The chain is often the most neglected and abused part of a human powered cycle and yet it is one of the most important parts as without it “you ain’t goin’ nowhere”. It is important to keep it clean and properly lubricated so that maximum wear, life and dependability will result. Also it will help facilitate proper shifting and pedaling efficiency. Failure to properly maintain the chain will result in premature wear and need of replacement. And that wear and replacement might very well involve the various sprockets as well as a worn chain will wear out the sprockets prematurely. It can all get quite expensive. Keep in mind that on a tadpole trike the chain is 2.5 to 3 times the length of a typical bicycle chain. So when it comes time to replace the chain it is going to cost 2.5 to 3 times as much as it would if you were replacing the chain on a DF (diamond frame) bicycle. The video below explains the importance of and how to clean a chain. Again, keep in mind this mechanic is talking about a DF bicycle so when he says 119 links you must multiply that by 2.5 to 3 times for a tadpole trike. If I remember correctly my trike requires about 263 links and I am rather short so someone who is tall would probably have on up around 300 or more links. Also when this mechanic speaks of a chain increasing in length by 2 inches on a DF bike on a tadpole trike a worn chain could increase considerably more than that because of all the additional links involved.
These chain cleaning devices are pretty nifty and make the job of cleaning a chain a lot easier and faster than the way one would go about it without such a device. They also make the job a whole lot less messy. There are several different brands and models on the market. I will state upfront that they are not all created equal. Some are better than others in their design and their quality. Sometimes a cheaper one seems to perform better than a more expensive one, but that isn’t always true so don’t go out looking for the lowest priced one you can find thinking that it will be superior to a much higher priced one. I suggest doing your homework and research into this. Unfortunately I can’t give you any guidance on this as I have only been around two of them. One was a brand name and the other was not. The brand name one cost considerably more, but it didn’t work as well and didn’t hold up as well as the cheaper one. You can pay as much as around $50 for one of these.
Here is a look inside of one of these chain cleaning devices.
Amazon.com sells these “machines” as cheap as $3.85 with free shipping. It it pictured above. It is currently shown as “out of stock”. At that price I would imagine that they sell a lot of them. There is a bunch of different ones available … that’s for sure.
I won’t argue that removal of a chain and the use of perhaps an untrasonic cleaning device is the best way to clean a chain. Even hand brushing might do a better job than using one of these cleaning machines as long as the person doing it does a proper and thorough job. However, certainly the idea of cleaning a chain on the trike is appealing as removing and reinstalling a chain of a tadpole trike is something to be avoided if possible. It can be a real pain of a task to get involved in compared to doing it on a DF bicycle. I have used a couple of these chain cleaners before and thought they did a pretty decent job … enough so that I think I would most definitely prefer using one than doing it manually the “old way”.
Here is another video showing the use of one of these cleaning devices and instructing about how to relubricate a chain after it has been cleaned.
One thing about using one of these chain cleaning devices on a tadpole trike is the fact that the pedals are located a far distance from the rear derailleur where this device is normally used as pictured both above and below. This makes it rather difficult for an individual to use the device by him/her self as one can’t normally reach that far. So if the device could be placed up nearer to the pedals it would make the task easier. However, most trikes have plastic chain tubes up there which would prevent the cleaning device from being placed up there. Another person could be used to accomplish this, but having used a couple of these myself I would have to say that it works best for the person holding the cleaning device to also be turning the pedals as it is important that the person turning the pedals is “in tune” and has “a feel” of what is going on with the chain as it passes thru the cleaning device. If something were to go wrong the 2nd person doing the pedaling might not stop pedaling if and when the need arises and the result could be a bit disastrous. So my advice would be if you are using the service of a second person be sure you are both paying attention and they are prepared to stop pedaling instantly should the need arise. I am probably making more out of this than necessary and unduly alarming folks. Chances are things would go quite well and nothing would be challenging. I just know that things can go wrong and want to make you aware of it.
There is at least a couple of model designs which attach to the rear derailleur which might be helpful on a tadpole trike application since it is so difficult to impossible for one person to turn the pedals and reach the rear derailleur area. To use this the trike’s rear wheel would have to be off of the ground.
The well known and respected bicycle tool manufacturer, Pedros, makes a chain cleaner they call the ChainPig. It too is a hands free type. It uses a very small amount of degreaser solution. It retails for $28, but can be found cheaper at times. Right now the best price I can find is $22.34 with shipping on Ebay.
HERE is a review article on the ChainPig. They are very impressed with it … more so than any other chain cleaner device they have tried.
When it comes to lubricating the chain there exists some new innovation on the market. Check out this nifty designed lubricant bottle and application device. There are a few companies offering this same designed application bottle. I don’t know how well it works so by featuring it here I am not promoting it.
Now that I have written this article I feel strongly convicted. My chain needs to be cleaned. And I don’t currently have a chain cleaning device. I have been putting off getting one. I guess I will have to go do my homework, but right now without doing any more research I have to admit I am drawn to a certain little critter. Here Piggy Piggy!
Properly maintaining and caring for your drive train will help you to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’
Update: I ordered the Pedros ChainPig the same day I wrote this article. It came in the mail today and I just used it for the first time. I love it. I was extremely impressed. It is so easy to use and did a great job cleaning my chain. It made the chain look like brand new. Yep, it is the cat’s meow! The hands free feature worked great and really makes the difference since I can’t reach the pedals and the chain cleaning device at the same time. It is one little piggy that is going to stay home (vs. going to the market). I loaned it to a friend to try and he also thought it worked really great. He ordered one right away. The only thing I can say is that if you use it (or any other brand/model) while the trike is sitting down on the ground it is hard to do. I definitely advice getting the trike up on some sort of a workstand/table. Since you pedal backwards the rear tire doesn’t need to be elevated into the air. As to degreasers, there are several choices. I use one I bought at Harbor Freight. It is not only inexpensive, but it works great. It is a concentrate intended to be diluted with water, but I use it full strength. It comes in a gallon jug and sells for $6.99.