I kind of love the post-ride currying Basil gets. I wipe down his rims, removing any brake dust; give the spokes a swipe; carefully inspect and brush his tire treads with a soft manicure brush; and generally tidy and look him over. Every ride, or every thirty miles, I also clean his chain, carefully, with rags, brushes and devoted attention.
I thought I was doing a brilliant job of maintaining his most important mechanical component. Oh fool I! Between the brushes in the image above is a slurry of muck dredged from Basil’s chain by a mechanical cleaner after I’d done my bit.
I’d read that the Park Tool Chain Scrubber did a rather nice job on bicycle chains, and did it faster than a human with a rag, a brush, and so on could manage. Basil and I had cycled down to an LBS and picked it up, and I put it to the test, with these distressing results.
This is what Basil’s chain looked like before I used the Scrubber, and all that muck was extracted:
Really, it doesn’t look terrible does it? (We had just gone through a couple of puddles on a short run just before I took this photo.) And yet the Scrubber managed to pull that sludge, and who knows what else (that stuff is right above the magnet meant to catch metal particles so they won’t abrade the chain in use or while it’s being cleaned) from Basil’s [theoretically] clean chain. The horror! The shame!
This was quite shocking, and I felt a bit of a failure. There I was, confident that I was doing my best by him, and what? It was as if I’d done nothing at all! The evidence is incontrovertible — here is how Basil’s chain looked after:
The Chain Scrubber, that far more efficient cleaner, attaches to the lower bit of chain, and just fits on a Brompton. You either use degreaser, or a bit of detergent mixed with water, and fill the device to a well-marked line.
Then you turn the bicycle’s pedals backwards thirty times. I was initially clumsy at this, but soon got the rhythm right. Steadying the device is necessary; allowing it to tip even slightly results in a puddle on the floor. Also, pedalling too rapidly results in a slight fine spray. Both mishaps are easily avoided, however.
You go through the process once, then rinse and refill the scrubber, attach it to the chain again, and pedal backwards thirty more times. Sadly, the Scrubber also managed to extract yet more sludge on the second go-round, though noticeably less than on the first go-round.
Then you dry the chain and lubricate it. I can’t deny it: Once the Scrubber had done its stuff, Basil’s chain glowed.
I’m solacing myself by noting that Basil is a sturdy soul, and not at all concerned with small failings in his cyclist. He’s the type who always looks forward: In this matter, I’ll take my cue from him. And I’ll make sure to haul out the Scrubber regularly. Lesson learned.