Handbuilt Bicycle News



Matthew Butterman

Thursday 09 June 2016

Review: NixFrixShun Ultimate Chain Lube

A first-person account of NixFrixShun’s Ultimate Chain Lube from Matt Butterman, who's been using it for two years

Review: NixFrixShun Ultimate Chain Lube
Photo courtesy: NixFrixShun

NixFrixShun’s original and flagship product is Ultimate Chain Lube. This name is neither pretentious, nor hyperbolic. In a market now populated by several high-performance chain lubes, NFS Ultimate easily holds its own, and for many cyclists it could well become the chain lube of choice.

NFS inventor and proprietor Josh Simonds is a long-time friend and patron of the handmade bicycle industry. He became familiar with industrial chemicals in his day job, while piling on the miles in all sorts of weather as an ultra-marathon cyclist in the Washington, DC, region. This unique combination of chemistry and masochism gave Simonds a unique perspective on what makes a truly great chain lube: staying power.

I won’t bore you with details of the various polymers used in NFS Ultimate (and Simonds won’t want me to give away any trade secrets), but it’s not filled with solvents or detergents like many other lubes, and you may need to apply it only once for the life of your chain. Even if, like me, you’re no longer throwing chains away after a month due to their increasing cost.

I’ve used NFS Ultimate for about two years now on each of my five bikes (I know, only five!), which include road, time trial and cyclocross bikes. While I’m no longer cranking out 400 mile weeks, I am a tall rider who uses 180mm cranks and prefers pushing bigger gears. Typically, larger cyclists who push large gears are tough on chains and need an appropriately stout lube. I’ve preferred petro-based lubes in the past, and have usually chosen lubes meant for tough, wet conditions, even if I don’t often ride in the rain these days.

What I most like about NFS Ultimate is that it’s suitable for any type of weather condition you’ll encounter on the road or trail: rain, dry heat, cold, grit and mud from off-road or cyclocross use. The idea of different lubes for different conditions has always seemed silly to me, and NFS Ultimate takes out the guesswork of what kind of lube to use. It’s a catch-all formula, which makes sense given Simonds’ ultra-cycling background, where one can encounter all of the previously described conditions in the course of a single ride.

Application is easy, and can be accomplished using what the NFS website calls the 12:12:12 method: with the chain on the largest chainring and smallest cog, apply 12 drops randomly on the inside surface of the chain, rotate the chain 12 times and then wipe the outside surface of the chain with a clean cotton cloth for 12 seconds.

You’ll find that NFS Ultimate really does work its way into the pivots better than any other lube out there. The instructions on the bottle admonish users to use just a very, very small amount, and it’s no exaggeration that a little goes a long way. Even being very parsimonious with the amount I apply, I always have to wipe excess from the chain after the first couple of rides.

This is perhaps my only critical point about NFS Ultimate, and it’s based more on my concern for Simonds’ revenues and not for any downfall of the product itself: a little goes such a long way that I’m nowhere near needing to buy another bottle after two years and a good number of chains. This of course means it’s a great value for the consumer.

I’m also known for liking to keep my bikes clean, almost to the point of being fastidious about it, and another big advantage of NFS Ultimate is that you don’t normally need to reapply the lube after washing down the bike (unless you are using a high-pressure power washer, which you probably shouldn’t be using on the chain anyway).

The results of my experience with NFS Ultimate are quieter drivetrains, longer chain and cogset lives, fewer applications of lube and less fuss overall.

My NFS Ultimate success story is a simple narrative that you’ll likely follow as well: buy the lube, apply it to your chain, go ride and forget about it.