I’ve been riding my hardtail through Kansas City’s wintry roads quite a bit lately. The singletrack is too sloppy to ride, but urban obstacles offer some fun and challenging alternatives to the local trails. I also commute a few miles to the bus. The past few days have been really salty and slushy, so it was time for a bath. I’ve tried a lot of stuff to clean off my sprockets and chain rings. Alcohol, simple green, purple power, expensive citrus cleaners, mineral oils, and many other cleaners. This evening, I got lazy and reached for an old can of automotive brake parts cleaner that I had laying around. It was below freezing outside, and this stuff evaporates pretty quickly at room temperature. I figured it couldn’t hurt.
I laid some newspaper out on the front porch and sprayed the sprockets off. After a quick spray-down, running an old rag between the cogs brought back a beautiful shine. Even at sub-freezing temperatures, the stuff had evaporated in under 5 minutes, ready to be re-assembled.
I am simply amazed. You want to be careful with this stuff, though. Use it outdoors or somewhere you can ventilate. It’s flammable and probably not too good on your lungs either. Since brake cleaner is a degreaser, I’d also try to keep it from getting into the freehub body itself, as it would likely dry out the pawls. A little bit goes a long way. If you’ve ever changed brakes on a car, you’ll know that the dirtiest sprockets don’t have anything on the brake dust and grime build-up that brake parts cleaner was designed to dissolve.