The zen of chain cleaning

10 05 2010

I like riding a clean bike. Somehow, it makes me feel faster. Who knows, without the drag of grime on the wheels, frame and chain, maybe I actually am .0001 sec. faster over a 100km ride.

I’ve had my orange Orbea for seven riding seasons. But it still turns heads even though its sloped aluminum/carbon frame lacks the curves and swoops of newer, all carbon bikes.

“It looks like new,” say some.

Or maybe it’s just the blindingly bright color.

While I’d love to be able to afford a new ride like an Orca, a BMC, a Lapierre, a Willier or -be still my beating heart – a Pinarello, with a new mortgage and holiday plans, that’s not in the financial cards anytime soon. So I salve my bike lust by keeping my current steed looking as polished as possible.

With a stand, some latex gloves, rags and liberal doses of environmentally-friendly cleaner, a little regular cleaning goes a long way. The frame, the derailleurs, the rims all get a polish every few rides – more frequently if the weather is sloppy or the roads dusty.

But the chain continues to vex me. No matter how much I clean it, sometimes even scrubbing between the links with Q-tips, to get it gleaming silver, that sucker goes black and greasy right away. I’ve tried one of those fancy chain scrubbers; it broke on the first use. I’ve tried various lubes like ProLink, Pedro’s Road Rage, Purple Extreme and tried and true Tri-Flow, applied sparingly. There’s just no way I seem to be able to achieve and maintain that newly-bought clean.

Oh chain, my bike chain, why do you continue to vex me so in my quest to keep you shiny?

Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me that the pro bikes all seem to have shiny clean chains, even after a 200 km stage of Giro or Tour? Or maybe I’m just being way too anal?

Anyhow, good thing I find cleaning the chain to be a somewhat relaxing escape, as my quest for the sparkling drivetrain continues.