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Gadget Review

Park Tool Chain Gang Cleaning System Somewhat Successful

By Kailas Narendran
COLUMNIST

The Park Tool Chain Gang Cleaning System is a somewhat successful attempt at creating a comprehensive tool set for bicycle drive-train cleaning. It comes with a stiff bristle brush, the Park Tool Cyclone Chain Scrubber, and a “chain cleaning solution” -- basically soapy water.

You fill the Chain Scrubber with the cleaning solution, clamp it around the chain, and run the chain through the scrubber. As I understand, the idea is to have the equivalent of a carwash for your chain.

But in addition to cleaning your chain, the scrubber belches large amounts of cleaner all over the floor. The scrubber brush isn’t too effective, as the bunch of bristles is really fat and has a hard time fitting between the rear sprockets. The cleaner does a decent job, but so does some dilute dish washing soap.

Cyclone or hurricane?

I was really excited when I saw the Cyclone chain scrubber. It looked like a nice closed system to make the messy job of chain cleaning a lot neater. Don’t get me wrong, this scrubber definitely scrubs the chain clean -- it gets to spots in between the links that would take forever to do otherwise -- but it spills a lot of cleaner in the process.

The scrubbing brushes run down through the cleaning fluid reservoir before scrubbing the chain. If you go too fast, fluid belches out the side of the cleaner. In addition, it’s easy to tip the scrubber too far over and spill the fluid everywhere.

If you have a workspace that can get a bit messy, or don’t mind putting down newspaper, this scrubber works quite well. It definitely removed a lot of gunk you can’t get at with just a rag. Using the scrubber is a time-effective alternative to removing the chain and scrubbing it by hand.

On the other hand, the stiff bristle brush that comes with this system is ridiculous. It’s really big, and doesn’t really fit between the cogs of the rear cassette it was meant to clean. The curved, spiky end gets between the sprockets and can scrape some stuff out, but it’s so slow, I ended up just using a rag for the job.

Cleaner vs. soapy water

I do have to give the Park Tool people credit for being honest. In the instructions, they say you can use either their own brand of ChainBrite Cleaner, or dilute dishwashing soap. I can’t say that one really works better than the other; they claim ChainBrite Cleaner works better in the long run. But using either is better than using none, the practice of most bicyclists.

Given all the salt and sand that gets dumped on the sidewalks and streets in Boston and Cambridge, chain cleaning is important if you want any lifetime out of your commuting lifeblood (i.e., your bike). As you ride, street sediments build up, and rapidly increase wear on your chain, rear cassette, and derailleurs, which are pretty expensive to replace.

A friend of mine commutes over six miles per day. As a result of regular cleaning, she’s put well over 1,500 miles on her drivetrain and it still has a ways to go.

My two cents

Cleaning your bike’s drivetrain is an imperative. This setup from park tool is useful, but not imperative. I found the Cyclone Chain Scrubber to be the only really useful member of the trio. I found the scrubber for as low as $22 online. You can find out more information at http://www.parktool.com.