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Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

06.05.24 11:46 261Text: NoPain (translated by AI)Photos: Erwin HaidenProduct presentation, workshop, and the kickoff of the long-term review of the "miracle ingredient" from Bavaria. Lowest friction, no resinification, silicone- & oil-free, no nanoparticles, and biodegradable. Plus: Users review for users.06.05.24 11:46 374

Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

06.05.24 11:46 374 NoPain (translated by AI) Erwin Haiden
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Product presentation, workshop, and the kickoff of the long-term review of the "miracle ingredient" from Bavaria. Lowest friction, no resinification, silicone- & oil-free, no nanoparticles, and biodegradable. Plus: Users review for users.06.05.24 11:46 374

We once again delve into the world of chain maintenance and present you in this workshop an uncomplicated solution that can take the lifespan, function, and efficiency of your MTB, gravel, and road bike chains to the next level - all without investing much time or money.

The all-purpose spray Variolube S200 is a polyether lubricant based on a liquid formula, which according to the manufacturer should have the lowest coefficient of friction of all known liquid lubricants, thus promising maximum efficiency. Moreover, it is silicone- and oil-free, biodegradable, contains no nanoparticles, penetrates into the narrowest gaps, adheres reliably to the surface, does not resinify, and ensures a constant lubricating film at temperatures between -50 and 50°C.

Does it sound too good to be true? We tested it on an E-MTB and invite two of you (one roadie and one gravel or mountain biker) to do the same.

Variolube Company History

The Tribological Research Laboratory (TFL) Dr.-Ing. H. Vojacek at Tegernsee developed the innovative polyether lubricant Ultralube in 1984, which has found widespread application possibilities in the automotive industry and has also been specially adapted over the years to meet the high demands of two-wheeler and precision mechanics lubrication. The biodegradable lubricant minimizes wear on moving parts, reduces friction to a minimum, and is free of harmful additives.

In 2016, Thomas Rulofs founded the company Variolube in close cooperation with TFL Vojacek and brought the polyether lubricant to the market under the same name to make it accessible to end consumers. In seamless cooperation with the Tribological Research Laboratory, there is a continuous improvement of the active ingredient and the products.

In 2022, Thomas Rulofs transferred his passion project to the father-son team Markus and Lukas Gruber (click here for their Instagram account), who, in collaboration with Dr.-Ing. H. Vojacek, continue to expand the Variolube community.

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Digression on Bicycle Chains: Lifespan vs. Function vs. Efficiency

On a bicycle, the chain plays a central role and with an efficiency of 98-99% (under ideal conditions) is one of the most efficient means of propulsion available. That means, only one to two percent of the input power is lost through friction. In the rough everyday use, the realistic efficiency is more likely to be around 97% and can drop well below 95% due to wear, poor lubrication, and chain misalignment.

For a long lifespan, it is recommended to use light gears, avoid strong chain misalignment, perform regular and gentle cleaning, as well as appropriate (road, off-road, track, etc.) lubrication of the chain.

  • Rustproof, but inefficient: Original-lubricated Shimano chain after just a few kilometers
    Rustproof, but inefficient: Original-lubricated Shimano chain after just a few kilometers
    Rustproof, but inefficient: Original-lubricated Shimano chain after just a few kilometers

New chains are factory-equipped with a special lubricant that offers excellent protection against rust and also fully penetrates the inner cavities of the chain. As a rule, the protective/lubricating effect lasts for several hundred kilometers, during which the chain does not need to be relubricated.

Unfortunately, the excessive OEM "grease packing" literally gets in the way of optimal power transmission and also attracts dirt like the proverbial magnet. This not only looks unsightly but also reduces both the shifting function and potential service life (of the entire drivetrain) during longer rides in the rain and in dusty environments.

Detailansicht

Polyether lubricants from Variolube are intended to provide a solution here. Application is as easy as with conventional products, and the cleanliness of the entire drivetrain is very close to the elaborate hot waxing method. Variolube is the best of these two worlds and protects the chain, cassette, and chainrings for more precise shifting and maximum lifespan.

The problem, as with all liquid-applied products, is: As long as the chain is still greased on the outside and inside, the new lubricants only adhere superficially, are quickly washed out and lose their lubricating effect. It doesn't matter at all how well the polyether lubricant performs in theory or in the laboratory.

 Lubricant through science. 

Variolube, since 1984
  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Variolube S200 vs. D200

Detailansicht
Left: S200 Spray, 125 ml, € 14.99
Right: D200 Bottle, 75 ml, € 17.99

For chain maintenance, two products from Variolube are suitable: the S200 (All-Purpose Spray) and the D200 (Chain Lubrication with a sealable brass nozzle). The polyether lubricant is fundamentally the same, but in spray form, it is also easier to use for other applications: For example, for all moving parts such as the variable seat post, brake levers, gears, thru-axles, suspension and damping components, large-volume motorcycle chains, as well as door locks, hinges, or even the barrels of firearms. It is convenient that with the exception of XNBR seals, which are virtually never used on bicycles, there is no need to worry about O-rings or seals.

In the suspension elements of well-known manufacturers, such as Fox, Rockshox, or Suntour, only NBR or EPDM seals are used. Moreover, the Variolube specialists recommend not to overdo the maintenance, but to refresh the suspension components only a few times during the season with Variolube S200.

However, those who only want to treat the bicycle chain should opt for the bottle, as the high-quality D200 pressure oiler with a sealable brass nozzle contains the maximum concentration of active ingredients and allows for targeted and efficient application on today's narrow bicycle chains.

The manufacturer's promise includes a smooth chain operation, noiseless shifting, and a clean drive mechanism without resinification. Consequently, the lubricant reduces the contamination of the chain and also extends its life. A positive side effect for performance nerds: one or two watts less friction loss, thus more power and speed.

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.
  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.
  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

The only challenge remains to transport the "miracle substance" in the optimal amount to the right places on the chain.

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

3 Methods for Chain Cleaning: on the Bike vs. in a Mason Jar vs. in an Ultrasonic Cleaner

First and foremost, you need to make a decision. Do you want to scrub the chain, cassette, jockey wheels, and chainring with a brush, water, and bike cleaner directly on the bike, or ideally, if you have a chain quick link, clean the chain with stronger chemicals in a mason jar or even in an ultrasonic cleaner?

One thing is for sure: All drivetrain components must be thoroughly (!) cleaned of the residues of sticky oils.

  • STANDARD: CHAIN CLEANING ON THE BIKE
Temptingly simple, but by no means as effective as the other two methods. No matter how meticulously you clean with various brushes and chemicals - you won't get the grease out from the inside of the chain right away.
Advantages: Chain does not need to be removed
Disadvantages: Inefficient, harsh/corrosive chemicals could damage the bearing seals or the paint, the procedure usually leaves a mess on the floor, complicates the disposal of chemical residues
Duration: Approx. 5-10 minutes
Result: Only superficially clean chain, inside still laden with a lot of grease, which a quick check with a piece of kitchen roll proves. However, after about 3-4 Variolube re-lubrications, a complete "oil change" is also accomplished.STANDARD: CHAIN CLEANING ON THE BIKE
Temptingly simple, but by no means as effective as the other two methods. No matter how meticulously you clean with various brushes and chemicals - you won't get the grease out from the inside of the chain right away.
Advantages: Chain does not need to be removed
Disadvantages: Inefficient, harsh/corrosive chemicals could damage the bearing seals or the paint, the procedure usually leaves a mess on the floor, complicates the disposal of chemical residues
Duration: Approx. 5-10 minutes
Result: Only superficially clean chain, inside still laden with a lot of grease, which a quick check with a piece of kitchen roll proves. However, after about 3-4 Variolube re-lubrications, a complete "oil change" is also accomplished.
    STANDARD: CHAIN CLEANING ON THE BIKE
    Temptingly simple, but by no means as effective as the other two methods. No matter how meticulously you clean with various brushes and chemicals - you won't get the grease out from the inside of the chain right away.
    Advantages: Chain does not need to be removed
    Disadvantages: Inefficient, harsh/corrosive chemicals could damage the bearing seals or the paint, the procedure usually leaves a mess on the floor, complicates the disposal of chemical residues
    Duration: Approx. 5-10 minutes
    Result: Only superficially clean chain, inside still laden with a lot of grease, which a quick check with a piece of kitchen roll proves. However, after about 3-4 Variolube re-lubrications, a complete "oil change" is also accomplished.
    STANDARD: CHAIN CLEANING ON THE BIKE
    Temptingly simple, but by no means as effective as the other two methods. No matter how meticulously you clean with various brushes and chemicals - you won't get the grease out from the inside of the chain right away.
    Advantages: Chain does not need to be removed
    Disadvantages: Inefficient, harsh/corrosive chemicals could damage the bearing seals or the paint, the procedure usually leaves a mess on the floor, complicates the disposal of chemical residues
    Duration: Approx. 5-10 minutes
    Result: Only superficially clean chain, inside still laden with a lot of grease, which a quick check with a piece of kitchen roll proves. However, after about 3-4 Variolube re-lubrications, a complete "oil change" is also accomplished.
  • PREMIUM: CHAIN CLEANING IN A MASON JAR
Undoubtedly the best compromise of all three options to remove dirt, metal wear, and chain grease from the bicycle chain.
Advantages: Efficient, minimal waste as well as reuse of chemicals, environmentally friendly disposal
Disadvantages: Process takes slightly longer, chain must be removed (chain lock necessary)
Duration: About 15 minutes for a total of three cycles
Result: Almost completely cleaned and degreased chain.

>> See our premium DIY process belowPREMIUM: CHAIN CLEANING IN A MASON JAR
Undoubtedly the best compromise of all three options to remove dirt, metal wear, and chain grease from the bicycle chain.
Advantages: Efficient, minimal waste as well as reuse of chemicals, environmentally friendly disposal
Disadvantages: Process takes slightly longer, chain must be removed (chain lock necessary)
Duration: About 15 minutes for a total of three cycles
Result: Almost completely cleaned and degreased chain.

>> See our premium DIY process below
    PREMIUM: CHAIN CLEANING IN A MASON JAR
    Undoubtedly the best compromise of all three options to remove dirt, metal wear, and chain grease from the bicycle chain.
    Advantages: Efficient, minimal waste as well as reuse of chemicals, environmentally friendly disposal
    Disadvantages: Process takes slightly longer, chain must be removed (chain lock necessary)
    Duration: About 15 minutes for a total of three cycles
    Result: Almost completely cleaned and degreased chain.

    >> See our premium DIY process below
    PREMIUM: CHAIN CLEANING IN A MASON JAR
    Undoubtedly the best compromise of all three options to remove dirt, metal wear, and chain grease from the bicycle chain.
    Advantages: Efficient, minimal waste as well as reuse of chemicals, environmentally friendly disposal
    Disadvantages: Process takes slightly longer, chain must be removed (chain lock necessary)
    Duration: About 15 minutes for a total of three cycles
    Result: Almost completely cleaned and degreased chain.

    >> See our premium DIY process below
  • PROFESSIONAL: ULTRASONIC CHAIN CLEANING
After two runs with white spirit in a mason jar, the chain - instead of using acetone - goes into an ultrasonic cleaning device. The ultrasonic treatment, a high temperature of about 80 degrees and a slightly alkaline cleaning agent, removes even the last bit of grease.
Advantages: Highly efficient
Disadvantages: Purchasing an ultrasonic device, additional time required, cost/effort/energy expenditure for a single chain is rather questionable
Result: Completely cleaned and degreased chain.PROFESSIONAL: ULTRASONIC CHAIN CLEANING
After two runs with white spirit in a mason jar, the chain - instead of using acetone - goes into an ultrasonic cleaning device. The ultrasonic treatment, a high temperature of about 80 degrees and a slightly alkaline cleaning agent, removes even the last bit of grease.
Advantages: Highly efficient
Disadvantages: Purchasing an ultrasonic device, additional time required, cost/effort/energy expenditure for a single chain is rather questionable
Result: Completely cleaned and degreased chain.
    PROFESSIONAL: ULTRASONIC CHAIN CLEANING
    After two runs with white spirit in a mason jar, the chain - instead of using acetone - goes into an ultrasonic cleaning device. The ultrasonic treatment, a high temperature of about 80 degrees and a slightly alkaline cleaning agent, removes even the last bit of grease.
    Advantages: Highly efficient
    Disadvantages: Purchasing an ultrasonic device, additional time required, cost/effort/energy expenditure for a single chain is rather questionable
    Result: Completely cleaned and degreased chain.
    PROFESSIONAL: ULTRASONIC CHAIN CLEANING
    After two runs with white spirit in a mason jar, the chain - instead of using acetone - goes into an ultrasonic cleaning device. The ultrasonic treatment, a high temperature of about 80 degrees and a slightly alkaline cleaning agent, removes even the last bit of grease.
    Advantages: Highly efficient
    Disadvantages: Purchasing an ultrasonic device, additional time required, cost/effort/energy expenditure for a single chain is rather questionable
    Result: Completely cleaned and degreased chain.

Variolube Premium-DIY-Process

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Premium DIY Workshop: Variolube S200 Chain Tuning

The process presented here includes polishing and cleaning the chain as well as applying a long-lasting layer of Variolube S200 without an excessively large time expenditure or even the acquisition of special equipment.

Advantages over superficial standard lubrication with oil or the like
• Lowest friction, smooth running even in bad weather
• Silicone & oil-free, no resinification, remains permanently clean
• Less wear on the chain, cassette, and chainrings
• Environmentally friendly, no nanoparticles, biodegradable
• Extreme capillary action, colorless, leaves no stains (washable)

Disadvantages
• Initial extra effort
• Runs a trace louder than with industrial grease or lubricating oils
• Poorer corrosion protection than grease or thick oil (in heavy moisture)
• More frequent re-lubrication than with grease or thick oil (in heavy moisture)

Editorial note: Those who want to completely save themselves the effort of polishing, cleaning, and the initial lubrication process can order a 12-speed Connex 12s0 bicycle chain with Variolube factory lubrication online and rejoin further down in the section "Re-lubrication".

  • #1 Break in the chain (on the trainer or outdoors)#1 Break in the chain (on the trainer or outdoors)
    #1 Break in the chain (on the trainer or outdoors)
    #1 Break in the chain (on the trainer or outdoors)
  • #2 Clean the chain (with white spirit and acetone)#2 Clean the chain (with white spirit and acetone)
    #2 Clean the chain (with white spirit and acetone)
    #2 Clean the chain (with white spirit and acetone)
  • #3 Install Dried Chain (with Chain Lock)#3 Install Dried Chain (with Chain Lock)
    #3 Install Dried Chain (with Chain Lock)
    #3 Install Dried Chain (with Chain Lock)
  • #4 Lubricate the bike chain (with S200 or D200)#4 Lubricate the bike chain (with S200 or D200)
    #4 Lubricate the bike chain (with S200 or D200)
    #4 Lubricate the bike chain (with S200 or D200)
  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

The list of required chemicals plus accessories:

- White spirit
- Acetone
- Variolube S200 or D200
- 3 sufficiently large mason jars for cleaning
- 1 small cable tie for securing the chain links
- Chain rivet pliers
- Protective gloves
- Paper towels and microfiber cloth

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

#1 Break in the chain (on the trainer or outdoors)

Before cleaning a brand-new chain and treating it with Variolube, you should first determine the optimal chain length including the chain lock and ride it in on a completely clean drivetrain for at least half an hour. A smart trainer is ideal for this, but of course, you can also do it in the great outdoors. If you shift through all the gears several times during this process, it polishes the sliding surfaces of the chain links and removes surface roughness as well as manufacturing defects.

QUICK & DIRTY: Alternatively, you can also tune an already ridden-in chain (as we have done) with Variolube - but don't forget to also thoroughly clean the rest of the drivetrain (sprocket pack, derailleur pulleys, and chainrings). A reusable chain lock is preferable to a rivet pin due to possible future retreatments.

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

#2 Clean the chain (with petroleum ether and acetone)

The intensive basic cleaning with complete degreasing is the foundation for a long-lasting chain lubrication. Because as long as the bicycle chain is still greased on the inside, the Variolube will only adhere superficially, washes out quickly, and loses its lubricating effect.

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Chain Cleaning with Stoddard Solvent and Acetone in a Mason Jar
• Open chain lock and remove chain
• Secure chain links with cable ties
• Stoddard solvent container #1: Swirl and shake chain in it (30 seconds - 1 minute)
• Wipe chain with cloth (optional: blow off with compressor outdoors)
• Stoddard solvent container #2: Swirl and shake chain in it (30 seconds - 1 minute)
• Wipe chain with cloth
• Acetone container: Swirl and shake chain in it (30 seconds - 1 minute)
• Wipe chain with cloth and let it air dry completely (optional: use a hair dryer to help)

Notes:
a) White spirit has the sweet spot between harshness vs. cleaning power and is also suitable for many other applications. Of course, you can also use nitro thinner instead of white spirit.
b) If the chain does not seem clean enough to you after two white spirit washes, you can repeat the process as often as necessary.
c) Do not soak the chain in acetone for too long (definitely not for hours or overnight)!

 Pay attention to good ventilation indoors! The fumes from gasoline and acetone are toxic and should not be underestimated. 

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

#3 Install chain (with chain lock)

Before you mount the chain, the sprocket pack, jockey wheels, and chainrings must also be thoroughly cleaned and degreased - otherwise, all the meticulous effort so far would be for naught.
By the time you finish, the chain should also be completely dried (especially water or other water-soluble cleaning agents are "poison", hence the acetone in the last cleaning step). However, acetone is also harmful to the paint - so make sure it evaporates completely.

Mounting the chain
• Mounting the chain with a chain tool (gentler) or by pedaling ("not my cup of tea")

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

After the basic cleaning: Lubricate the chain (with S200 or D200)

Apply Variolube to the completely dried chain. You have the choice between Variolube S200 Allround Spray or Variolube D200 in the pressure oiler. Start at a good reference point (rivet pin or chain lock) and apply Variolube sparingly. The old rule "one drop per chain link" remains a proven dosage recommendation; for the spray application, this would mean a leisurely crank speed.

Lubricating the chain on the bike
• If possible, shift the chain into a large gear or large/large with a double crankset
• Protect the floor, frame, rim, and tire from spray mist with a cloth
• Shake the lubricant bottle well
• Apply S200/D200 broadly but sparingly to the inside and edges of the chain
• Carefully wipe off any excess on the outside with the microfiber cloth
• The chain is ready for immediate use

Variolube has excellent creeping properties and lubricates all relevant friction contacts within the chain. Moreover, it does not require the classic drying time, as is absolutely necessary with dry lubricants - you can get into the saddle immediately after application.

 The chain is fully run-in and race-ready after just a few minutes of riding. The optimization effect should last for more than 150 kilometers (MTB) or 300 kilometers (road bike) - assuming clean and dry riding conditions. 

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.
  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.

Re-lubrication (approx. every 150 MTB/300 RR kilometers)

Grundsätzlich könnt ihr die Kette nun so lange fahren, bis sie anfängt, "störende Geräusche" zu machen. Gemäß gängiger Erfahrung sollte sie ca. zwei Drittel der Laufleistung sehr leise laufen, danach sukzessive lauter werden und - je nach den vorherrschenden Witterungsbedingungen - nach etwa 150 Kilometern am Mountainbike bzw. 300 Kilometern am Rennrad eine erste Nachbehandlung benötigen.

Nachschmieren mit S200 oder D200
• Kette gründlich reinigen (meistens reicht die Standard-Methode am Rad)
• Kette muss sauber und absolut trocken sein (Schmierstoff und Wasser/Reinigungsmittel vermischen sich nicht)
• Kette hinten auf ein großes Ritzel legen und vorne aufs große Blatt (eine schräge Kettenlinie sorgt für die Aufnahme der maximalen Schmiermittelmenge durch die größere Biegung/Bewegung der einzelnen Glieder)
• Boden, Rahmen, Felge, Reifen mit einem Tuch vor Sprühnebel schützen
• Das Schmiermittel-Spray oder Fläschchen aufschütteln
• S200/D200 großflächig, aber sparsam an der Innenseite und den Rändern der Kette applizieren
• Etwaigen Überschuss an den Außenseiten mit dem Microfasertuch vorsichtig abwischen
• Kette ist sofort einsatzbereit

  • RegreasingRegreasing
    Regreasing
    Regreasing
  • Wipe off excessWipe off excess
    Wipe off excess
    Wipe off excess
  • Start riding (no pre-drying needed)Start riding (no pre-drying needed)
    Start riding (no pre-drying needed)
    Start riding (no pre-drying needed)

Tip: You should always gently break in the chain during the first kilometers so that it perfectly settles in all its components. If the chain attracts an excessive amount of dust and grime after the first ride, it’s likely that too much polyether lubricant was applied. The solution: Wipe off the excess along with the dirt using the microfiber cloth.

With Variolube, it is fundamentally impossible to "over-lubricate" to death. The more frequently you maintain your chain, the better for the performance. Regular cleaning and re-lubricating also significantly slows down the wear of chainrings and cogs, which saves you a lot of money.

 The chain should from now on be lubricated only with Variolube - under no circumstances with oils, silicones, or greases. 

  • Variolube S200 Polyether Lubricant for Chain & Co.