Park Tool Chain Gang Chain Cleaning Kit
Clean your chain. It's the bike maintenance equivalent of eating your veggies. The benefits include riding quieter, shifting better, riding with greater mechanical efficiency, and a longer-lasting drivetrain. Crazy to have ceramic bearings if your chain is crunchy. It's not necessarily fun, but you should do it. And probably at a shorter interval than you currently employ.
We're not advising re-lubing the chain every ride as some people advise. Just if you've been in the rain, or dust, or dirt, or after a few weeks of daily riding.
There was a time when we only cleaned the chain when we absolutely had to. Now, any time the bike is getting cleaned, the chain gets atleast a rinse if not a full-on wash. Over the past winter, we tried Park's CB-2 Citrus Chain Brite. It was definitely a good addition to our cleaning tools, though our laziness has found us reverting to spraying the chain with degreaser, then running the chain through the scrubber with soapy water.
Our scrubber has seen heavy use over the years; we've turned the transparent blue plastic opaque.The brushes are wasted, and have trouble rolling. Park sensibly makes replacement brushes for the scrubber, but ours is so old that they didn't fit.
So going with the Chain Gang Cleaning System seemed like a smart idea. Another bottle of Chain Brite (eight ounces), a fresh gear cleaning brush (GSC-1), and a new Chain Scrubber (CM-5).
The new scrubber works just like the old scrubber. Only better. Most of it has to do with the fact that the brushes aren't wasted and they actually spin easily on their axles. A second benefit is that this one came with a fresh handle—we lost the old handle years ago. The handle just makes the scrubber a bit easier to grab in that you don't have to worry about fingers getting caught in the spokes as we did when the scrubber was handle-free.
The Chain Gang System is very easy to work with. We start by getting the bike wet and soapy. We do an initial scrubbing of the cogs with the brush. Then we get out the chain scrubber, fill Chain Brite to the line on the scrubber, open up the top, fit the chain around the brushes, lock down the top and pedal backwards. You can see the yellow-ish liquid turn brown in seconds. There' s a little magnet at the bottom designed to attract metal shavings; we didn't see any after several cleanings of several bikes, but our old one has lots of filings. When done, pour out the Chain Brite, add soapy water, which we already have sitting around in a bucket, and chase out the chain cleaner. Then rinse with clean water. When it's all done, air dry and re-lube.
We tried it on our fixed-gear bike. It's neither a good fit nor a safe one. You might want to take the chain off your track or fixie to get it clean. But any bike that can coast it should work fine on.
If we haven't convinced you to clean your chain more often, consider making yourself a cleaning kit. You can buy them prefab or make one on your own. We prefer making our own, and because we like it so much, we'll link to Radio Freddy's Art Of The Bike Wash again. Having the stuff sitting in a bucket in the garage or easily accessible makes cleaning much simpler and faster. Once you're doing the bike, the chain is at most an extra minute.
We're never going to be as fastidious as some of our riding partners. We used to ride with one guy who, no matter when we rode, always looked as if a mechanic in a follow-car had just handed him a clean bike. We're never going to be him. But a clean chain, either as part of a clean bike or not, is a good thing for both you and your components.