ZEFAL ZB MULTI-BRUSH
The Zefal ZB Multi-Brush is a three in-one design, developed in partnership with the French brand’s race mechanics. It’s proved a notch or two better than other transmission ticklers I’ve used. However, while very effective, experience with two samples suggests the bristle material merits improvement.
Pros: very effective.
Cons: improved bristle material would be welcome.
At 21cm long it’s a decent, knuckle sparing length. In common with the ZB wash brush, the handle is made from tactile polypropylene, with a silicone centre strip for additional grip when you’re blitzing winter’s gungy beard-lube, salt and embedded contaminant from cassette, rings and derailleurs.
As for the bristles, these are a relatively coarse nylon. The longest is designed for chains, rings and cassettes, the shorter sibling is for derailleur pivot points, jockey wheels, cages and bearing surfaces-headset races being the obvious candidates.
So, where’s the third? Well, pedants will point out its not strictly a brush and they’d be right. Tucked inside the handle is a cassette claw. Length suggests it should burrow nicely between the spacings and rake out any embedded debris, although it does feel a little whippy compared with others in my tool drawer-even the “giveaway” types. It also took a few practice runs before locating and retracting became counter-intuitive.
Overall performance has been pleasing and Zefal look to have listened to their mechanics. The long handle and bristle patterns have done a decent job of stripping congealed messes from crank spiders, when used in tandem with a decent concentrate stripper, such as their bio-degreaser. Even residual frame preserve that has leached out from the bottom bracket shell. Bristles have also done a decent job of dismissing the lion’s share of wet lube and contaminant from chains.
Not to the gleaming standards offered by a clip-on chain bath and solvent, so not a route I’d take if changing lubes -especially those requiring a surgically clean host. e.g. Juice Lubes Ceramic Chain Juice , Rock 'n’ Roll Gold LV , and its season specific counterparts, to name but a few.
Even performing a “mechanics (20 minute) wash and clean” the handle has aided on the efficiency front, while keeping my hands a healthy distance. Aside from some occasional spatter, on the occasions I haven’t worn gloves, there’s been no issues with oily finger marks on light witches, door handles etc.
The smaller brush has been my default for smaller surface areas-jockey wheels, cages, splined bottom brackets, headset races and cleaning threaded components. Quite useful for tickling pivot points and scuzzy jockey wheels clean, too.
The claw is what you need for that strangely satisfying job of scooping congealed gloop from between jockey wheels and cage, between the cassette. It looks a little impotent for the latter duty and the composite is a bit whippy. Nonetheless, once you’ve gained the knack, the pointed end has been surprisingly useful for lifting grass, straw and other impacted oily stuff.
Talking of which, oner consistently annoying feature of this breed of brush, is their tendency to gum up with gunk. This isn’t always apparent until you’ve found yourself cross contaminating other, cleaner bikes. The ZB is no exception. Aside from briefly rubbing the bristles with a clean rag, between bikes, soak the bristles in a plastic-friendly degreaser for a few minutes. Rinse with hot water and wipe thoroughly in an old, coarse textured towel.
Given the team mechanics association, I’ve been disappointed by how quickly the bristles have splayed and softened - after a few weeks’ moderate use. Solvent degreaser sprays such as Weldtite Jet Blast Degreaser and other intense strippers, including Green Oil Agent Apple Degreaser will certainly accelerate this process.
Nonetheless, it’s still perfectly serviceable and not markedly worse than those found on the more traditional three-way designs. The ZB Clean also has an edge on Green Oil Bicycle Brush , when it comes to speed cleaning chains. However, the latter’s bristles are far less susceptible to cross contamination and deterioration, despite exposure to the same grades of solvents.
£7.99 is a little steeper with the more basic three-way designs, although the ZB Clean is arguably better designed. Park Tool GSC1 Gear Clean Brush Tool £5.99, Muc-Off Claw Brush is £5.99 Fenwicks Bike Cycle Gear Cleaning Brush with Long Handle 25CM uses a single bristle plot. It’s also designed for cassettes, derailleurs and chains and retails at £5.99.
The Zefal ZB Clean is a marked improvement over most of the dedicated drivetrain brushes I’ve used over the years. Chain baths will do a quicker job of stripping duties but with a suitable degreaser, the Zefal’s length means its efficient and generally pleasant to use. However, given the mechanic’s influence I’m underwhelmed by the bristle quality.