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Bike washing with soap and water? Really?

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Old 11-29-17, 07:45 PM
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City Guy
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Bike washing with soap and water? Really?

Greetings,

Fairly new around here and need on info on bike washing. My road bike has picked up a lot of dirt grime and some small amount of mud during the past few weeks.

I have seen several YouTube videos showing washing road bikes with soap and water from a hose. To me this seems to invite future problems from water intrusion into bottom brackets, hubs, shifters, and derailleurs. And I have Di2 components, and would be concerned about any water getting into the seat post/battery compartment, and wiring connections.

So, are current bikes sufficiently sealed against water intrusion to safety wash a bike with soap and water?

Any alternatives to the soap and water method?

Thanks in advance for any comments, suggestions, opinions, or ideas.
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Old 11-29-17, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by City Guy View Post
Greetings,

Fairly new around here and need on info on bike washing. My road bike has picked up a lot of dirt grime and some small amount of mud during the past few weeks.

I have seen several YouTube videos showing washing road bikes with soap and water from a hose. To me this seems to invite future problems from water intrusion into bottom brackets, hubs, shifters, and derailleurs. And I have Di2 components, and would be concerned about any water getting into the seat post/battery compartment, and wiring connections.

So, are current bikes sufficiently sealed against water intrusion to safety wash a bike with soap and water?

Any alternatives to the soap and water method?


Thanks in advance for any comments, suggestions, opinions, or ideas.

1- No. Liquids with enough pressure/time will get past seals. And if you add rotational movement shorten the time. Add pressure and you're already too late. So a flowing over the surface rinse with the better sealed components and you're likely ok.


2- There's a lot of cleaning options. Rag and wipe to start with.


Do understand that if you ask these types of questions you have yet to learn the true cost of riding as you do where you are. Andy
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Old 11-29-17, 09:26 PM
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As long as you don’t use high pressure you will be fine. Think about riding in the rain or your bike on a car rack in the rain. They survive doing that so a simple wash will not hurt them.
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Old 11-29-17, 10:09 PM
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Don’t aim the nozzle at the hubs or BB. and you’ll be fine.
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Old 11-29-17, 10:17 PM
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I use a common plastic pistol shaped garden faucet set to do a fan of little more than mist with a light squeeze and a strong jet with a full squeeze. After many (especially wet) rides I spray down the whole bike with the light spray including drivetrain and blast out each brake pad from both directions with the full spray. Seems tp work quite well.

Ben
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Old 11-29-17, 11:08 PM
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What's strange to me is ; when we were kids we just took the same items that we used to wash the car to wash our bikes. Bucket, rag, dish soap, garden hose. And our bikes, without seals and waterproof grease lasted forever and a day.
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Old 11-29-17, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
What's strange to me is ; when we were kids we just took the same items that we used to wash the car to wash our bikes. Bucket, rag, dish soap, garden hose. And our bikes, without seals and waterproof grease lasted forever and a day.
I dont wash my bike too often but when I do I still do that. I also ride in the rain, snow, through mud, treated winter roads, shallow water crossings etc.. I saw a test on a bike with a pressure washer and only in the extreme did water get into the bearings and even then, a little water was not considered a problem. GCN video I think? Maybe I am killing my bike and parts and I know the angles and theories but that doesn't seem to reflect actual reality.

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Old 11-30-17, 12:32 AM
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Better Way

Go to griotsgarage.com and order some Speed Shine, works great on bikes. No water required. Tim
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Old 11-30-17, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by u235 View Post
I dont wash my bike too often but when I do I still do that. I also ride in the rain, snow, through mud, treated winter roads, shallow water crossings etc.. I saw a test on a bike with a pressure washer and only in the extreme did water get into the bearings and even then, a little water was not considered a problem. GCN video I think? Maybe I am killing my bike and parts and I know the angles and theories but that doesn't seem to reflect actual reality.
I'm with you.

The only time water has appeared to cause accelerated wear is when I rode for a season of rain without fenders. The road spray was essentially a high-grit slurry sprayed directly onto the BB shell/lower headset for around 30 hours of riding. Completely displaced the lubrication inside the BB/HS and destroyed the bearings and their cages. I use fenders now and the same issue has not reappeared.

Otherwise I routinely wash my bikes by spraying with a garden hose and I've noticed no issues with shorter sealed bearing life nor when servicing cup/cone bearings. I've been doing this for 4 years now and everything seems to be fine. When I first started gravel racing I'd race, wash all the mud/sand off my bike and then a few days later I'd open the hubs to check and they always looked fine.

I do think soap is unnecessary and probably contributes to the capillary action of the water/soap mix so might cause more problems. Don't use soap.
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Old 11-30-17, 06:30 AM
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Greetings all,

Thanks for the replies. Much appreciated. I will give the bike a quick wash and use the water rinse sparingly.

Take care all
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Old 11-30-17, 07:56 AM
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The traditional method:

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Old 11-30-17, 12:32 PM
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I have an old video about Motorola's first year (1991) and the mechanics are cleaning bikes with a big sponge and a bucket of sudsy water, even scrubbing the chainrings with the chain on.
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Old 11-30-17, 07:13 PM
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If you didn't use soap and water, what would you use?
I use the same stuff I wash my car with, same wax when I'm done.
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Old 11-30-17, 10:47 PM
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The stream-crossing wash:






Pre-wash:
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Old 12-01-17, 07:13 AM
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For my road bike:
I rarely use detergent, mostly just water from a spray bottle. And a stack of paper towels ripped into thirds, tossing the grimy ones after one pass, to avoid scratches.

If I ride on salted roads in the winter, the frame, wheels and drivetrain gets rinsed off with a large watering can with a spray head, then partially wiped off, and brought inside to dry completely.

I avoid water at the seatpost clamp area, to limit any inside the seat tube.
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Old 12-01-17, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
1- No. Liquids with enough pressure/time will get past seals. And if you add rotational movement shorten the time. Add pressure and you're already too late. So a flowing over the surface rinse with the better sealed components and you're likely ok.
There are too many variables to make this kind of blanket statement. It depend on the press of the water and the robustness of the seals as to how much infiltration you would get. A garden hose...even a sprayer nozzle...doesn't have enough pressure behind it to penetrate into a hub with even rudimentary seals. You might get some penetration into a rudimentary seal if you put the nozzle right against the hub but just about any distance from the hub quickly reduces the pressure on the seal.

Car washes generate enough pressure to penetrate seals but, again, only if they are close enough to the hub. Don't use the high pressure trigger near the bearings and stand back a ways and you can safely use them without issue.

Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
2- There's a lot of cleaning options. Rag and wipe to start with.
Yes, this is probably what is mostly needed. On the other hand, don't use products...lubricants mostly...that make a mess. That goes a long way towards not having to do a lot of cleaning in the first place.

Personally, my bikes don't get cleaned all that often. I don't use greasy lubricants and I'm not too worried about surface dirt. I do rinse my bikes at car washes after (some) winter rides because our society has determined that an ocean full of salt should be used on every inch of roadway.
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Old 12-01-17, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
when we were kids we just took the same items that we used to wash the car to wash our bikes. Bucket, rag, dish soap, garden hose.
Woo Hoo! You just made me feel like a kid again. I don't use a high pressure spray (anymore) but gee whiz- it's a product that's intended for outdoor use. If it won't handle that much moisture how could you ever even think about riding in the rain?
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Old 12-01-17, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric S. View Post
I have an old video about Motorola's first year (1991) and the mechanics are cleaning bikes with a big sponge and a bucket of sudsy water, even scrubbing the chainrings with the chain on.
They're still doing it that way. It's quick and works well.
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Old 12-01-17, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by City Guy View Post
Greetings,

Fairly new around here and need on info on bike washing. My road bike has picked up a lot of dirt grime and some small amount of mud during the past few weeks.

I have seen several YouTube videos showing washing road bikes with soap and water from a hose. To me this seems to invite future problems from water intrusion into bottom brackets, hubs, shifters, and derailleurs. And I have Di2 components, and would be concerned about any water getting into the seat post/battery compartment, and wiring connections.

So, are current bikes sufficiently sealed against water intrusion to safety wash a bike with soap and water?

Any alternatives to the soap and water method?

Thanks in advance for any comments, suggestions, opinions, or ideas.
I think you are exactly right. So far, I have been able to clean everything with a damp washcloth and a little bit of soap (Dawn dishwashing liquid cuts grease well) and warm water. I have Di2 and a steel frame, so I see nothing wrong with being careful.
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Old 12-01-17, 11:21 AM
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Testing with a pressure washer

If your seals are bad enough or by design that water is rushing in and completely washing out the grease from your bearings then the seals are bad enough (or in unsealed) that dirt is already in there and causing a much larger daily on going problem, not the act of washing. A little water has no measurable impact on a bicycle bearing. It will dry out and the grease in there is protecting before during and after the water was in there. Dirt and sand do not evaporate. Anyone can argue the concept of a pinpoint high pressure spray aimed directly at a bearing and what it does but that is not the same as a casual washing with hose and a bucket of soapy water.

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Old 12-01-17, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by u235 View Post
Testing with a pressure washer
https://youtu.be/LzbpHGyFzc8

Anyone can argue the concept of a pinpoint high pressure spray aimed directly at a bearing and what it does but that is not the same as a casual washing with hose and a bucket of soapy water.
No kidding! If you have to drag your power washer out because a little elbow grease and your garden hose aren't getting the job done, then something is wrong.
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Old 12-01-17, 04:32 PM
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if its your baby and needs a cleaning just hang it where it can drip wash it from top to bottom with a bucket soap and rag use some cheep tooth brushes to get into the hard to reach areas , and a toilet brush to get the drive train ,.


if its your beater bike stop by the local fire station with a can of gas douse the bike in gas or petrol if you are europeanish , and let the firefighters , or anti petro ignition battalion if you are EU , put out the blaze and in the process your bike will be squeaky clean ..
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Old 12-01-17, 05:28 PM
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@u235 you beat me to posting that gcn video!
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Old 12-01-17, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by u235 View Post
Testing with a pressure washer
https://youtu.be/LzbpHGyFzc8

If your seals are bad enough or by design that water is rushing in and completely washing out the grease from your bearings then the seals are bad enough (or in unsealed) that dirt is already in there and causing a much larger daily on going problem, not the act of washing. A little water has no measurable impact on a bicycle bearing. It will dry out and the grease in there is protecting before during and after the water was in there. Dirt and sand do not evaporate. Anyone can argue the concept of a pinpoint high pressure spray aimed directly at a bearing and what it does but that is not the same as a casual washing with hose and a bucket of soapy water.

I beg to differ. I take apart bikes and find small puddlings of water, large drops running out when the frame is opened up, water in freehubs and freewheels will freeze and make a coaster into a fixed bike. Ever taken a BB apart and found a slurry of sort of mixed water and grease, it's an odd feeling on the fingers with both liquids and how they sort of combine. Having water in your bike is a generally bad thing whether from riding in the rain, leaving your bike out, washing it too aggressively and driving with it on your car rack in the rain.


I find this forum's faith in "seals" to be sometimes a bit blind. Blind in that so little attention is paid to what is a seal and how effective it is (when new and not worn). Blind as to when water gets past a seal it will take VASTLY longer to dry out and have the insides of the unit no longer moist. Maybe the second most common reason I need to replace cartridge bearings is because they have been washed out with riding rain, are rusty and of course very grindy. Now having some sort of seal is better then none at all. But seals are not all equal and not always what you had paid for.


Back to cleaning. I suggest to my customers that pump spraying or flowing water is fine. I tell them to not spin the wheels when the hubs are still wet any more then they have to. I strongly suggest that all riders learn how to clean their bike. Maybe more important then having a smooth working and quiet ride you'll have a FAR better chance to notice some wear/issue before it stops you from riding. Andy
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Old 12-01-17, 07:09 PM
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Should also say that having a drain hole in the bottom of the BB shell seems to be a thing of the past. Can't think of anything more useful to keep water from pooling inside a frame than having a drain hole. If yours doesn't have one drill one yourself or seek out an expert to do it for you.
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