Former Art’s Cyclery employee and current World Cup DH racer Brad Benedict said it best, “A clean bike is a happy bike…” If your bike is happy, then you will be happy also. Keeping your bike clean has several benefits; your parts last longer, your bike runs better, you’re more motivated to ride if you have a clean, mean machine leaning against the wall, and you’re more likely to notice and replace worn out parts before they cause problems. Keeping your bike clean is easy and lets your bike know you love it and appreciate all it does for you. Cleaning your bike is easy and fun, and although all you need is water, soap and a couple of towels, you’ll get better results with a few key items and techniques.
To make cleaning your bike as easy and effective as possible, put your bike in some kind of holder, like an Ultimate repair stand, or this Park PRS-20 repair stand, which is what you’ll find most pro team mechanic’s using. Once your bike is in a repair stand, it’s time to clean the drive train. The easiest and fastest way to do this is by using a chain cleaning machine, like the Park CG-2 Cyclone Chain Cleaner or the Pedro’s Chain Machine. Simply remove the top of the chain cleaner, fill it with bio-degradable solvent (Park and Pedro’s both make excellent solvent’s), and close the chain machine (after shifting your bike to the small cog/big chainring) so that the chain runs through it. Turn your cranks backward for a couple of minutes and you’re left with a sparkling chain that will run smoother, quieter, shift better, and last longer. Be sure to properly dispose of the used solvent. After cleaning the chain, remove the bikes wheels and scrub down the cassette and crankset with a stiff-bristled brush. Using a spray-on metal cleaner like White Lightening Clean Streak or Simple Green Foaming Degreaser will make this immensely easier, but be careful about where the over-spray goes.
Since the wheels are off the bike, you might as well clean those now. Spray them down with water and a gentle soap (dish-washing detergent is good) or a specific cleaner, like one of these. Scrub the tires, hubs and rims with a brush, and spray down with a very gentle stream of water—if your hose has a “mist” setting use that. Go back and clean the rims braking surface, (if you are using rim-brakes) or the disc rotor with rubbing alcohol or a cleaner that doesn’t leave a residue when it dries. It’s also not a bad idea to gently sand those surfaces down a few times per year. Leave the wheels off as it makes cleaning hard-to-reach areas on your bike easier.
Now move on to the frame. If your bike is exceptionally dirty, you might want to gently spray it down with water first (use the “mist” setting), and never aim the water directly at any bearings. So, start with a spray under the seat, and spray down the entire bike with the same cleaner you used on the wheels. Use a soft brush or large sponge to scrub the dirt off the frame and all the components. Make sure you get around the bottom bracket junction, behind brake calipers, and all suspension pivots. Once you’re satisfied you’ve scrubbed everything, gently rinse the bike down and dry it with a soft towel. If you really want to show your bike some love, spray it down with some Pedro’s Bike Lust.
For all you stylists with white bar tape out there, use Windex and a clean rag to keep it looking new.
Now it’s time for a little maintenance. It’s likely that soap or cleaner touch your brake pads, and since they probably need to be cleaned anyway, now is as good a time as any. If you’re cleaning a road bike or a mountain bike with rim brakes, this is easy; simply sand down the surface of each pad that contacts the rim until the “glaze” is gone and the surface looks new and sticky again. Usually just several seconds of sanding does the trick. Disc brakes are a little trickier, in that you must remove the brake pads to sand their surface down. Make sure you keep track of the pads orientation when you remove them, and watch for small parts that may fall out as well. I will put a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface and then rub the pad’s braking surface back and forth a few times until it looks clean. Replace the pads and you’re almost done.
Check your bike for damage, looking for cracks in the welds or carbon fiber, and contact your bike shop if you discover anything. Do Not ride a bike that has a cracked frame!
That’s it. Put the wheels back on and go out and get that thing dirty!