mrs washingmachinepost's favoured movie is the wizard of oz, a film that begins in black and white before magically changing to colour when dorothy finds herself no longer in kansas. however, while she still inhabits not only kansas, but monochromicity, having run away from home with toto to prevent miss gulch and the sheriff from seizing her dog, she bumps into professor marvel, one of the old-time medicine men and fortune tellers who travelled the midwest earning a crust by selling elixirs of dubious provenance.
such medicine men were not unheard of in the wild-west, but surprisingly some of them lasted well into the 20th century. one, considered to be the last of these attractions, was run by a fellow by the name of tommy scott who, as a teenager, joined the doc chambers' medicine show in 1930. this was begun in the late 19th century by singer, guitarist, ventriloquist and performer m.f. chambers. during these shows, chambers' herb-o-lac herbal laxative was purveyed, a fact that makes me sure there's a joke in there somewhere, i just can't think of it for the moment.
when chambers retired, tommy took over along with his wife, sidekick gaines blevins and subsequently his daughter sandra. since the market for laxatives, herbal or otherwise, was presumably on the decline, the shows eventually became the framework for the promotion of a mentholated skin liniment known as snake oil. doc scott's last real old time medicine show finally closed its doors in the early 1990s after putting on as many as three hundred shows per year.
there's little evidence as to the efficacy of many of the substances sold as part of these medicine shows, an inordinate number of which contained a high percentage of alcohol. this was presumably to dull the senses as to the serious failings of the contents of the cork stoppered bottles. in short, these elixirs were sold on promises that rarely, if ever, materialised. despite the demise of the archetypal medicine show, there are still several products released each year upon an unsuspecting public that promise similar untold benefits, yet years later, these are either proved or admitted to have been less shiny than promised.
anyone remember biopace?
therefore, when an envelope arrives containing a circle of solid purple something or other, the label of which proclaims it to be a super sponge, one is almost honour bound to be circumspect in one's subsequent dealings with the product. like many, i have owned several sponges over the years, ranging from the bog standard product through to semi-organic examples crafted from some little-known caribbean fibrous material. in use, they more often than not, acquit themselves perfectly well, cleaning the parts that other sponges fail to reach, but only up to a point.
it cannot have escaped your attention that, on one side of your bicycle there are at least two spiky rings, behind which all manner of crappiness resides. short of removing the chainset each time you wish to clean the bicycle - a rather impractical undertaking - the spiky bits become the bete noir of each sponge, more often than not ripping the poor unfortunates to shreds or rendering them useless with an oily grime infestation. purple harry's super sponge claims to be different.
to use the super sponge, it needs to be soaked in water to soften it up a bit, after which it offers an impressively dense rubber consistency. having sprayed the colnago with purple harry bikewash five minutes previously, i did as bid on the instructions and expended many a calorie of elbow grease all across its carbon frame, including those spiky chainrings and the tricky-to-get-at bits in behind. true to its portended reputation, the chainring teeth seemed impressively not to have caused the super sponge any untold grief, though i cannot deny that its purple hue had been somewhat desecrated.
now, according to the purple harry medicine show, a good rinsing in soapy water would return the sponge to its original condition, something i was convinced couldn't possibly be the case, for in my considerable experience with oily bike bits, life simply isn't like that. yet, i have to admit their contentions to be correct. after having cleaned my mucky c40, washed the sponge and left it out to dry while i was out getting the colnago dirty once more, i returned to a super sponge that looked pretty much the same as it did when it arrived in the mail.
i'd be somewhat surprised if the sponge remained in pristine condition forever, but i confess it's looking pretty good after several scrubbings, including deliberate attempts to give it chainring problems.
maybe the last medicine show really is purple.
the purple harry super sponge is manufactured in the uk and retails for a measly £5.99. if you didn't like cleaning the bike before, this might prove the ideal turning point.
sunday 29 june 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................