One of the filthiest parts of the bike has got to be the chain. No, it’s got to be the filthiest part for sure. Just ask the inside of your right calf after each ride.
I’ve tried using simple (read: cheap) tools to get the job done. Rags and toothbrushes combined with degreasing solution works… to some extent.
After some praying and scrubbing, the chain looks kinda nice, kinda shiny. Then you turn the pedals and you hear a grinding sound, like sand is stuck in there somewhere, and no amount of brushing or scrubbing does anything to fix that horrible sound.
Enter chain cleaning tools. More specifically, the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine.
There are a bunch of chain cleaning tools out there, and frankly the X-3 is the first I’ve used. As a chain-cleaning-tool-virgin, the X-3 was idiot-proof enough for me. Basically, you detach the top of the cleaner, reattach it over the chain, and drag the greasy chain through by turning the pedals.
All this while dripping chain cleaning liquid onto the chain. It’s way less messy and less grief than anything else I’ve tried. All the nasty stuff is contained within the cleaner.
Once the chain is clean, you’ll also need to lube it to keep it running smoothly. I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube to try. Apparently it’s the same stuff that Team Sky uses.
What’s nice about this tiny bottle of lube is that you really don’t need to slather it on liberally, but be clinical in applying a drop or two on each joint in the chain.
Just as well because this lubricant is a little on the pricey side -It retails for close to S$40 if I recall correctly. To help you make sure you know which bits you’ve done and which you haven’t, every drop of the lube is smurf-coloured. Yes, it’s blue!
In case you happen to be colour blind as well, they’ve included a UV light that will make the lube glow! (Don’t forget to lube up if you’re bringing your bike along for a rave.)
And the smell. I’ve read a review of this lube where they’ve described this as “slightly perfumed”. I agree that there’s a smell – akin to rust – that comes after the application. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction between my chain cleaning solution, rust and the lube, or maybe it’s just my cranky sinuses.
Performance wise, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me but the pedal strokes just felt that much easier and smoother. (Muc-Off claims it’s 27% more efficient than an unnamed competitor brand!) Almost like I’d rubbed a block of melting butter on my bike chain. Think I’d prefer it if it smelt like butter too. I’ll leave out the technical mumbo jumbo for you to dissect on your own because frankly, I wouldn’t be any wiser if they told me they were using smurf blood instead of whatever miracle recipe they’ve got in there.
This is a way overdue product review was partially made possible by my friend Kenji Lim who runs Hodaka Motoworld that stocks lots of stuff for motorbikes and bicycles. You can check out the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine and the Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube at their showroom at 10 Kaki Bukit Road 1, #01-08 KB Industrial, Singapore 416175 Tel: +65 6844 0078
Full disclosure: I was given a bottle for Muc-off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube and bought the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine at a discount.