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Oxford Big Softie



The Big Softie will get your bike clean – but the bristles could be better

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Oxford Big Softie brush (or is that Softy?) will get your bike clean – but it's probably not the best long-term.

I clean bikes. A lot of bikes. As a sideline from my day job in what we'll loosely call 'IT' I have a small bike servicing business, which works more as mental therapy/social enterprise than a way to make money. My most popular service offering starts with a deep clean of everything, wheels off. So in addition to a full wash of my own bikes (sometimes after every ride in the winter depending on the volume of crud accumulated) I have a load of other de-mucking to do. For the last decade I've used the excellent Finish Line brush set, and it's against that bristly yardstick that I measure all others.

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As with the Triple Brush Set tested by Shaun in October, the Big Softie is sold for motorbike, car and boat cleaning as well, according to the packaging, so it's not cycle-specific per se.

Basically it's a big soft-bristled brush designed to cover large areas quickly, and not scratch them in the process. In this regard, it does the job very well – the long contoured handle allowing you to manoeuvre the head around the frame and fork with ease.

Oxford Products Big Softie cleaning brush - handle.jpg

After a wash I throw brushes back into my 'wash box' – a crate containing degreaser, smaller stiff brushes of varying shapes for drivetrain and brake work, and a stiff brush for de-crudding rims that never goes near greasy drivetrains to avoid cross-contamination of lubricant. What I've noted is that when plopped in amongst other brushes and items, the bristles of the Big Softie deform and clump together – sort of like a short haircut after a night's sleep. Over time these 'bed hair' bristles end up not contributing to cleaning prowess as they are stuck out at odd angles – something I've never seen in the Finish Line equivalent brush, which has bristles of similar length and stiffness.

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Maybe I'm being picky here – how does one quantify cleaning ability anyway? It shifts dirt, and I don't recall having to go back over any work. My concern would be that over time it becomes less effective, so if you are doing lots of cleaning and are reasonably slack in your post-wash storage regime, you may want to consider other options.


The Big Softie will get your bike clean – but the bristles could be better

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Make and model: Oxford Products Big Softie

Size tested: n/a

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?

Oxford says: "Oversized head for large surface areas. Safe on delicate finishes. Sintered bristle compound."

Rate the product for quality of construction:

The bristles let it down.

Rate the product for performance:

It did get things clean.

Rate the product for durability:

Bristles are already at odd angles.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

The contoured handle is indeed very comfortable.

Rate the product for value:

At £5 it's not expensive, but if you need to buy one a year, it adds up.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Well enough.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The handle.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The bristles.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No

Would you recommend the product to a friend? No, I'd say go for the Finish Line.

Use this box to explain your score

It does the job, the handle's good, but the bristles are questionable, long-term.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 183cm  Weight: 72kg

I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling

Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.

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