Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chain Cleaning

It's nice having Liza work amongst real bike mechanics at REI. She brings home all sorts of interesting and useful information. The latest is a method for cleaning chains. Like most bike stuff that I learn, this is probably a trick that is well-known to most, and certainly well-known to real bike mechanics.

I've always used some kind of degreaser like simple green or some other bio-friendly crud. (On a side note: does it really matter if it's bio-friendly? After you soak a grimy greasy chain and other petro-based gunk in bio-friendly stuff, is it still bio-friendly?)

The trick Liza taught me was to warm it up. It's just like doing dishes: grease and gunk cleans off a lot better when you use hot water. I have an old butane burner thing that my mom gave me from her catering company. I put some simple green and water in an old ruined saute pan and fired it up.

It's amazing how the crud just falls off.

Dig this.

Here is the chain before cleaning.
Here is the chain after about 5 mintues in hot simple green/water solution. Hard to tell a big difference, but it's cleaner.
Here's the chain after about 10 minutes of light wiping/scrubbing with a Little Mermaid toothbrush. These pics don't do it justice. This chain is like new: even in between the links, where I can never ever get the gunk out.

I've never really done very well taking care of chains. I think maybe it's because I'd go through all the fuss and muss and the chain was only marginally better when I was finished than when I started. This method is extremely satisfying. I may just start taking better care of my chains.


13-b122 said...

Cool way of cleaning. Plus you can use the broth for a killer bisque!

Anonymous said...

I'll have to try that out.

My current method is to put my chain in a gallon container, add hot water and Castrol super clean, and shake for 5 minutes. I repeat that a few times and the chain is squeaky clean.

Tarik Saleh said...

I think it matters a bit that it is ecofriendly, You can filter out the crap and reuse it maybe, but at some point you got to get rid of it too. It is better to have something less crappy filled with crap then more crappy filled with crap. Also, don't heat up kerosene to clean the chain!

bleckb said...

I'm wondering how clean is clean enough. I use a chain cleaning tool, one with a reservoir for whatever lube or cleaner might be used. The chain is never particularly pretty when I'm done, and I give it a good wipe after letting the lube work its way in. Is a regular cleaning going to keep the drive train in good shape, more than replacing the chain at regular intervals, before stretch is a concern?