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Old 09-13-09, 07:45 AM   #1
starvingstudent
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Bike Cleaning 101: Teachers Wanted!

I'm constantly at a loss as to how people clean their bikes to look brand-spanking new. My bike doesn't look horrible, but at the same time I would like to know how to completely and thoroughly clean it...and hopefully add years to the bike rather than ruin the drivetrain/components by doing the wrong thing.

Major areas of concern are the cassette, crankrings and area behind the chainrings, brakes, BB area...if there's any other spots that I should be aware of please...school me!


So, how do you clean your bike...and how often?
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Old 09-13-09, 08:39 AM   #2
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My cleaning regimen:
* Lots of Simple Green. Lots of it. Put bike on stand (I use my trusty Park PC10 for this, gets it up off of the lawn), spray liberally starting at top of bike so whatever drips winds up on the nasty stuff below. I spray everything and everywhere, up under the brake calipers and all over both sides of the crank/chainrings and rear cogs.
* Then I use a series of brushes available at the grocery/drug/big box store (e.g. hand brush, toothbrush, larger scrub brush) and go over all of the nasty & hard to reach areas like the brakes and gears.
* I use one of those chain scrubby thingies that you put degreaser into (more Simple Green!) and thoroughly scrub down the chain.
* Only then do I use the garden hose (set at high pressure) to wash it all down. I usually find that another dose of SG on the hard to clean areas is in order but not so much.
* Then a wipe down and re-lube to get rid of the water and make the moving parts happy.

Do this in the sun (or put the bike on the sun afterwards) and what you can't get your rag to & wipe down quickly evaporates. I use old towels or t-shirts, which then migrate to the filthy rag area (great when working on someone else's nasty chain), then are thrown away if they can't be washed.

Anyway, this system works for me and I think my stuff is pretty sparkly. Lawn hasn't died so I guess it's reasonably friendly (although not perfect) from an enviro standpoint.
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Old 09-13-09, 09:05 AM   #3
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Mine will never be show room spotless, I would rather spend my time riding then cleaning. Keep the drive train clean and a quick wipe down and thats it.
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Old 09-13-09, 09:30 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by starvingstudent View Post
My bike doesn't look horrible, but at the same time I would like to know how to completely and thoroughly clean it...and hopefully add years to the bike rather than ruin the drivetrain/components by doing the wrong thing.
Trying to clean the drivetrain/components thoroughly may actually have the inverse result by washing lubricant out and dirt into the wear surfaces. Elements like the cogs and chainrings you can clean just about any way you like - after disassembly. But don't go for more than a superficial cleaning of the chain and derailleurs. Avoid solvents or high-pressure streams of water near the hubs, BB, and headset. And be careful of what you get on the brakes pads.

Often it comes down to lots of elbow grease. They sell special brushes that can help a lot to get into those hard to reach places. And you can contribute your toothbrush.
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Old 09-13-09, 09:47 AM   #5
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http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=85

Plenty of threads on this topic---search first next time.
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Old 09-13-09, 09:52 PM   #6
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Thanks all. Rags and toothbrushes I have. Can't say whether or not I can get Simple Green over here in Japan though. I'm also always wary of putting these solvents near my bike for fear of degreasing the wrong areas. I'm not knowledgeable enough yet in the mechanical department to take apart components (e.g. BB) and give them a good regreasing. I'm learning though...

Dizzy, thanks for the link.

I'm always paranoid that I'll do some damage to the drivetrain/bearings when giving my bike a clean. Seeing other people's approaches to how they clean their bikes are always of interest.
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Old 09-13-09, 10:44 PM   #7
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Simply removing the cogs/chainrings and cleaning with a rag/degreaser is enough. Same goes for the crank. Wipe down the chain - don't bother submersing it in any garbage.
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Old 09-13-09, 10:59 PM   #8
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How I do it.

Text:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...your-bike.html

Pictures:
http://sprinterdellacasa.blogspot.co...lustrated.html

I use Simple Green too. Rinse well. It doesn't like metal in the long run.

cdr
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Old 09-14-09, 04:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by starvingstudent View Post
I'm constantly at a loss as to how people clean their bikes to look brand-spanking new.
They do it by spending a lot of time on cleaning that they could be spending on riding.

FWIW, when I really want that "close to new" look, I find that I have to disassemble much of the bike. I pull the cassette, pull the cranks, remove the derailers, disassemble the rear derailer cage, etc. That's a llot of work. It takes a lot of time.

An air-compressor helps. I don't own one, but I've seen them used to good effect to blast dirt away from derailer springs.

During winter I'll probably make time for a fastidious tear-down and cleaning. Otherwise, I make do with keeping the drivetrain reasonably gunk free. I'd rather ride than clean.
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Old 09-14-09, 05:02 AM   #10
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+1 to JGs comments.

More often than not, I'm on a rather filthy bike with a rather meticulously clean drivetrain
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Old 09-14-09, 05:02 AM   #11
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Good post. But the bike in your "before" photos looked plenty clean enough for me. If my mountain-bike were that clean, I'd call it good and go riding.

Back to reading more of your blog now. Your post on presta valve nuts is interesting.
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Old 09-14-09, 06:55 AM   #12
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On cleaning a bike - I clean for a number of reasons.
1. Pride in the bike.
2. Pride in myself.
3. Less wear on drivetrain when clean.
4. Less grease on walls, cats, and whatever else brushes up against the bike. My bike sits in the main area of the house most of the time, or at the least in the basement training room.

Although it takes a while to clean while taking pictures (wiping a hand dry before touching the camera is a pain), it takes less time to clean a relatively clean bike. I can get my bike clean in 5-10 minutes if it's already clean-ish. If it's dirty, it may take me an hour - the drivetrain may take 3-4 rounds before it's clean.

I have to admit that I didn't take care of my bike in 2009. I washed it maybe 3x, once in CA in Feb, once in the summer (May?), and once just recently, right before I stopped riding (August). In 2008 I was mainly unemployed, so the bike got washed a bit more often, like 2-3x a week sometimes. When I had a shop, I rode my bike almost every night with some of the guys and we washed our bikes pretty much every single time we rode. We also had new tape on the bikes (white Cinelli cork) virtually weekly. Our bikes looked worn but unridden.

My preference is to wash my bike when I get home from a ride. I'm useless for about 30 minutes anyway, I have to shower, and so getting a bit dirty is fine. If I spend 5 minutes or less washing after every other ride, that's all I ever have to do.

The main reason I didn't do this is because I moved to an area that has a really bad mosquito problem, and I'm apparently a tasty morsel. My first investment for 2010 will be a Mosquito Magnet. Then I'll be able to spend more than a panicked 10 seconds (punching in the garage door code) outside. I also need to set up a good way of quickly setting up water etc. Right now it's a pain to walk halfway around the house to turn on the water.

cdr
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Old 09-14-09, 05:25 PM   #13
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Buy Cutter's repellent. It actually works.
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Old 09-14-09, 05:35 PM   #14
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I clean because occasionally I toss the bike inside my car.

I use brushes and microfiber clothes bought from the local Dollar store. They have all kinds. As for cleaning agents, Simple Green for drivetrain and Car shampoo on frame & spokes.

Steps:
  • Rinse with water
  • Spray Simple Green on drivetrain and let it soak
  • While soaking, I lather the frame with car shampoo using microfiber sponge/cloth
  • Use brush to scrub the drivetrain.
  • Shower rinse the entire bike. Continue to scrub if needed.
  • Then dry the bike with another MF cloth.
  • Leave bike overnight in garage.
  • Next day put oil on chain.
  • Ready to ride.
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Old 09-14-09, 05:36 PM   #15
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Buy Cutter's repellent. It actually works.
Used up 2 bottles this year.

Sometimes I got 3-4 bites between the front door and the car, 50 or 60 feet. Usually just 1. If I ran it was none.

The worst was a few weeks ago when it took me 20-30 minutes to walk to the car. Then I had everything and everything sprayed on me, the ground, the bushes. I'd usually get away with the normal 3-4 bites, but my wife had to keep swatting at the bugs around me the whole time.

cdr
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Old 09-14-09, 06:32 PM   #16
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i have a MTB, and it gets tough to clean after a hard ride off road. i still do it though. i have finish line cleaning fluid (the pink stuff) and i use that to clean off the frame and the rest of that. spray and let it sit for a minute or two then i scrub with a brush then wash off with water (its hard i live in an apt, i wash with a spray bottle full of water) and wipe dry. to clean the chain i use a degreasing formula and clean it by hand using a brush (im gonna get one of those chain cleaners to make my life easier) wash with water then dry (i usually let it sit for an hour or two to make sure its completley dry). then i clean the cassette (scrub with brush and degreaser) and chainrings - again i leave to dry. reoil the chain (i use finish line cross country) and use a triflow low viscosity lube to lube up all the pivot points.

i clean the drivetrain thoroughly about every month or every ride after a muddy/dirty ride (sometimes the entire bike is covered in dirt and slop), and i usually do a quick clean (this is without degreasing and relubing the chani) about every week or as needed, if the ride wasnt absolutley clean, i sometimes clean it every 1 or 2 rides.

i dont mind it, it becomes like a ritual. like back in the day of record players, when you had to set up the record with the needle and stuff.

Last edited by DavyC412; 09-14-09 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 09-15-09, 06:56 AM   #17
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Used up 2 bottles this year.

Sometimes I got 3-4 bites between the front door and the car, 50 or 60 feet. Usually just 1. If I ran it was none.

The worst was a few weeks ago when it took me 20-30 minutes to walk to the car. Then I had everything and everything sprayed on me, the ground, the bushes. I'd usually get away with the normal 3-4 bites, but my wife had to keep swatting at the bugs around me the whole time.

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Eat Bananas. Apparently something in the bananas makes people a little less tasty to the bugs. Works for me.
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Old 09-15-09, 08:52 AM   #18
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After you wash, be sure to put a drop of oil on all the pivots of the ders, brakes and a couple of drops of oil into the hole for the shift cables in the brifters.
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Old 09-15-09, 09:06 AM   #19
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My bikes are as clean as or cleaner than my car. I wax my frames as well. Why? Pride in your bike, easier to maintain (especially if stuff gets rusty from salt water as I do triathlons on these things), the ever possible need to carry the bike in the car or it has to stay in the house for some reason, gunk/dirt/etc built up on cables or derailleurs can cause malfunctions.

If you keep up on it its not hard to do often, so you dont end up having to strip the whole bike down every time you wanna do it.
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Old 09-15-09, 09:17 AM   #20
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Hey, be thankful you don't have the Asian Tiger Mosquito up there. We got it here a few years ago. The thing is small and fast, and it apparently dives beak-first into its lunch. You never even see it - just lumps. And it carries West Nile virus.

Fortunately I'm not considered tasty (no I wasn't including you, Virginia) but I still get my share if I don't wear Cutter's.
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Old 09-15-09, 12:08 PM   #21
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Dish soap,hot water,elbow grease.Clean once a week,rub until dirt/stuff is gone.Bike is 32 years old and counting.
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Old 09-16-09, 04:07 AM   #22
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As others have said, that close to new look comes with a lot of labor... at least initially.

I usually find old bikes that have been abused to clean and rebuild. That means taking the bike completely apart, then taking the individual components completely apart. I clean most of the small parts with dish soap and a soft toothbrush. Any rusted steel parts get soaked in distilled vinegar for a few hours. I polish the aluminum parts with a rag and mothers aluminum polish. I wash the bare frame with car soap then I use meguires scratch X followed with auto wax.

After that I just wipe it with a damp rag from time to time and it keeps it looking good.

Here is my latest:
Before:

After:



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Old 09-17-09, 11:07 PM   #23
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Hey again all,

Thanks for the continuing responses. It's great to get so much info as well as approaches to bike cleaning. I can definitely relate when people talk about pride and their bikes. I am proud of my bike and want to keep it clean. Also, with the limited space here in Japan it literally is something which is sitting in my dining room...so cleanliness is an issue!

mkeller...those are some serious before and after pics! That's what I'm hoping to get with my bike. It probably won't happen all the time, but here's for hoping... Thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-18-09, 01:11 AM   #24
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Well, "new" might be a stretch but you can try a few things to clean it up. I would try some auto scratch remover on the paint to see if the scrapes clean up a bit. I would give silver nail polish or silver testors model paint a shot too.

The components can be removed and cleaned if you wanted.

Is it aluminum? I would be tempted to strip the paint and polish it up.... but thats just me.
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