Originally Posted by folkmanfan
It is Los Angeles. Thanks for the recommendations. The LBS was offering a chain cleaner to use before applying the chain oil. It sounds like people have mixed opinions on whether this is necessary. Is my take on this correct?
People definitely have differing views on the usefulness of chain cleaners. I ride a lot of dirt and hard-surface trails, so my chain gets nasty fast. I use a big-box store chain cleaner with straight-up Simple Green and rinse it in a strong solution of water and SG. Pass the whole chain through the cleaner 2-3x, empty the cleaner, rinse, repeat. The rinse gets the oil and nastiness off the cleaner's brushes so they can keep picking up more on the repeats. I go through a few cycles of scrub/rinse/repeat until the chain is nice and clean. Rinse the SG off with a bit of low pressure H2O, dry it, and apply oil.
Others will tell you this method is stupid because the cleaner only drives contaminants deeper into the chain, eventually causing premature failure. Some see water as bad for bike cleaning in any context. I obviously disagree
Who is right? Depends.
After a solid chain cleaning, I find my bike to be much quieter, the ride and shifting far smoother than what I get from just wiping and re-oiling the chain. When I wipe a chain that needs proper cleaning, the top, bottom and sides come out nice enough, but the crud is just moved into the spaces between the rollers. It's not removed, just temporarily pushed aside.
From between the chain's rolers the gunk will quickly transfer to the teeth of your cogs/sprockets and from there be redistributed back to the rest of the chain. You can see this happen while cycling. I find it frustrating.
My cleaner's brushes and the SG combine to actually remove the majority of the gunk. Don't forget to rinse often, and with a degreaser, not just H2O. The cleaner's brushes will only pick up so much crud before they start redistributing it instead of actually cleaning. This is also why you have to clean your front sprocket and rear cogs at the same time as the chain. If not, the crud on them just transfers right back to the chain.
So far as I am concerned, my $20 big-box store chain cleaner combined with SG is clearly superior to other methods I've tried. Using it, I can remove far more crud than I can without it. In my book, that's a win for the chain cleaner. Others find their own cleaning methods just as superior to the rest as I find mine. The right way is ultimately the one which works for you. Only you can determine that. Best of luck to you in finding it!