What makes Silca’s Bicycle Spa Collection different? We ask Josh Poertner
By Nicki Giles – 01 February 2023
Few cyclists think of IndyCars and bikes as having much in common – yet Silca has based the four-piece Bicycle Spa Collection around the concept that treating your bike like a race car will extend its life. We asked CEO Josh Poertner why.
“I’d say I probably have two skills in this world. That’s being able to see disparate things from different industries and put things together, and picking up the phone and talking to people who are way smarter than I am.”
These are the words of Silca CEO Josh Poertner, known for his creative thinking and engagement of experts and fans alike on all aspects of bike engineering. Many of Silca’s team followed Josh from Zipp, the carbon wheel specialist, but others came from the local IndyCar industry – which explains why half of the new accelerator pedal designs in IndyCar have been printed by Silca.
The innovations, though, go both ways. One of Silca’s new lines originated from a visit to the IndyCar pits, where Josh noticed the team using multiple bottles to clean and detail cars.
“You go, ‘Why is that? Why are you using that on this, but not that?’ And you start talking, and it all makes sense,” exclaims Josh. “‘Oh, you can’t use that near the brakes, because it’s got some super lubricant in it, and you can’t use that on the paint because of this,’ and they get into the chemistry and you’re like, ‘I never thought about that, that’s really cool!’”
Disparate ideas from different industries
Josh soon realised that the problem of keeping the bearings and hub-grease cleaner-free applied to bikes too and that corrosion caused by the daily cleaning of pro team bikes could be avoided.
The Silca team pondered the fact that brake cleaners are acetone based, and acetone is great at wicking. They also noted that Sodium hydroxide, present in oven cleaner as well as bike washes, can cause damage to anodic coating, then aluminium, and finally etch out the bearing seat and loosen bearings. Finally, they thought about the widespread use of wax in frame treatments and lubricants.
“It became like building out this system. ‘I want all the best cleaning agents that won’t attack waxes. All of our lubricants are going to stay wax based, and then we’re going to do this paint protector, this really exotic wax base.’ You now can really have a system where you’re not going to be damaging anything,” Josh says.
The Silca Bicycle Spa 4-step cleaning system keeps your bike sparkling, without the risks of hydrogen embrittlement, aluminium erosion and wicking, and without wax being stripped from the chain.
Josh explains that, although specialised bike cleaning products aren’t new, educating customers about their necessity is. “Everybody I’ve ever told the story to is like, ‘I never thought of any of that.’ And I hadn’t thought of it ‘til a year ago either. But fortunately, there’s a bunch of really smart people who had thought of it. And we just had to go ask them.”
Talking to people smarter than you are
The Bicycle Spa system isn’t Silca’s only product to result from this approach. The brand spent two years developing lubricants, including Super Secret Chain Lube and Secret Chain Blend Hot Melt Wax. Recently, Silca Hot Wax X took the lead in an industry arms race to minimise chain friction, thanks to NaneneTM, a pure form of graphene resulting from a partnership between Cambridge University and Manchester University.
Josh approached Versarien, the academics’ company, after becoming frustrated that the incredible speeds other industries were achieving with graphene lubricants eluded him. Versarien explained that only certified ‘true graphene’ would deliver results. Sure enough, Hot Wax X with NaneneTM excelled.
Consulting experts is both enlightening and easy, according to Josh. “The cool thing about what we do is, most of the people who are inventing the stuff that’s gonna change the world, they’re in some lab at some university and they’re dying to tell someone what they’re doing… if you just call them, they’re thrilled to talk to you.”
Leading the way in the industry
Silca stays ahead of the curve by learning from other industries and thinking creatively. The company is currently working on a new, innovative cleaning product and expanding its maintenance line with cutting edge technological products, but if history is a judge, the next big category will result from a need raised by a customer or athlete.
“The hardest part is figuring out, what’s the question?” says Josh. “It’s rare that we struggle to find the answer, but it’s common that we struggle to figure out what the actual question is…. (for example) what’s a chemical that can remove grease and wax, and leave a residue that’s friendly to wax? That’s a complicated question. But now that we know it, we’ll figure it out.”
If you find selecting the right gloves to match the day’s forecast a chore, why not go for a pair that offers sufficient weather resistance, dexterity and warmth to see you through most eventualities?