I love to kid Dan about his chain fetishes! I have never seen cleaner chains and cogs! They always look like the bike just rolled out of the showroom! I on the other hand personally feel that a really foul chain is actually a training aid! The added resistance of all that grit and dirt and waxy build up adds a whole additional dimension to flat land pedaling, something resembling scaling hills for the entire ride!
All kidding aside my chains were pathetic! So I said, let's run a test on Chain Cleaners! Wow what a concept! I had seen the Park Tools Chain Cleaning Machine in Bike Shops and I had also seen the Nashbar item in the catalogues and on their web site. So I ordered the little Nashbar bugger along with their liquid degreaser! When the package arrived, I was surprised! The bottle of degreaser was much larger than I thought it would be and the machine was a whole lot smaller than I thought it would be! In fact it was only about 1/6th the size of the Park version of the same thing. It was tiny!
Now not being a guy who is totally hung up on size, I decided to give the little bugger a try, after all it was clearly a lot cheaper, so... I filled the reservoir with the windex blue Nashbar degreaser and attempted to run the chain through it's cogs. The bottom line... after a bit of messing and fooling the little bugger actually worked!
Here's the whole story! On the way out to the Cub Scout Bike Rally, I grabbed the Nashbar Chain Cleaner figuring I would have a little time to fool around with it! Well that is exactly what happened, I had little time to fool. Although, I did get to inspect it and give it a precursory trial.
The device is clear plastic (or was anyway, it quickly turns gray) and its internal workings are blue. There is a clear lid that slides on and off, and a channel that directs the chain through and across the internal components, which consist of a cogged paddle wheel, a drainage area, and a three sided arrangement of plastic wiper brushes. The theory is that as the chain is drawn through the device the cog turns the paddle wheel which brings the degreasing fluid up and onto the chain which is subsequently drawn across the drain which returns the excess to the reservoir, and then the chain proceeds through the wiper blades which squeegee off any additional excess and mechanically help budge the grudge off of the links.
To put the cleaner into use, you remove the top lid by sliding it off. Then you fill the reservoir about 2/3 full, and then, carefully, but with force you insert the chain into the channel which runs through the device. This requires some manual dexterity the first few times, until the wiper blades wear in or bend or whatever they do to make room, and you will spill some cleaner fluid, but eventually it gets a little easier. I don't know of this is because the wipers wear or simply because you eventually get the knack. You then slide the cover back into place to hold the chain inside the device.
I used the thing on the bottom return run of the chain and once it was clipped into place, I began running the chain through it by cranking backwards and holding it "steady" with the other hand. This is a trick which takes some learning as well, kind of like developing a taste for martinis I guess. But once again once you get the knack it goes reasonably well.
Now Nashbar does send instructions in which they also recommend placing an absorptive rag under the chain area. This is an excellent idea. Because, between the chain dragging excess through the device and the amount of spillage you get until you get the techniques down, the area beneath the chain does get wetted down with degreaser and whatever else comes off the chain.
Now I have gone on record several times within these pages regarding my "old paint brush" theories of chain cleaning, and well frankly, this little 12 dollar device does a much better job in about a fifth of the time! So I would have to say it's a good idea. A severely crudded up chain came out reasonably well after only a few revolutions of the crank. Whether it is the machine or the degreaser I can't say but used together they get the job done. Once the chain is rinsed, dries and relubed you are cheerfully on your way!