Bike Floss: The Next Step in (Disposable) Sustainable Bike Maintenance?

purple harrys bike cleaning photo

Image credit: Purple Harry

From recycling bikes for inner city youth to a truly massive hoard of reclaimed bikes somewhere in England, one of the most endearing things about bicycle-based transportation is the relative ease and economy with which individuals can maintain, and even rebuild, their trusty stead. But sadly, bike maintenance may be a dying art. All too often, bikes are purchased as a consumer item and discarded when they are worn out. One start-up is setting out to change all that with a set of innovative bike maintenance supplies.And they plan on reviving domestic industries in the process. The only trouble is, their first product appears to be disposable...Started by keen cyclists Dean Perry and Richard Hargreaves, Purple Harry was created as an antidote to the increasingly throw-away mentality of new cyclists. In an interview with the Guardian, Purple Harry founders explain how watching Perry's daughter working on a school science project with pipe cleaner let lose a flash of inspiration:

"Their first easy-maintenance product evolved when Perry was watching his daughter work on a school science project using pipe cleaners and suddenly realised that they would make a brilliant device for cleaning bike parts. They teamed up with a Yorkshire pipe-cleaner manufacturer ("He was looking to diversify - after all, who do you know smokes a pipe nowadays?" says Hargreaves) to create "bike floss", designed to tackle the grit and debris that forms around the freewheel, chain and derailleur."

Of course the cynic would note that this "bike floss" will likely be used once and then thrown away—and often for jobs where an old toothbrush would have done the job anyway. But anything that makes bike maintenance accessible and easy for the masses is likely to be a boon for sustainability, given the relative embodied energy in a bike, compared to a pipe cleaner.

Other products in the works include a "bike wash and polish mitt", as well as aerosol-free bike lubes and degreasers. According to the Purple Harry website, the avoidance of aerosols isn't just an ethical concern: "Most people don't realize that a 500ml can of aerosol only contains approximately 200ml of product.... the rest is propellant!!"

Read more on bike maintenance and repair
Recycle-a-bicycle's inner city bike repair programs
Bike co-ops thrive in LA
Charity promotes biking through practical advice

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