.

In this tiny little sphere of focus (mild pun intended), ZFC will always be trying to shine a good light on products and manufacturers that deserve it, and to hold to account those selling really high drivetrain wear products whilst claiming some pretty astounding stuff.
Hope you enjoyed the entrée, main course to follow in future!