December 15, 2015 3 Comments
For years we’ve needed a dedicated wheelbuilding oil for spoke threads and nipple-rim contact. Builders succeed with oils intended for other uses: linseed oil (for paints), chain lubes, and oil for derailleurs and brakes. However, wheel building is a very specific task and deserves a dedicated lube.
As builders, we have particular needs: our task can be quickened or hindered by tool and lubricant choice; the wheel itself has specific performance objectives and hazards to endure; and the builder has aesthetic, economic, and health concerns.
At last, Wheel Fanatyk announces CLEAR, oil for wheel building.
(1) Amazing friction reduction, a truly slick feel between fingers. Equivalent load capacity and wear reduction to the highest grade motor oils.
(2) High viscosity but easy to pour. Adheres to and compatible with all materials. Excellent corrosion resistance.
(3) Food safe (Kosher Pareve and HALAL registered) and biodegradable. No known symptoms from eye or skin contact or ingestion.
(4) 100% synthetic, extremely temperature stable. Over 100°F higher flash point than most petroleum or mineral based oils.
(5) Economical, available in 4oz (118ml) and 16oz (473ml) bottles with caps and Yorker spouts.
We rarely discuss toxicity in bike mechanics. Maybe because the sporting goods industry is full of health, fresh air, and fun. Besides manufacturing, the industry seems clean and benign as a public park. We also face more obvious risks: losing it on a steep section; a distracted driver in your right of way; or oil, slimy leaves, or ice where you least expect it.
Wheel Fanatyk CLEAR meets high performance standards but takes toxicity very seriously. To understand means seeing through over-simplified labels like “environmental,” “biodegradable,” “green,” “natural,” etc. Unfortunately, that means most prospective customers won’t make it through the story. For those of you who do, you are a lucky lot. Choices like the one I’m offering are key to living well in the 21st century.
Green for the biosphere can be toxic to humans. We often miss this detail and chain lubes are a good example as many go the extra mile to be environmentally friendly. However, how many are truly non-toxic? A bit of anything you breathe or contacts your skin ends up in your blood. We are protected from many contaminants but our bodies are permeable.
What is the standard for safe use? That is a complicated question so I, as a potential user, suggest “Food Safe.” Most bicycle lubes and cleaners fail this test. Sometimes there’s no choice for the task at hand, but there is often an alternative.
After decades of covering my hands with lubes, fuels, and cleaners as a mechanic, I am determined to offer a Food Safe wheel building oil. This quest seemed hopeless until entering the food processing world, a huge scene with many products that never see retail commercialization. Long story short, I found lubricants with astounding performance including being food safe!
No surprise, just think of the massive horsepower, speed, temperatures and loads in food processing. I found a gear lubricant that outperforms synthetic automotive racing oils yet is Food Safe. Why aren’t these in our cars? Price, of course. Secondly, “Food Safe” isn't required of many chemicals not meant for bare hands. Paints, for example, are used with gloves by those with chronic exposure. Same with automotive oils. Bicycles, however, are hands-on machines both for riders and mechanics, and nearly impossible to work on with gloves.
CLEAR WHEELBUILDING OIL
It's called CLEAR because it is almost completely transparent. In actuality, there is a faint amber tint but in a tablespoon it appears transparent. Let your components shine through. It is also nearly odorless.
Question: what about linseed oil?
(1) It must be industrially boiled so that it will eventually dry. Boiled linseed oil retains the label “boiled” but no longer is. The equivalent chemistry is done today with additives that are usually not specified. There are toxics in these additives (heavy metals) as boiled linseed oil is intended as an ingredient for paint. Why risk if there’s an alternative?
(2) “Boiled” linseed oil dries by oxidizing. In a warm and humid atmosphere drying can take two weeks; too long for an event in process. Oxidation releases heat and anything flammable (textiles, paper towels, wood chips) containing "boiled" linseed oil will catch fire, with near certainty. Closing the container limits oxygen so the fire may be delayed. This tendency to burst into flames makes “boiled” linseed oil a substance to handle with care.
Question: how best to apply CLEAR?
(1) Apply as you presently use oil. Many add to a freshly laced wheel, dripping into the partly occupied nipple bore and around the nipple head to wet the nipple-to-rim seat.
(2) Others prefer dipping nipples in oil, draining, and then sorting. Wheel Fanatyk’s Nipple Bath and Nipple Shuffler support this approach. Pick up each pre-oiled nipple from the Shuffler with a pointed tool like EVT’s Mulfinger or our Nipple Inserter. Then start the nipple on a spoke. CLEAR’s high viscosity means plenty is on the nipple even weeks after a soak-drain.
(3) To secure threads, use a post-assembly Loctite™ (222 or 290) or DT Spoke Freeze™, or coat spokes with a compound like Spoke Prep™ prior to lacing. I prefer the last since Prep dramatically reduces friction so truing is less strenuous and more accurate. For me, this is fastest.
• CLEAR oil is a synthetic, PAO based material. This accounts for the astounding load capacity, thermal stability, and surface tenacity.
• Actual viscosity: ISO-320, SAE 60 (engine), SAE 125 (gear), AGMA 6. Easy to pour and apply.
• CLEAR has no food value, do not drink! If ingested, stay calm and drink small amounts of water.
• Exceptional water resistance, high demulsibility, superb corrosion resistance.
• Outstanding film strength, ASTM D-4172 (4-Ball Wear Test) = 0.31mm. Here (pg 4) is a 2013 test of ten high end synthetic oils that CLEAR would have won.
• CLEAR bottles are HDPE (plastic #2), durable, squeezable, most recycled plastic in the US.
• Biodegradable is good but we don’t want this oil degrading quickly. Technically, CLEAR is “ultimately biodegradable.” Like steel, returning to the environment through natural processes, but not quickly.
• Food safety is not new but programs to ensure it are fairly recent. The worldwide standard, HACCP, was developed as a microbiological safety system in early days of the US manned space program to assure the safety of astronaut food. Prior, most safety was based on end product testing that didn’t fully guarantee safe products as 100% testing was impossible. Consequently the pro-active, process-focused HACCP concept was born. CLEAR is in compliance, meets FDA regulations 21 CFR 178.3570 and CFR 172.882, and certified NSF H1.
• Wheel Fanatyk sells direct so an important margin is missing, hence more value.
• MSDS is available on our site.
The 4oz squeeze bottle is a generous amount for a busy wheelbuilder and enough to form your own opinion. You may resupply with the 16oz bottle but the 4oz container is still the most convenient to use if you apply at each nipple.
If you’ve made it this far, you are definitely someone who should try CLEAR!
November 02, 2021
Are you saying you use Spoke Prep before lacing and then add CLEAR to the nipple/spoke interface after lacing? Does CLEAR do something that Spoke Prep doesn’t? Do they not react in some way when put together?
I’m definitely planning on using CLEAR for the nipple/rim interface and I already use Spoke Prep. Basically wondering if adding CLEAR to the Spoke Prep is advisable.
November 02, 2021
Is this good for all nipple materials? How well does it resist washing out over time compared to, say, linseed oil?
Related – are the shuffler trays coming back any time soon?
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November 02, 2021
Ric, that’s really awesome. A friend has turned me on to the idea of removing toxics from our environment, but as a professional bike mechanic reliant on chemical lubricants and solvents it seems like quite a challenge. Spoke oil may be a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully others in the bike industry follow suit and start offering other non-toxic lubricants (chain lube and bearing/thread grease would be great). Seems like the Food Safe standard might be really helpful here.