Zefal's ZB Clean Brush is a three-in-one model supposedly designed in partnership with its race mechanics to tackle grimy transmissions in record time and with minimal effort. In many respects, performance has been pretty good by genre standards, although a more durable bristle plot is needed before I'd part with my hard-earned.
At 21cm long, the tactile polypropylene handle with silicone centre-strip is reminiscent of kitchen sink staples, and aside from providing excellent leverage, keeps hands at a safe distance during spirited sprucing.
The bristles are made from relatively stiff nylon. The longest plot is designed for rings, cassettes and chains whereas its counterpart tackles pivot points and bearing surfaces. A slightly willowy cassette claw for combing out embedded crud beforehand tucks neatly away inside the handle.
Things started off very favourably. Having combed three weeks' worth of matted lube and ingrained gunk from my Univega's cassette, I basted the rings, cassette and chain in neat degreaser and left it 30 seconds before unleashing the longest plot and tickling the rings clean.
Decent degreasers certainly help but two minutes of moderate effort restored their original lustre – a recurrent theme throughout the fleet. My hands were also hygienic enough to avoid leaving oily calling cards on handles and light switches when nipping in for a brew.
It's similarly proficient at teasing accumulated grot from jockey wheels and derailleur cages. That said, unless we're talking quick post-race once-overs, chains are more effectively stripped when passed through clip-on baths (or two old nail brushes).
The smallest brush weaves neatly around the pivot points and also impressed when tackling pedal and derailleur threads, headset cups and so on.
My biggest gripe with plastic bike-specific brushes is the speed at which the bristles become gummed up, leading to cross-contamination, especially as lubes get ever more tenacious. The ZB's responded very positively to being given a 10-minute soak in Fenwick's FS1, flushed through with clean, hot water and rubbed in an old towel/rag. However, despite being a marked improvement over those found in most kits, several weeks of fairly constant use and repeated exposure to lubes and solvents of varying compositions/harshness have taken their toll, resulting in the longer bristle plot splaying and turning soft.
This is disappointing given the pro credentials. By contrast, and while a more generic design, the Green Oil Bike Brush is still going strong several years on with very little moulting or cross-contamination.
Promising design let down by so-so bristle quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Zefal ZB Clean Brush
Size tested: Ergonomic 3 in 1 brush
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Zefal says: "Developed by professional bike mechanics, the ZB Clean brush is the essential 3 in 1 tool for cleaning the chain, freewheel and derailleur. 2 large and small brushes and 1 scraper, cleverly stored in the handle, allow an efficient cleaning of the hard-to-reach areas on your bike."
Good design and genuinely more effective than typical transmission brushes. However, let down by so-so bristle-plot quality/longevity.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: Handle: polypropylene with soft overmold / Brush: nylon
Weight: 90 g
Length: 210 mm / 8,3
Handle nicely designed and made from decent quality materials, bristle plot low rent by comparison.
Promising to begin with but regular exposure to solvents and lubes took their toll on the nylon bristle plot.
Lightweight, though fairly rigid.
Handle nicely designed for efficient and prolonged scrubbing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Zefal ZB Clean Brush has a neat, comfortable design, which makes relatively short work of transmission cleaning. But it's let down by nylon bristles that seem easily weakened by a combination of petrochemical grime and solvents.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Nicely designed, decent length and handle quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Long bristle plot seemed particularly short-lived on our test sample.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, though Zefal would need to upgrade the bristle-plot first.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Quite possibly - if the bristle plot were made from a more durable nylon.
Use this box to explain your score
Better designed brush ergonomically than most bike-specific types I've used - you can see the pro mechanic's input. But it's let down by a lower quality nylon bristle plot.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)