After years of manually cleaning my bicycle chains, often too infrequently, I made a worthwhile investment in a Park Tool chain cleaner. As a year round bicycle commuter in Chicago, I am often braving the elements leading to concerns over corrosion that could weaken a chain. In years past, I have snapped multiple chains, causing dangerous instability, a loss of balance, and on more than one occasion, a wipeout. Frequent oiling is one approach to mitigating the corrosion. Yet, this leads to a build-up of gunk that can increase the overall resistance. So, for me, finding an efficient routine cleaning method was extremely important, making this product a very valuable item.
When I was younger and had more free time, I would remove a bicycle chain and soak it in a coffee can full of gasoline. This was cheap, environmentally unfriendly and potentially dangerous. Now that I live in a high-rise apartment with beige carpeting, I try to keep the mess and disassembly to a minimum. The Park Tool chain cleaner is excellent for this situation as there is minimal scattering of the cleaning solution. Yet, the cleaning process isn't entirely compatible with carpeting as the cleaning fluid clings to the chain and drips off around the entire path of chain travel. So indoor chain cleaning still requires newspapers or rags to protect the carpeting.
The Park Tool chain cleaner is both fast and effective. The rotary brushes do an excellent job at removing tightly adhering grime. This somewhat surprised me because the bristles are nylon and not metal. From my unscientific observations, the results are as good or better than hand cleaning with wire brush. More importantly, it is definitely much faster. In addition to the main apparatus, Park Tool was nice enough to include a very narrow hand brush with the kit that allow for easy cleaning in between the rear cogs. With this brush and the main tool, the user can perform an end-to-end drive chain cleaning in less than 15 minutes.
One of the advantages of a chain cleaning tool like this is that it contains a reservoir that puts the cleaning solution precisely where it is needed. It is so efficient in this regard that a significant amount sediment builds up at the bottom of the relatively small sized reservoir, requiring that the fluid be changed at least twice during a single cleaning. While it only uses about four ounces per fill, the Park Tool cleaning solution is 20 times as expensive as kerosene or gasoline so there is no cost saving on the consumables front. I suspect that citrus cleaning fluids at hardware or automotive stores would work just as well for much less.
For $28, this product is definitely worth the expense from the time savings alone. While I am not a bicycle mechanic, I do own other Park Tools. In all cases, I have been rather satisfied with their quality. The prices, however, are generally out of line with conventional tools, which may be a result of high dealer markup for niche products with limited markets. In this case, the price is a bargain but I suspect that Park tries to make its profit on the cleaning solution whose expense can probably be avoided by purchasing commonly available alternatives. In total, I would highly recommend this product for both its value and effectiveness.
Inexpensive upfront cost
Expensive cleaning solution
Excessive sediment formation in small reservoir