One time when my wife was shopping for a bike, the salesperson she was speaking with told her she shouldn’t bother with fenders. A little confused, she asked “Why?” The salesperson, looking as condescending as my wife was confused, replied “You have to ask yourself, ‘Are you really going to ride in the rain?'”
My wife was speechless.
When you own a bike and live in western Oregon you know that if you ride outdoors during more than 3 months of the year, you’re going to get rained on. Fenders are a near necessity most of the year. Ever harder to avoid than installing fenders is one inevitable fact: unless your chain is completely encased, it is going to get wet, dirty, and likely a bit rusty. So when I heard that a great local company, Portland Design Works, made a chain cleaning tool called Mister Sparkle I was very excited to try one out.
After ordering through their website, the Mister Sparkle showed up at my door only a short while later. I knew I had to give it a good challenge, so I found the dirtiest chain in my garage.
The Mister Sparkle is pretty easy to use. The top half of the housing slides back and lifts up, revealing three brushes: two on the bottom, one on the top. This allows you to easily fill it up (to the indicator line) with degreaser and place Mister Sparkle on the chain with no need to remove the chain from your bike.
To facilitate the process of placing the Mister Sparkle on your chain, I recommend shifting the chain onto the smallest cogs to give the chain some slack. (That may be common sense to most, but it took me a minute or so to realize that’d be easiest.) After the Mister Sparkle is on the chain you turn the crank and pull the chain through.
On the bike pictured above I had a bit of trouble getting that to go perfectly smoothly, but during subsequent use on different bikes it’s been much easier. I’m not sure what the difference with my first try was, but I’m chalking it up to a rusty chain and my inexperience.
I ran the chain through for a bit, removed and emptied Mister Sparkle, and then refilled and replaced it on the chain for a second round. This probably is only necessary if you chain is exceedingly dirty. After the second go around I wiped off the excess degreaser throughly with a towel.
Considering how little time and effort this all took, and the terrible shape the chain was in to begin with, I’m very pleased with the results.
Would I recommend this to someone who spends a lot of time cleaning bike chains? Well, I certainly enjoyed using it myself. I can see some folks liking the simplicity of using a cloth to wipe down the chain instead, or wanting to remove the chain to clean it more thoroughly, but for my casual and practical approach to bike maintenance this worked perfectly.
I have my eye on a few other cool products by PDW. Their products are simple, functional, and the company seems to have a good sense of humor. Plus, they included a few free stickers in my order!