Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in the May 2022 issue of BRAIN.
MONTEREY, Calif. — Peter Arlein watched the growing Friday crowd at the Sea Otter Classic last month and spoke a dirty truth.
“You clean your bike and it (the lube) washes away,” said Arlein, CEO of plant-based mountainFlow Eco-Wax. “You apply lube and some goes to the ground. The reason you have to reapply chain lube is that it’s coming off somewhere, right? Otherwise, you could do it once and be good forever. It’s a classic micro-pollution problem. Overall, all these people here, they all move their bikes. Everything from this event, when it rains, goes straight into the ocean.
Arlein tackles the problem with the creation of his petroleum-free bike lubricant, grease and cleaners and spreads the word on his first trip to the annual festival.
“Some people will give away a plant-based token and a bunch of other less eco-friendly things,” said Arlein, who was promoting her line with free bike cleanings and lubricants at her Sea Otter booth. . “We remain true to plant-based ethics throughout our product line, throughout our packaging.”
MountainFlow uses 100% post-consumer recycled plastic containers for lubricants, cardboard bottles for bike wash and degreasers, metal tubes for grease, and aluminum bottles for bike polish. With a plethora of bicycle lubricants and cleaners on the market, it might seem like another brand is getting lost in the mix. With Carbondale, Colorado-based MountainFlow starting in 2016 as a popular ski wax brand, why enter the bike industry?
“Consumer demand drove us there for plant-based biodegradable, non-petroleum products,” Arlein said. “We are one of the only companies in the world to offer only herbal products.”
He said the lubes had been tested for years before they were launched. “We’re able to prove it works as well or better than the competition. We don’t want asterisks on our product that says durable but doesn’t work as well. So we gave bike mechanics and professional riders around the world our products, and the consensus we’ve gotten back is that it works just as well.”
MountainFlow is available at approximately 600 ski and bike shops, including all REI Co-op ski shops and select REI bike shops.
Arlein got his start with frame and drivetrain cleaning brushes during Sea Otter. They are made from recycled plastic and have a bamboo handle.
With a few days left at Sea Otter, Arlein said he was getting his message across to many festival-goers.
“Once people know there’s an alternative that works as well, it’s very easy to convert customers,” he said.