Valves provide vital link

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:

As cycling continues to gain popularity, cyclists are demanding more from their bikes. Every component comes under scrutiny when looking to engineer a better bike – and the chain is no different.

If you are looking for a good example of elite success at major sporting events prompting people to participate, cycling would be high on your list. Whether for exercise, enjoyment, as part of a daily commute, or at a competitive level, the figures confirming the growth of pedal-power are impressive. It’s estimated that around two million people in the UK now cycle at least twice a week. At a competitive level, British Cycling, the sport’s governing body reports that in 2005 it had 15,000 members, today that figure is 140,000. As a consequence of this surge in popularity cycling has become a very important market. Halfords, who are responsible for one in three new cycles sold in the UK, reported that sales were up 11% in the year to March 2015 while the total market in the UK for new bike sales is around £770 million. With the average price of a new bicycle at £250 and the cost of a ‘competitive’ racing bike up to £12,000+ the evidence points to cycling, in all forms as being a lucrative and growing market.

At the higher end of the market, the challenge to secure and maintain a competitive edge inevitably increases the focus on how best to take advantage of technical advances and new innovations. How can designers and manufacturers improve the performance of the bicycle, making it even more efficient? A good example of this is the collaboration between Glasgow based Flaér, specialists in performance cycling accessories, its sister company Scottoiler an automotive engineering business and miniature component company Lee Products.

The key component in the transmission of power to the rear wheel of a cycle is the chain and maintaining it at its optimum condition is vital to its performance. The same applies to any piece of machinery with a chain drive because if neglected it wears out faster, reducing efficiency and performance and eventually in extreme cases, causing damage, downtime and even injury if it breaks.

The introduction of O-Ring (sealed) chains has encouraged some people to believe that there is no need to lubricate a chain because an O, or X-ring chain has lubricant sealed inside the pin area. However, even with these new types of chain, lubrication is essential. Due to the rolling action of the chain O-rings are very sensitive to any damage and need lubrication. Unless surfaces are kept moist the rubber O-rings will harden and crack over time, exposing the link pin to dirt and wear causing ‘tight-spots’ which make adjustment impossible. Rubber O-rings have a high coefficient of friction, for example, 2kW of power converts to heat which results in friction and wear. Conventional spray lube is one solution but a better solution is continuous lubrication of the chain. However, striking the right balance between designing an effective continuous lubrication system which is both lightweight, leak-proof and within acceptable manufacturing costs would be particularly challenging.

Among the cycle accessories that Flaér manufacture and supply is a chain performance system called the Revo Via a revolutionary device that maximises the efficiency of the chain - as the bicycle is ridden. Chris Simpson, Technical Director at Flaér explained, “The Revo Via is a high performance automatic lubrication system which incorporates a Lee Products Zero Leak Valve in the dispensing head to ensure precise oil delivery. The system features automatic activation and so maximises the chain efficiency as you ride, it contributes to power gains of up to 12W, it’s easy to install and can be adjusted to suit various riding conditions”.

Simpson said: “We have been speaking with Lee Products for a long time, they helped us overcome the challenge of manufacturing costs versus the price to the end-user. Our designers identified that the Lee Zero Leak valve was the best fit for our product with exceptional build quality and within budget. The precision nature of our system requires a valve to provide consistent flow control with zero leak capabilities, to date the valves have performed as per specification and we are happy with the fit and accuracy”.

These valves are 100% tested and inspected to ensure reliable, consistent performance in critical flow control applications.

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