Pickle Chain Cleaner and Degreaser
by C. Sativus and Rick K

Why Arlo Guthrie may have to change the lyrics after this amazing discovery.
Reference "The Motorcycle Song" lyrics: "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride on my motorsikle."

A discovery by Cucumis Sativus means the perfect motorcycle chain cleaner has finally arrived. Made from an organic compound, it's also inexpensive, and although it may seem strange, it works. The discovery was made by Cucumis Sativus, a motorcycle rider who is apparently always looking for unusual (and inexpensive) alternatives to expensive off-the-shelf brands.

"I had just returned from an off-road ride and my chain was filthy. I grabbed a can of WD-40 and emptied it on the chain but it was useless. I was looking in the trash for some old newspapers to clean up the mess when I saw the pickle. I don't know what made me think of it, but I needed something to clean off the grunge so I grabbed it, split it in half and wrapped it around the chain. I figured it was just wet enough to wipe off the crud and as I slowly rotated the rear wheel while holding the pickle on the chain, I was amazed at the results. One swipe and the chain was good as new!"

Of course, I thought he was pulling my leg, but after a series of emails to him in a quest to learn more, I realized he was serious. So, after talking to the local crew, we figured "What the heck" and gave it a try. All I can say is that I was as surprised as anyone at the results.

We've tried it with all types of pickles, but only the dill varieties work best. The sweeter "Bread and Butter" types leave a sticky residue on the chain that can attract dirt and grunge.

It takes a fairly good-sized pickle to clean a 530 chain; not a gherkin, but more like a Kosher dill. We found a jar of Claussen's brand in the local supermarket, and we can highly recommend them. These are different from other brands, such as Vlasic, because the Claussen's pickles are not cooked, so they will be in the refrigerated section of the store. We found them on sale, two for $6.00 and there are about a dozen dills in each jar, which should be enough to last for nearly the life of the chain.

So how does it work? Apparently, the acidity of the brine immediately breaks down the hardened grease and sludge on the chain, but it's also mild enough that it doesn't affect the O-rings.

Here's a photo series illustrating the process; I think you'll agree that the results are pretty amazing:

Description: Dirty Motorcycle Chain

An extreme case, with a filthy chain. It's not easy to get a chain this dirty!

Description: Chain Pickle

One swipe around is all it takes to make the chain look like new.

Description: Dirty Chain Pickle

Want proof? Here it is -- the acids in the pickle (dill only) quickly remove any sludge from the chain.

Description: Clean Chain With the Chain Pickle

Compare this result with the first photo. Does it get any better?


I know it seems odd, but if it works, who cares? Like many of the best ideas and inventions, this one was a result of pure serendipity. Try it, you'll like it!

Published Date: April 1, 2011

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