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Drivetrain Efficiency 101

At ARC Performance Systems, we’re all about efficiency. Do more with less…work smarter not harder. You get the idea. As athletes, we spend so much time training and focusing on our physical fitness that sometimes it’s easy to forget about all the other little things that make up complete system efficiency.

Have you ever wondered... Which chain lube should I use? Do ceramic bearings and oversized pulley wheels make a difference? Is a 2x or 1x setup better for my event? Am I giving up free watts through my drivetrain??? Well ARC is here to help!

Based on data collected from thousands of hours of research conducted by the top independent laboratories in the world, we’re able to hone in on very specific setup choices to maximize efficiency. This translates into increasing real world speed through decreasing resistance and friction.

...Need An Example?

The average chain drip lube on the market nets about 6 watts of frictional loss when pedaling at 250w. Over time, that loss can increase from 50-150% based on the conditions. In comparison, the top immersive wax treatment initially nets about a 3 watt loss, and can hold that efficiency for several hundred miles in dry conditions.
More impressively, even in the worst extreme conditions, the top immersive wax only increased in friction by 27%, when most drip lubes failed within the first few minutes of testing. So depending on the nature of your riding, you could save 10 watts or more just by choosing the right chain lubrication method.

But how much is a handful of watts worth anyway…it can’t be that much right? Glad you asked. A simulation was made based on the top riders at the 2021 Unbound Gravel 200. The top riders completed the event in a little over 10 hours at an average speed of 19.8 mph. Just a 5 watt advantage would save 8.5 minutes at this event. Considering the top 4 riders finished within 1.5 minutes of each other, it becomes obvious that marginal gains aren’t so marginal after all!

This is an extreme example, but knocking off a couple minutes or saving a few watts can be the difference of being at the front or off the back of your weekend group ride, setting a new PR on your favorite loop, or finishing within your goal at the event you’ve been training all year for. When you start stacking up the savings by increasing efficiency in multiple areas like drivetrain lubrication, optimized gear ratios, and low drag bearings, it’s easy to see how much of an advantage can be gained through the correct equipment choice and setup.

...Got Your Attention?

It's not just about going fast either. A thoroughly cleaned and properly lubricated drivetrain based on your riding conditions can result in a 300% decrease in wear. That could save you hundreds of dollars in repair and replacement costs over the course of a year just by using the right method and product for the job!

The first step in claiming those watts left on the table and maximizing the lifespan of your drivetrain is to schedule a one-on-one Efficiency Consultation with an ARC Performance Systems coach. We’ll talk about your current setup and identify any free speed available based on your riding type. We also provide an in-house Race Chain Optimization process for the absolute fastest setup at your next event. To learn more about chain optimization and drivetrain efficiency, give us a call or click the button below to get in touch with a coach today!

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