Bath time!

I got my bike back yesterday.  I took a look at the drivetrain and decided it needed to be cleaned.  The chain was BLACK.  So this evening, I set myself up to clean my bike.

The scene: My living room, bike up against one wall with a flatpack Ikea box (opened up) on the floor to protect it.

The cast:

Park Tool’s citrus degreaser, from LBS at home.  For that fresh, clean feeling.  Recommended by nine out of ten dentists for cleaning your cogs’ teeth.  If only it came in mint.

Chain-cleaning…thing.  I really have no idea what these things are called.  Like a toothbrush for your chain, only messier and more expensive.  Also from Park Tool.  $30 from the LBS.  Between it and the $16 taillight and one or two other things, I had enough to use that $20-off coupon the bike shop sent in the mail.  That is, if my mom hadn’t thrown it away.

I should point out that this is much nicer than the one I’d used previously.  That one turned out to be C’s dad’s old one.  This is larger, sure, but it’s sturdier and doesn’t rely on two sets of plastic prongs to hold it shut.  (These plastic prongs, you see, have a tendency to break if you leave it on the garage floor and trip over it move across the state.)  This one has a wire “spring lock” on each end.  The problem with this thing is that it seems to be designed for use by guys with big, beefy thumbs.  More on this later.

For now, I will simply introduce our final supporting cast member:

Lemon Pledge, for cleaning the frame.

Not pictured are various rags, cut from an old shirt, masses of paper towel, and Pedro’s Ice Wax. (More on this in a minute.)

I did what I was supposed to do and read the instructions.  Put bike in smallest cog, adjust chainring as necessary to achieve a horizontal lower run of chain.  Okay, easy.  The chain was on the middle ring, so that was fine.  Put chain cleaning thing on chain as shown.  Sounds easy.  Except that these “spring locks” were difficult to open, and more difficult to close.  Try closing the lock around the upper part of the chain cleaning thing with one hand.  Once I got to the “add degreaser” step, I figured I was set.  I’ve cleaned my bike before.  Not difficult.

I added my degreaser and set to turning the pedal backwards.  Now, I have no idea what happened, though I can hazard a guess.  But this is what I ended up with (sorry for the crappy cell phone picture):

Yes, that’s my slightly cleaner chain partly draped between the crankarm and the big chainring, with a link wedged firmly between the chainring and derailleur cage.  After struggling with it and having the chain end up in a variety of places (trying to fish it out from the far side of the small ring was fun), I took this and sent it to C, then called him.

I’m not sure that this picture can fully express just how messy this incident was.  Chain gunk in degreaser travels well, I can assure you.  It’s all over the crank arm, pedal (not shown), the chain stays…some even ended up on THE WALL.  I have no desire to explain to my landlord exactly how that got there.

This was not the worst of it. (Cleaned up well with a bit of degreaser on paper towel, though.)  On top of that, I knocked over the chain cleaning thing (now removed from the bike and full of degreaser).  My hands were black…I think I washed them three or four times in the course of trying to get the chain sorted out.

There were two ways I could see around this.  The first was to try to shift into the big chainring (something I hate doing when I’m not actually riding) so I could free that trapped link.  The other would have involved breaking the chain.  I wasn’t so sure I could shift without damaging something, but breaking the chain didn’t seem like an optimal solution.  The book was not terribly helpful in this situation, so I called C in a bit of a panic.  He told me to send him a picture.  I took the one above, sent it, and then waited for him to call me back.

I decided to give the shifting a try.  I hate doing it, as the only way to do it by yourself is to lift up the back of the bike by putting your shoulder under the nose of the saddle and turning the far pedal.  Since this is painful, it can be difficult to hold the lever in the right spot for long enough for the derailleur to actually shift up.   I got into this rather compromising (for my own personal dignity and comfort, anyway) position, spun the pedal a few times and grabbed and held the shift lever and my breath.  And it actually shifted, with no horrible noises or anything!  I managed to untangle myself from the bike and then got the chain back onto the ring….right when C called to tell me that it looked like I should still be able to shift.

I finished the cleaning with no further drama.  I refused to take the rear wheel off the bike like I should have to clean the cassette lest something else go wrong, but a little dexterity with a degreaser-soaked rag is a reasonable substitute.  Better than nothing, right? (It takes TWO people to get that rear wheel back on, even with partly-deflated tires.  Not kidding.)

The frame, as you might imagine, needed a good clean, so I cleaned that up with the Pledge on a rag and then re-lubed my chain with the Ice Wax.  That stuff is supposedly better for wet conditions (according to C’s dad, anyway), but it breaks down faster, resulting in a need to clean your bike more often.  Does this mean I’ll have to ask the landlord to repaint the living room a sort of dark gray?

For some perspective on the mess:

This was clean cardboard about an hour earlier.  And the bathroom sink, when all was said and done:

The flash tends to wash it out.  It’s much nastier looking in real life, I promise.  I thought of taking a picture of my hands (there’s still black stuff all around and under my fingernails), but I haven’t figured out the timer on this camera yet.

The only things that came out cleaner are the drivetrain and frame.

However, this little experience further convinces me that my bike is either a princess (in the sense of “high maintenance”) or a small child who doesn’t quite understand that taking a bath is important and therefore makes as much fuss about it as possible.  What do you suggest?  A rubber duck?  A brightly-colored towel?  Bribes?

Hand me a beer.

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1 Response to Bath time!

  1. Pingback: Rain: More fun than you’d think | Going Whole Cog

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