When I first heard of Gear Floss, I scoffed. It seemed like a pointless high tech solution to a problem that had already been solved. Rags do a great job cleaning between cogs and getting into small openings. And adults generally have a ready supply of rags thanks to old clothes wearing out–the seemingly green and cheap solution.
I was riding with a friend, a Finish Line employee, and just to get him going, I asked how the floss is any better than strips of old underwear. The tsk’s were audible and were followed by a sigh.
I was told I should try them.
Now I have.
Finish Line’s pitch is that the Floss is much better than rags because the laces are woven with microfiber thread. The threads allegedly have star-shaped grooves; I don’t have a microscope powerful enough to confirm. These laces are supposed to work better than rags because the grooves grab and trap small specs of dirt.
The ropes are twenty inches long and have aglets on both ends so that you both have something to grip and the ends won’t fray.
While you can just take one and try to floss the cogs, or any bike part, the better part of wisdom is to first soak the rope in degreaser, then work the rope between cogs, chainrings, between the cranks and bottom bracket, through the drive-side of the bottom bracket cluster and so on. The degreaser on the rope both works on the components and prevents the gunk from really settling into the floss. When you’re done flossing, you can spray on some more degreaser, rinse with water, air dry, and reuse until the rope falls apart. Or just save in a small bag or storage container and refresh with degreaser before each use.
When degreaser is applied before use, the floss works very well. It’s not as aggressive as a gear brush, but it also doesn’t spray the gunk around the way a gear brush does. When it comes to 11-speed cassettes, the floss, even after stretched, is a tight fit, so tight the unstretched floss appears too thick to fit. Once stretched, the floss fits, though it seems that the teeth are abrading the floss and that with enough flossing, the rope will disintegrate.
That written, I haven’t worn out a rope yet.
When it comes to cassettes, the floss works better than rags, but not as good as breaking down the cassette and cleaning the cogs separately. It works more easily between chainrings and between the crank and bottom bracket, as you don’t have to pull it so tight to get it in, nor are there as many sharp edges to catch. Finish Line suggests the floss can be used on jockey wheels, but with a chain still on the pulleys, the fit was too tight for me to get a rope in there. They also suggest brake arms, where, so long as you start by pulling the floss tight, the floss fits in between the arms fine.
It’s possible that a rope will only work for a single cleaning. Either my components haven’t been that dirty, my preference for dry lubes does make a difference, or I’m not rough enough with the floss. In the two months I’ve had the package of 20 ropes, I’ve only used two, and they’re still in good enough shape to be used several more times before they’ve been torn apart or are too grimy to be re-used. The grimy floss sits in a Ziploc bag waiting to be reused, and I’ve reused each several times. I’d be surprised if a package lasts me a year, as I have yet to confront winter riding, but even if it lasts six months or less, they still seem worth it. If I went through a box in a month, I might not feel that way. Guess I’ll save the worn out clothes for lubes and polishing.