Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that when it comes to bike maintenance, sometimes the simplest tools can be the most effective. For example, Dave Drumm walks us through the many uses for a five dollar conical brush. (We also love baby bottle brushes for cleaning out water bottles, and they can be found for about a dollar in most grocery stores!)
by Dave Drumm
Nothing makes the life of a mechanic easier than having the right tool for the job. When it comes to cyclocross and bike washing, having the right brushes on hand can facilitate the seemingly impossible task of making the dirtiest bike shine like new, in less time than you could possibly imagine.
The most used brush in my quiver is the conical brush. It can magically cut down on time required to get your bike sparkling again. My favorite conical brush was one that I bought in Europe several years ago. It was designed for cleaning wire-spoke wheels on cars – think classic MG’s. It was the ultimate brush with soft natural bristles that did not scratch paint or hold grease. I lost that brush last summer, somewhere in East Germany, after a long night of cleaning team bikes. Some other mechanic probably stumbled upon it and it now probably holds a special place in his quiver. That exact brush can be bought online for $54. That’s a lot of money for a brush.
I recently stumbled upon a slightly smaller version of my favorite conical brush that I like even more and, much to my surprise, it’s less than $5 and available at Harbor Freight Tools. It, too, is made of soft natural bristles. Natural bristles are preferable because they don’t hold grease and grime. If the brush does become gooped up, you just place it in a bucket of warm water with Dawn dish washing liquid and, in a few minutes, the grease will be released from the brush and you won’t leave dirty streak marks on the bike frame when you use it. Nylon-bristled brushes tend to trap and retain grease, making your job more difficult.
I have been abusing this new brush over the last month and I am amazed at how well it has held up. I highly recommend you buy one or two and add it to your toolbox. The conical brush is key because it gets into all the nooks and crannies in the frame, behind cable housing, behind brakes, you can clean a hub in two swipes and the back sides of wheel spokes, you can get between the chainring and frame and into the underside of the fork crown. It’s by far the most useful of all brushes. Once you learn the power of this brush, you’ll be able to spend more time riding your bike and less time cleaning it.