I like to keep my bike clean. But those wet, gritty rides that we suffer through in the winter really do a number on your bike, don’t they? The grit seems to end up everywhere, but especially on the chain and cassette, on the underside of the downtube, fork, seat stay and brakes. And it gets on your wheels, too. What a mess!
Before I start, I draw a bucket of warm to hot water poured over a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid from the kitchen, which is a nice, non-abrasive cleaner that does a good job on grease and grime. I set aside the bucket for a minute.
I start with the chain. Since I use Chain-L lube (see our Product Review, and Sponsor page for Premium Member discount offer), which only has to be “touched up” now and again during the life of the chain, that’s precisely what I do after a particularly nasty winter ride.
First, using a dry microfiber cloth (which I buy in bulk at Target; they’re available at any auto parts store), I run the chain through the cloth to remove the loose grit. Then I apply a little bit of Chain-L to the cloth and run the chain through it to add a new, light coating to the chain, making sure to wipe as much off as possible. I wipe it down again after my next ride.
Next, I take off the wheels and, using a different (cleaner) microfiber cloth, I use the soapy solution to clean the rims, hubs and spokes. I use a Global Bike Wipes Gear cord (a nylon “tube” cord that’s coated in a light lube) to “floss” the cassette, cleaning it and removing the loose grit at the same time. Then I take that same dry cloth I used on the chain, and I use its edge to floss the cassette again, which takes off any traces of the lube from the cleaning cord, which would attract dirt. (There are lots of “homemade” options for cleaning cords: shoe laces, strips of rags, etc.)
On occasion, I’ll lift the chain off the small ring onto the bottom bracket and clean the chain rings using a cord and cloth. Usually, though, I just use the chain cloth and wipe off the rings, which I find is quite adequate.
(Quick note about how I use cleaning cloths: They all start, new, as frame and wheel cloths. Then when they get too dirty, I switch them over to chain duty. I find that microfiber does a great job cleaning smooth surfaces while having enough “traction” to really grab the gunk off of the chain, too. And because the ones I buy are stitched around the outer edge, they’re great for flossing parts, as well.)
Finally, I use the soapy solution and clean cloth to wash the bike from top to bottom, so that any loose grit falls down, and not on a wet surface. I make sure to frequently dip the cloth in the water and allow the grit to fall to the bottom of the bucket so it doesn’t affect the finish. Before I put the wheels back on, I use the cloth to floss the underside of the fork and brakes, and I wipe off the brake pads. This is a great time to inspect them and pick out any imbedded debris, too.
— John Marsh
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—John Marsh & The RBR Team