Tuesday 5 July 2011

All degreasers are not created equal

One bike chore that I loathe is degreasing the running gear. It needs to be done on a regular basis, and I'm happy to admit that I do it on a very irregular basis. I tend to do it when I can no longer see most of the chain due to a thick layer of road grime and dirt. That's not good for the chain, or the gears, or any of the other bits and bobs that help the bike to move forward at any sort of pace. (Egads, there I am saying "moving forward". I've been brainwashed). My rule of thumb is that when I can hear noise from the running gear as I am riding, then it's time for a degrease and wash.

And then I sit on that information for a week or two and ponder the best time to do a degrease. After a few weeks of pondering, I might do a bit of self-analysis whilst I meditate on the problem, and then I might have my left brain consult with the right and produce a report.

Only then do I go into the shed and look around for the degreasing tub, the degreasing brush, the gloves and the bottle of degreaser. If I can't find all of them within 5 seconds, I return to my position on the couch for a bit more meditation on the horribleness of the whole degreasing process.

I don't know why I'm so squeamish about it - I've rebuilt half a dozen engines, and almost every single part of all those engines had to be thoroughly degreased and cleaned. Or worse, decarbonised. I've spent entire weekends with my gloved hands in a tub of degreaser, scraping and scrubbing bits of piston, crankshaft, carburettor and so on.

Anyway, for the bike, I normally buy a litre of citrus degreaser from a bike shop. For what you get, it has always seemed to be horribly expensive. So when my last bottle was on its last legs, I bought a cheap bottle of generic squirt on degreaser. It was about 1/10th the cost.

And I'm never doing that again. I squirted the cheap, gooey degreaser onto the chain, left it there for a while (whilst I meditated on the couch on how easy this cheap degreaser was to use) and then returned to hose it off.

Big mistake.

As soon as water touched the degreaser, it turned into a mass of white goo - like that flour and water paste that we used to make as kids for doing papier mache. It was horrible, and it wouldn't come off. The only way to get rid of it was to pull out the last of the regular, expensive, bike-specific degreaser and scrub away - and then hose everything off. I'm now worried that some of that white crap is stuck in the links of the chain, doing horrible things to the metal as I ride from A to B.

I guess there's a reason why bike shops try and sell you bike specific degreasing products, even if they are expensive. I won't be buying the cheap muck again in a hurry.

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