Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
There was a lot of interest in last week’s Tech Talk titled How to Keep Your Bike Clean. Notice that the title wasn’t “How to Clean Your Bike,” however it did include a video showing how to do that.
That’s because it’s easier to clean a bike regularly than to clean it rarely. And the point of the article was to never let your pride and joy go so long without a wash that it becomes a grimy mess.
Your Tips and Favorite Products
Here are some of the best tips from comments to the article and video with my thoughts when I have something to add. Feel free to post a comment to add your best tips and products.
“Michael’s” two excellent tips
1) Use an old paint brush (like a 2.5 or 3 inch trim brush) for soaping and scrubbing. This works especially well for bikes that have external cable routing. It gets between the cables and the frame really well, and doesn’t snag on zip ties or cable clips. It works well on derailleurs and clipless pedals.
2) I like to use a shower nozzle on the water hose so I don’t have to keep running back over to the wall to turn off the water. This keeps the pressure low enough that it doesn’t blast the grease out of things, and rinses the soap and dirt off efficiently.
John C Tonetti recommends
Rather than just drizzling water from a hose, I use a 1-gallon garden sprayer to rinse. The spray is light enough that water doesn’t get forced into the bearings, and I think I actually use a lot less water to clean my bike.
I also find Silca’s “Gear Wipes” quite handy in keeping the bike clean between more thorough baths.
Here’s a photo and a link to the Silca Gear Wipes: https://amzn.to/3OLtnpg. These can be purchased in the container shown or as individually packaged wipes that would easily fit in a seat bag or pocket.
I have used ordinary household wipes we use around home for quickly cleaning my bikes and gear too.
Michael Stoecker’s tip is
I use a thick (cotton?) yarn to “floss” my rear cassette when I want to get at grime deep between cogs.
There’s a product by Finish Line called Gear Floss you can buy for this. It’s made of microfiber material to hold on and remove the grit and grime and you can even wash and reuse the strands: https://amzn.to/3ql1LxY.
“Katharine’s” excellent advice & tips
I use the Finish Line Easy Pro 5-piece brush set (https://amzn.to/45h68Jo) that I’ve seen frequently for under $20 with free shipping on eBay. Then to really get into nooks and crannies I use the Tube/Pipe Nylon 9 piece brush set from Harbor Freight (brushes of varying sizes, usually near paint supplies – Item 90631, current cost is $5.49). I LOVE the cone brush in the Harbor Freight set. I love this set so much that I give a set to everyone whose bike I’ve restored/wrenched so they keep it clean in hard to reach places between tune ups. I use Dawn dish detergent as my primary cleaning solution.
I do a fair number of full restorations so I disassemble the vast majority of the bike for cleaning to get it “like new” to the extent possible. I wash each piece outside with the “soaker” or “gentle misting” setting on the nozzle. I never use the “jet” or other powerful setting. For my own steeds I’m admittedly OCD+++ when it comes to a clean drivetrain so I frequently remove the wheels and use Finish Line Gear Floss for really getting it clean.
In fact, I was cleaning my full carbon steed earlier today and had to take the wheels off so I could really get in there. If I’m going to take the time to clean I want every possible nook and cranny addressed and can feel the difference in the ride. I realize that’s not necessarily how everybody thinks and it’s a personal preference. I’m retired and have plenty of time to devote to detail. Others may not have the luxury of time and keep their steeds in the best shape possible with the time they have.
I sound like an ad for Finish Line, but in addition to their brush set and Gear Gloss, I also like their degreaser and adore their Showroom polish. It just makes the bike glisten in the sun, especially if it’s a unique color.
Kerry Irons on cleaning and corrosion
I was always a “dry wipe” bike cleaner, but many years ago there were a bunch of articles about how pro mechanics cleaned their bikes with soap and water. So I switched. But I’m a rider who keeps bikes for lots of miles and I noticed that any steel parts were showing rust much sooner than had been the case with dry wiping.
So I switched back to using water only to get off specific sticky stuff (typically bugs or road tar). I don’t ride in the rain unless I get caught out, so I really don’t see rust any more. I clean the bike every 350 miles or so, which is about when the chain needs a clean and wipe anyway. I go through lots of rags but the bike is clean, works well, and doesn’t rust.
That’s interesting Kerry. Professional race mechanics, when bicycles still had lots of steel parts, used to add diesel fuel to their cleaning mix to ensure that when they got done, everything still had some lube on it. So I think you’re onto something about the rusting and how to prevent it.
One last somewhat weird tip
Several times now I’ve heard of people who use showers or bathtubs to wash their bikes. Not the same one they use for personal hygiene but a separate one used just for this purpose. I can see how this would be an efficient setup especially if it’s plumbed for hot water and there’s a way to support or hang the bike. You could probably even contain and capture the runoff and dispose of it ecologically rather than letting it evaporate or go into the ground.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. A pro mechanic & cycling writer for more than 40 years, he’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Tune in to Jim’s popular YouTube channel for wheel building & bike repair how-to’s. Jim’s also known for his cycling streak that ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.