AbsoluteBlack claims that Graphenlube is 'The ultimate bicycle chain lubricant'. And, in terms of what it appears to deliver in friction losses, and its longevity in normal riding conditions, it's definitely up there with the best. Which it absolutely should be given how much it costs.
So, what is it? It is a 'Hydrocarbon (wax) based water emulsion containing special mix of high purity Graphene'. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon that's basically a single atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It has all sorts of unusual and interesting properties: it's the strongest material that's ever been tested, and has an extremely low coefficient of friction.
You'll find it in other bits of bikes too, notably tyres and some high-end frames. It basically seems to be a magic additive that makes anything better. It makes frames lighter and stronger, and it makes tyres more puncture-resistant and grippier. And in a lube?
AbsoluteBlack makes various claims for Graphenlube. Firstly, it claims that the lube is 'able to hold sub 5 watts of frictional loss over 900km on a single application' in the right conditions; namely, dry and non-dusty ones. Here's a graph that AbsoluteBlack has published from its own testing:
The obvious takeaways from this graph are that the Graphenlube line is below all of the other lines for nearly all of the testing cycle – meaning fewer frictional losses – and that the Graphenlube line is longer, indicating that it lasts for ages.
Graphenlube is a grey liquid, and there are some pretty specific instructions for application. The main requirement is that the chain is very clean. Starting with a new chain helps, but even then you'll need to strip the packing wax.
I used white spirit and an old apple juice bottle: add the chain and the solvent, leave it for half an hour and give it a good old shake. For a new chain one cycle is enough, but for a dirty chain it's best to continue the process until the white spirit is staying mostly clear. After that you need to let the solvent evaporate, and once it's fully dry it's time to apply the Graphenlube to the chain.
It's a full-immersion process, and the recommended way to do it is with some lube in a plastic bag that you can drop the chain into and agitate it to get the lube into all the rollers. Once that's done you hang the chain up and let it dry; it dries to a rather messy-looking black finish.
I've tried Graphenlube both indoors and outdoors. We tried to test out AbsoluteBlack's watt-saving claims using our own slightly less scientific setup of a Tacx Neo 2 indoor trainer and a Rotor 2InPower crank-based power meter, ranking it against a few other lubes. And do you know what? It really does seem to reduce drivetrain friction. It was easily the best of the lubes that we tested. Here's the video of that test:
Whether or not our Heath-Robinson test rig is accurate enough to give a meaningful result there is open to discussion, but the numbers we were getting were repeatable, and both the Neo and the Rotor cranks have proven to be very stable in terms of their readings over time.
Out of doors, you're not going to find the sort of conditions round here that would allow you to ride for 900km on a single application of any lube: it rains, and the roads are covered in crap. Be that as it may, the Graphenlube's tenacity is pretty impressive. I was finding that I was needing to re-apply the lube after about 400km of mixed weather riding, which is on a par with the better wet lubes I've used, and miles ahead of any wax-based lube that I've tried. So, again, the Graphenlube is impressive.
You don't need to strip down the whole chain every time you top up, you can just apply directly to the chain as you would with a wet lube. Just make sure the chain is dry, and give the lube a couple of hours to dry.
One thing we haven't been able to test empirically is Graphenlube's effect on the longevity of the chain. AbsoluteBlack's website cites testing from Zero Friction Cycling which shows a very low rate of chain wear with the lube applied. That's obviously a bonus in that it'll mean that the transmission needs to be replaced less frequently, and that'll save you money.
You'll probably be interested in saving money if you've invested in a bottle of Graphenlube, since it costs a stratospheric £114.99 a bottle. That's a LOT of money for some lube. So who's going to shell out for it? Although it's a good all-purpose lube that lasts well, realistically I think you're only going to be looking at this lube if you're genuinely interested in the performance gain. Depending on what you're switching from you could probably expect to save an average of 2-3W at a fast riding/racing pace, if AbsoluteBlack's graph and our unscientific testing are to be believed. Perhaps a bit more.
Now, that's not much. But on the other hand, it is a saving. Sorting out your aerodynamics – clothing and bike position predominantly – will make much more difference. But maybe you've already done that. Or, maybe you're looking for indoor gains where there are no aero benefits to be bought and mechanical efficiency is the only thing that you can look to improve other than your power-to-weight ratio. Using Graphenlube would make you a tiny bit faster. But anyone who's spent a lot of time on the turbo racing and training will know that a 2-3W increase in your FTP is hard won.
At the end of the day, AbsoluteBlack makes some claims for this lube that our testing appears to bear out. I can't really comment on any change in the longevity of my chain but the Graphenlube does appear to reduce friction, and it's certainly pretty tenacious in real-world conditions. It's very expensive, but so are a lot of other bike-related things. If you're the kind of person who looks to buy a bit of extra performance, then here's another thing you can spend your hard-earned on. For the sort of savings you can expect I wouldn't say it was particularly good value, but you might have snaffled all the low-hanging fruit already, or you might not care. And it probably is the best lube I've tried.
Innovative chain lube that reduces friction losses and lasts well
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road.cc test report
Make and model: AbsoluteBlack GraphenLube
Size tested: 140ml
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
AbsoluteBlack says: 'The Ultimate bicycle chain lubricant. Winner of Yellow, White and Polka dot jersey in general classification of Le Tour de France 2020 and winner of Red and Green jersey in general classification of La Vuelta 2020 . Most wanted lube by Pro riders. GRAPHENlube ® – World's first hydrocarbon-based (wax) chain lubricant containing Graphene. It exhibits extraordinary durability at single application whilst maintaining impressively low friction for a prolonged period of time in both wet and dry conditions. It's everything you can really wish for in lubrication. Up to 1800km on single application (dry conditions), 3-10W savings over other lubes. Perfect for Road, Triathlon, Gravel, Mtb and E-bike.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
14ml /0.47oz and 140ml / 4.7oz
When liquid: Light grey When solid: Black
Hydrocarbon (wax) based water emulsion containing special mix of high purity Graphene. it does not contain any harmful solvents
Store between 5-35°C (41-95°F) Do NOT allow to freeze.
ADVANTAGES OF GRAPHENLUBE ® - CHAIN WAX LUBRICANT:
*Able to hold sub 5 Watts of frictional loss over 900km on a Single application (in dry, low dust road conditions. After immersive lubing)
*It gives you 'free' power regardless the conditions- read more below.
*Extends life of your drivetrain, hence saving on replacement costs.
*Repels water and does not attract dirt
*Dry, paste like coating that can stay on the chain over 1800km (in dry, low dust road conditions. After immersive lubing)
*Unique black look of the lubricant when dry
*Safe- Does not contain any harmful solvents.
Does the things it says it will do
For a wax-based lube, very good indeed.
It does offer a benefit but you're not half paying for that.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed excellently.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lives up to the claims that AbsoluteBlack makes inasmuch as we can test them.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Looks dirty on the chain. Ye gods, the price!
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's the most expensive lube I can think of.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, if I had run out of easier gains.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Hard to score. I'm giving it an 8 overall, which is very good. And it is an excellent lube, no doubt about that. There are measurable performance gains from using it, but in terms of value for money you're going to need to be a pretty committed watt-saver. If it appeals to you for its incremental gains then the price isn't really an issue.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.