In this article I’m going to review what I consider to be the best bicycle chain cleaner tool in the market today by far. And that is the Park Tool CM-25 Professional Chain Scrubber.
And the first thing I want to say about this tool is that they should get rid of “professional”, because I don’t see any reason why non-bike mechanics should not want to have this tool in their arsenal.
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Why a clean chain is important
Before I deal with the price, which is relatively steep considering alternatives, I want to delve into why you should want to own this tool if you love your bicycle.
I’ve made a list of my best bicycle cleaning tips, but in hindsight this tool should be on that list.
For me bicycle maintenance is key to optimally enjoy every ride. Not only do I want my bikes looking great, I also want them to function as intended.
Especially with mountain biking, which has a ten-fold amount of shifting action compared to road racing, a properly functioning drivetrain setup is an absolute must.
And the component which is most important for your drivetrain is the chain. Because a cassette and crank cleaning takes more time than cleaning a chain, I perform the latter more often.
Not only does a dirty chain wear out much faster (taking sprockets and chainrings with it), there’s also a noticeable difference in shifting performance.
Why the Park Tool CM-25 is the best bicycle chain cleaner
It’s obvious that the Park Tool CM-25 is much more expensive than your average chain cleaner. And I agree that price does not necessarily equate to higher quality.
So let’s compare the the Park Tool CM-25 with the competition.
This is not my first bicycle chain cleaner. My first one was an older version of the current BBB Bright & Fresh chain cleaner.
The reason I’ve bought the CM-25 is because it broke almost immediately because it was made of plastic. With insulation tape and quick glue I managed to keep it working until the brushing wheels literally fell out of their casing.
As far as I know, the CM-25 is the only bicycle chain cleaner in the market made of something other than plastic. It’s made of die-cast aluminum with a powder coating in the characteristic blue of Park Tool.
This not only looks and feels great, it also means that with some care, it’ll last you the rest of your life, no matter how many times you use it.
So where I used the BBB many times in a compromised broken state, this will never happen with the Park Tool CM-25. And from a bike restorers perspective, tools that you can use for a lifetime are a huge plus.
The CM-25’s internals are obviously not made of aluminum. The bicycle chain cleaner comes with a removable cartridge that holds the brushes and sponges.
My BBB cleaner also had the sponge to prevent the chain cleaner from dripping. This sponge totally disintegrated over time. And the brushes will wear as well, reducing their effectiveness. So being able to have multiple options of replacing the internals adds to its longevity.
None of the other kits had replaceable internals. This means that the combination of the everlasting body and replacement parts place the Park Tool CM-25 far above its competition.
Chain cleaning ability
I’ve used the Park Tool CM-25 once and it does what it’s supposed to do. All cleaners basically look and operate the same way, with rotating brushes, so you probably won’t find a noticeable difference between chain cleaners.
That being said, one advantage of the removable cartridge is that you can much easier clean the tool itself. You simply take out both halves of the cartridge and clean the empty casing.
You also have easier access to the cartridge, which makes it a much more simple task to rinse them. Or, for a really thorough cleaning, you can submerge the entire cartridge into white spirit.
My experience with the BBB cleaner which had fixed brushes was that I basically never cleaned the unit. I simply drained the cleaner of the white spirit, which I use as cleaning fluid and let the crud sit at the bottom of the casing.
This obviously does not improve the result of the next cleaning job, but I found cleaning the cleaner itself with fixed brushes to be too much of a nuisance.
So let’s talk about the price. Excluding shipping costs I bought the Park Tool CM-25 chain cleaner for €81.33 or $96. I believe I bought the BBB for a third of that price; either 25 or 30 euros.
Based on this review you can see that there are a number of key benefits when choosing this one as your go-to chain cleaner tool. And it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the price of entry.
One article stated “But for everyday riders who might clean their chain a few times a week, the price tag will likely prove too heavy.” I would consider “a few times a week” a sure sign to shell out the extra cash for this chain cleaner.
I’ve already stated the ridiculousness of “professional” in the title. As a consumer I decide myself if I want to spend my money, irrespective of being a “professional” or not.
If money is a concern but you still want to be able to replace the brushes in the long run and want to have the added benefit of a more thorough cleaning of the tool itself, Park Tool offers an alternative. The Park Tool CM-5.3 Cyclone Chain Scrubber has the aforementioned advantages, but uses a plastic casing instead of an aluminum one.
In my mind, and for the price of €30 this still makes the alternative a better option than the rest, but without the hefty price tag.
Concluding remarks on the best bicycle chain cleaner
I’ve read quite some reviews on chain cleaners including the Park Tool CM-5.3. And as was the case with my plastic BBB chain cleaner, cracked casings are a recurring theme. So for me, having been there before, I was willing to spend the extra cash to minimize that risk to be pretty much non-existent by going for the aluminum casing.
Those are the reasons why I, all things considered, feel the Park Tool CM-25 Professional Chain Scrubber is the best bicycle chain cleaner worth your money.
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