Frequently Asked Questions
Should Chain Lube Biodegrade? Why are biodegradable lubricants the right choice?
In May of 2012, we were contacted by Diana Fox of Eco Products that Work, a blog focused on presenting readers with information about eco friendly product options that work as well, or better, than other not-so-friendly options. Diana was interested to learn more about our Go! chain lubricant and was not shy about digging behind the scenes to learn more about its eco friendliness. We happily sent over the the requested information and the story went up (read it here). Soon after, Diana let us know that one of her readers, her father, had posed a great question: Should bike oil biodegrade? Agreed that biodegradability is good, but also the longer the lube stays doing its job without degrading, the better, right?
These are great questions. Clearly it is important for a chain lube to perform well and be long lasting so why would you want it to biodegrade? The following provides a quick look at how biodegradation works and reasons why choosing biodegradable chain lube might be a better for your bike, for you, and for the planet.
Biodegradation of the oil will not occur in the bottle or during use. Biodegradability is defined as the ability of a substance to be digested or consumed by naturally occurring microorganisms present in water, air and soil systems. The conditions a bike oil experiences during use do not provide the conditions needed to biodegrade. Pedro’s Biodegradable oils are engineered to match or exceed the performance of full synthetic and petroleum-based oils. If all we wanted to do were to offer biodegradable products we’d use vegetable oil from the grocery store. Our lubricants contain bio-based additives to provide high efficiency and excellent oxidization and wear protection. Bicycles are used outside and are often come in contact with the environment in general and specifically water, dirt, and plant life. Bicycle chains require frequent lubrication and cleaning. Due to the open nature of a bicycle drivetrain it is easily contaminated by dirt, mud, sand, water, etc when riding. Biodegradable oil will have little to no ill effect on the environment when the bike is washed.
Consumer products have to be transported from the manufacturer to the user. In an ideal world this wouldn’t be the case but it is the current reality. Accidents are bound to happen during transit. Though our consumer products arrive to the customer is small volumes, the other pieces of the puzzle see much larger volumes being transported. As has been shown many times by oil spills, this can have drastic effects on the environment. Biodegradable oils will cause far less harm if spilled during transit and would readily biodegrade if it entered soil, water, or similar environments.
Why Use Vegetable Oil Based Lubes?
Twenty years ago, people began to use Synthetics over basic petroleum for primarily two reasons. Longer life of the synthetic base stock preventing oxidation and oil breakdown over time and enhanced additive properties; Synthetic base stocks have reduced additive solubility versus petroleum oil, enabling the additives to release from the oil and associate with metal surfaces easier than conventional lubricants. Vegetable/synthetic engineered blends are the next horizon.
Pedro’s Go! And Chainj are vegetable/synthetic mixtures which leverage advantages of full synthetics and vegetable oils while offering a fully biodegradable product. We supplement the vegetable oil to perform like a synthetic base stock and include bio-based additives to meet and exceed the performance of full synthetics. From an oxidation characteristic, our vegetable oils will last just as long as our current Syn Lube product and other synthetics while having advantages only found in vegetable based oils. Vegetable oils are larger, three-chain, molecules. The ester functional group of the vegetable oil has a slight negative charge. For one vegetable oil molecule, there are essentially three slight negative charges. This charge enables the vegetable oil to function as both oil and additive, providing these key performance advantages:
Getting to metal surfaces to prevent rust and metal protection is critical for any lubricant. The slight negative charge of the vegetable oil associates ionically with the positive metal surface, creating a protective barrier on the surface and keeping it there.
In a case of two metal surfaces coming in contact under a load, the vegetable oils are more slippery, enabling the metal surfaces to slide easier, reducing friction. This makes Go! and Chainj fantastic chain lubricant and also good general lubricants. Typical synthetics must be supplemented with anti-wear, friction reducing additives to match the properties provided by vegetable oils. For this reason, fewer additives are needed in Go! and Chainj increasing environmental friendliness.
The negative charge, molecule size, and viscosity of both Chainj and Go! products make them much better penetrants versus synthetic lubricants. This is beneficial when trying to unfreeze rusty bolts around the maintenance shop, as these products are able to get into the cracks and help to remove these frozen bolts.
Vegetable oil has great properties. Chainj and GO! will have excellent solvency versus a Synthetic product which allows these lubricants to remove contaminants from the chain during application and use. As a result, these lubricants can be reapplied more times before requiring degreasing.
Vegetable oils reduce the reliance on crude oil and are derived from sustainable sources. In addition vegetable oil are fully biodegradable once exposed to conditions found in the natural environment eliminating possible contamination caused by exposure to the environment of the lubricant commonly occurring when riding or when cleaning one’s bike.
Tülio’s Green Corrosion Protection
You may already know that anti-corrosion protective coatings extend component service life. However, you may not realize the caustic and harmful processes and materials required by many commonly used coatings. Pedro’s has taken steps to provide finishes on its tools that are both high performance and safe in use but also offer the least dangerous materials and processes during manufacturing. You will find Manganese Phosphate coatings on most Pedro’s hand tools which is oxidization process that far less dangerous than most coatings available today.
During the development of the Tülio QR Skewer Multi-Tool, Pedro’s faced a new challenge for the multi-tool’s steel tool components. Unlike most shop hand tools or even other multi-tool which would see limited exposure to the elements, the Tülio lives happily on the back of the bike where it will commonly be exposed to water, dirt, salt, and anything else riders decided to ride through. The Manganese Phosphate coating wasn’t going to cut it. Pedro’s set out to find a new solution that could handle life as a Tülio and still meet our standards for quality, environmental safety, and manufacturing safety.
Pedro’s found a solution with a Taya Chain who was in the process of developing a bicycle chain with a high performance coatings that could handle the same types of conditions the Tülio would likely experience. Taya’s entry into bicycle chains expanded their established business with environmentally friendly coatings commonly found on screws sold worldwide at large home improvement stores.
The Greener Surface Treatment, or GST, is a unique range of corrosion protection coatings developed by TAYA that exceeds today’s bicycle industry anti-corrosion performance surface treatment demands but also represents the Best Available Technology in response to increasing environmental requirements. To that end, TAYA boasts a GST that is 100 percent free of hexavalent chrome compounds while still ensuring 2-10 times better corrosion protection than most existing coatings.
The combination of Aluminum and Steel found on the Tülio risks damage by contact corrosion: a reaction caused by the high differential of potentials between aluminum and steel; think aluminum seatpost in a steel frame. When it comes into contact with light metals such as aluminum, GST coating exhibits a low differential of potentials and this slows down the galvanic corrosion of assembled components, resulting in less corrosive loss of the light metals. GST is excellent for coating steel components and greatly enhances its ant-corrosion performance. Unlike electro plating methods, with GST, there is no fear of embrittlement or loss of torque integrity. For the Tülio, Pedro’s chose the GST500 which resists 500 hours Salt Spray Test as per ASTM B-117 & ISO 9227.
To the Point: Torque Specifications
Our friends over at pinkbike.com interviewed Pedro’s about the importance of torque specifications and use of torque wrenches for their “To the Point” technical series. Take a look below or view the original story here: To the Point: Torque Specifications
PB: What is torque? How is it measured?
In simple terms, torque is a twisting force that is likely to cause an item to rotate. Torque is calculated as force multiplied by length with the length being the distance between the rotational axis and the point where the force is applied. Torque is measured most commonly as Newton meter (Nm), pound-inch (lb-in), or pound-foot (lb-ft) units. The last two are common in the U.S. but are often referred to as inch pounds and foot pounds. Newton meters are standard on most bicycle components. As it relates to bicycle mechanics, torque is most often related to component fasteners. These fasteners are threaded, which converts the torque into a linear force used to hold components in place or to provide a clamping force to hold two components together. A common example of this is the interface between a stem and handlebar.
PB: Why is knowing the proper torque spec important for bicycle components? What happens if you over-tighten a bolt?
As a human powered vehicle, the weight of a bicycle is a major contributor to performance. This requires engineers to push the limits of each material and design they choose. The engineer must factor in material properties, part shape, riding conditions, product life, and more. The torque specification provided with a bicycle or component makes sure the forces applied to these parts are within the intended limits. If the torque is too low, a component is likely to slip or fall off. Conversely, if the torque is too high, the component or fasteners may be over-stressed and fail. In either case, significant injury could result. While torque specifications are important with all type of materials, the growing number of carbon fiber components has led to an increasing focus on torque and the use of torque wrenches. While carbon fiber allows for more optimal design and provides a far higher strength to weight ratio compared to steel and aluminum, it is also more susceptible to crushing and cracking when improperly set up. Simply put, the margin for error is much smaller. For this reason, using a torque wrench has become essential.
PB: How does a torque wrench work? Are there different types?
The general principle of a torque wrench is that as torque is applied to a fastener, the torque wrench uses a calibrated mechanism to display the torque applied or otherwise indicate when a specified torque has been reached. The three most common types of torque wrenches are beam type, click type, and digital. A beam type torque wrench uses two parallel rods, one being the wrench handle, and the second having a torque display scale. The handle rod is designed to bend as torque is applied to the fastener. The torque display scale remains unbent allowing the relative angle between each rod to indicate the torque. These are the least expensive and simple type of torque wrench, but rely on the user to constantly look at the torque scale. This may be challenging in some bicycle applications where wrench positioning is limited.
A click type torque wrench is the most common type offered in the cycling industry. This type of torque wrench uses a calibrated clutch mechanism and connected pivoting head to indicate when a preset torque has been reached. When the torque setting is reached, the head displaces slightly and makes a clicking noise as a result. Click type torque wrenches are available in fixed setting, specific to a single torque value, and adjustable setting, which can be set to a range of torque values. Pedro’s Demi Torque Wrench and Grande Torque Wrench are click type wrenches adjustable from 3 Nm to 15 Nm and 10 Nm to 80 Nm respectively. We chose to offer this type of torque wrench because we felt it was the best blend of accuracy, ease of use, ease of calibration, and value. A digital torque wrench uses a strain gauge attached to a torsion rod to measure torque and convert it into the common torque units using a processor. The digital torque wrenches work on similar principles as a beam type torque wrench, but are more advanced, displaying the torque value digitally as the fastener is tightened. In addition, many digital torque wrenches sounds a digital alarm when a preset torque value is reached. These types are the most expensive.
PB: What is the proper technique for using a torque wrench?
The technique for using each type of torque wrench varies, but the general principles are the same. First, read any technical documents provided to determine torque specification and thread treatment indicated by the manufacturer. Second, set your torque wrench to the specified torque and double check the torque units. There is a huge difference between 10 inch pounds and 10 foot pounds! A handy trick, though a bit finicky, is that Google search will do unit conversions for you. Try it out by entering “5 newton meters in pound inches” and see what you get. Worst case, you’ll find many free conversion tools. Third, apply treatment, such as grease or threadlock, to the fastener threads if required by the manufacturer. Fourth, while holding the torque wrench by its handle, begin tightening the fastener. When the correct torque is reached, as indicated by the torque scale on a beam type, or by the click/alert on click or digital types, stop tightening the fastener. Do not continue to tighten the fastener. This is especially important on click/digital types as continuing beyond the set torque can damage the torque wrench.
These four steps will cover the basics of using a torque wrench. When tightening components using multiple fasteners, as commonly found on stems, it is very important to tighten them using an alternating method, tightening half a turn or less before moving back to the other fastener, and repeating this until both are tightened to the specified torque. This is important because when one fastener is tightened, it loosens the others. Using a torque wrench, each fastener should be tightened to the torque specification, and then re-checked for torque after the other fasteners are tightened, repeating for each fastener until all meet the specified torque.
Just as important, this alternating method should be using when removing torque specific hardware as well because when one bolt is loosened, the other is tightened which can lead to thread damage. If there are four or more fasteners, they should be tightened in a crossing pattern by moving to the fastener opposite to the one just tightened whenever possible. This is the same technique used for tightening lug nuts on a car wheel ensuring equal tension on all fasteners.
What about storage? Does a torque wrench need to be at a certain setting before putting it away?
As a calibrated device, all torque wrenches should be used with care and stored in a protective case. For adjustable click type torque wrenches, the wrench should be set to its lowest torque setting or approximately 20% of the maximum torque. For example, the Pedro’s Demi Torque should be set to 3 Nm for storage as this is 20% of the maximum torque of 15 Nm. If the wrench has be unused for a long period of time, set the wrench to 50% of the maximum torque and operate the click mechanism five to ten times before using the wrench on a fastener. This is also suggested before the first use of a new torque wrench.
PB: How often does a torque wrench need to be calibrated? How is this done?
Calibration is most important for click type torque wrenches. The exact process varies from wrench to wrench but the process typically involves adjusting preload on a calibrated spring inside the wrench. The wrench is then checked against a device with a known and calibrated torque. We suggest having Pedro’s torque wrenches be calibrated every three to six months with heavy (daily) usage. The occasional user could likely wait longer if the wrench is treated well and hasn’t been dropped or abused. We also strongly recommend wrench owners work with a professional calibration service to ensure the proper equipment and techniques are employed. We have had good luck with ESSCO Lab located in Massachusetts but any similar calibration service should be able to provide calibration or at very least determine if the wrench is calibrated within tolerance.
PB: Occasionally, you’ll hear someone say “I don’t need to use a torque wrench – I can just tell when it’s tight enough.” Any thoughts on this statement?
Most mechanics are guilty of not using a torque wrench at least some of the time. However, bicycles and riding itself have changed considerably in a very short time. Considering the variables of fastener material, multiple fastener clamps, component material, wrench size, thread treatment, component design, etc., there is simply no way to get a torque specification correct by feel. Many mechanics still disagree, arguing that their years of experience have given them the “feel” needed to properly torque hardware, but test after test has shown this is rarely true.
What's the difference between Degreaser 13 and Pig Juice?
Degreaser 13 and Pig Juice share a similar solvent-free base chemistry but differ in power, viscosity, and price. Both are biodegradable, non-hazardous, non-flammable, zero V.O.C., plant-based, and safe to use on any material. The chemistry technology behind both is engineered to fight its way to metal surfaces, then attack and break free the bonds holding oils, soils, and grime in place, and finally dissolve and contain to carry it all away. Both are designed to work in conjunction with water which acts as the "solvent".
Degreaser 13 is more powerful and concentrated with a higher viscosity and price point. The extra power tackles the toughest degreasing jobs and the concentrated formula is perfect for the mechanic that likes to play with dilution to match the job at hand. Used straight from the bottle, the high viscosity is perfect for applying to drivetrain components because it doesn’t drip off and is very efficient. It is further activated by water and also requires a bit more rinsing than Pig Juice because of the high concentration. Pig Juice feature a little less raw power but is pre-activated to make sure it flows nicely into tight spaces like chains and also to require less rinsing. Pig Juice was designed for optimal performance in the Chain Pig chain cleaner when used straight out of the bottle. It works great for all other degreasing tasks as well. Pig Juice is also fragrance-free and dye-free.