Meet your bike’s new best friend — the used toothbrush. No, really. Really, really.
Unless you are a masochistic Army drill sergeant, vindictive high school football coach, or someone who suffers from extreme obsessive-complusive disorder, chances are you have a few used toothbrushes lying around. Are these items merely oral hygiene tools rendered ineffective by months of daily use?
Just because something is old and worn-out doesn’t mean it can’t be ‘re-purposed’ — transformed into a something that is still amazingly useful. Cyclists, being cheap skinflints by nature, are quite good at this. Let’s call it ‘re-purposing.’ The threadbare sock that is now a cover for the spare inner tube in your seat bag. The section of patched-beyond-good-sense inner tube that is now a boot for a shredded tire sidewall. The worn-out chainrings that are now melodic noise makers in a wind chime. Another example of ‘re-pruposing’ in action: the used toothbrush.
The used toothbrush is an undervalued and untapped resource for anyone who owns a bicycle.
Looking for something to get the gunk out of you cogset? Don’t go out and buy a $30 heavy bristle brush (unless you have cement in between your cogs). A used toothbrush and a little degreaser will have that cogset gunk-free in no time! Note to self: make sure to clean you chain first (see below). A dirty chain running over a clean cogset will give you a dirty cogset and then you’re back at square one with a dirty cogset. Doh!
Having a hard time clipping-in? Take a used toothbrush and some degreaser and clean your cleats. If they are worn or damaged, replace them. If they are covered in muck, filled with dried mud, or harboring pebbles wedged into corners between the cleat and the shoe, a toothbrush, some cleaning fluid, and a little elbow grease is just what you need to get them functional again. You can do this on both road and mountain bike clipless pedal cleats.
Have you ever looked at the little pulley wheels on your rear derailleur? I mean really looked at them? If you ride your bike outdoors more than 12 days a year, then there is chain lube residue, dirt, and grime on those little wheels. If too much gunk builds-up on these wheels, your derailleur will begin to complain by squeaking and jerking. This is bad. A happy derailleur is a functional derailleur. Take that used toothbrush and some degreaser and clean those pulley wheels! Clean pulley wheels keep your rear derailleur running smoothly and promote longer chain life, too! Double bonus!
Of all the surfaces on your bike, the cogset, the chain, and the chainrings experience the most wear. Think about it. Cleaning these surfaces on a regular basis will help them last longer. Chainrings are often overlooked in the cleaning process, so make sure to spray them with degreaser and scrub them with the used toothbrush. Pretend the teeth on the chainrings are like your teeth. Use the toothbrush to clean both the front and back sides of each chainring. Make them sparkle.
Chain wear is the enemy of a quiet and functional drivetrain. You can significantly prolong the life of your chain by cleaning it on a regular basis. A chain coated with grit and grime will, over time, grind down the teeth on your cogset, chainrings, and rear derailleur pulleys. Chainring and cog teeth that lose their shape can result in faulty shifting and, in extreme wear conditions, cause chain slippage. This is very bad. Dirt that is stuck between the links can be transferred to your cogset and become wedged between the cogs, accelerating the wearing-out process. To get rid of this gunk, coat the chain with degreaser, hold the used toothbrush on the underside of the chain, and run the chain over the toothbrush. Repeat this process with the toothbrush positioned on the top side of the chain. Inspect the spaces between the link housings. If there is gunk hiding out between the links, take the toothbrush and push the gunk out of the space. Repeat this process until the chain is completely clean or you get tired, whichever comes first.
How many waterbottles do you have in your kitchen cabinets? Probably lots. Probably more than you could ever use in your lifetime. How many do you actually use? Probably two or three. Maybe four. Have you ever looked closely at the underside of your favorite water bottle cap? Have you ever inspected the opening and stopper through which the contents of the waterbottle is sucked into your mouth? Do you only put water in your waterbottle? No. No. And no? Well, here’s another really useful function of a used toothbrush — removing the energy drink residue and bacterial (yes, bacterial) build-up from your waterbottle cap. Take a used toothbrush, hot water, and a small amount of bleach and thoroughly scrub the entire cap, the opening, the valve, the nipple, and the stopper. Then, soak the cap in hot water for an hour. The result will be a clean and bacteria-free waterbottle cap. Yes! Bacteriophobes rejoice! Note to self: do not clean your waterbottle caps with same the toothbrush that you used to clean your chain, cogset, chainrings, etc.
Well, there you go. These are just a few uses for that re-purposed old toothbrush. Now you can see why a used toothbrush can be your bike’s new best friend.
About The Author
Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team. A 25-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.
Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work. He has even won a bike race or two.
Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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