I am penning this tome on bike cleaning after having a mixed week of pristine and not so pristine bikes to deal with. So, in the interest of self-fulfilment I thought a piece on the merits of keeping your bike clean may keep myself and my workshop less gritty!
To those that keep their bikes pristine – thanks and for those that don’t – thanks as well, if your bike ends up with me, at least it may not be showroom condition, but it is being maintained and prolonging it’s life.
This is not a sermon on thou shalt clean your bike at every possible opportunity but about being practical and dealing with keeping your bike on the road, in amongst our busy modern lives.
It doesn’t take long for an untreated chain to become rusty, if it’s been a wet ride it can literally be a couple of hours and the first tinges of rust start to appear, so time is of the essence. The pictures show a chain and cassette after a few days – the chain when removed was solid and didn’t bend at all!
We all have responsibilities, be it family life, work, homework and numerous other activities before, after and even during our working/school time, and the last thing on your mind when you get back from the commute or leisure ride is… ‘oh I must clean my bike’. A thousand and one other things take priority, so there a few things you can do to ensure that the bike doesn’t fall into a state of disrepair:
- If the bike is wet, a quick dry down with an old towel will ensure that there is no excess water left on the bike
- Use an old rag to dry the chain off
- Use a moisture repellent spray (GT85/ WD40 etc.) on the chain/ cassette/ chain-set
- Apply a lubricant, ideally with Teflon, to the chain/ cassette/ chain-set – don’t flood these but a liberal coating is more than adequate
Those few tips will keep the bike in working order until such time as time is found to give it the clean it deserves.
In the meantime, here’s a few useful bike cleaning DOs and DON’Ts…
- Firstly PLEASE DO NOT use a pressure washer on a bike, they will get it very clean but I guarantee that all the grease will be flushed from the bearings and unless these are stripped and re-greased they will rust and seize very quickly.
- Ideally use a specialist cleaner which, when applied, will lift road grime (I am testing a new product at the moment and my findings will be the subject of a future piece). This is not a necessity but it does help with the removal of the road grime before the bike is actually cleaned.
- Again, ideally, the bike should be washed down with warm water with a little detergent added. The use of a cassette cleaning brush (an old nylon pan scrubber works just as well) will ensure that any grit is removed from this and the chain. Likewise there are many specific frame-cleaning brushes to help get to those hard to reach areas! (I have seen bikes with the entire area below the front mechanism full of mud and small stone’s to the extent that the front gears didn’t work). Ensure the brake pads are cleaned and the wheel rim as well, as any grit will quickly wear the brake track.
- A chain bath is a relatively inexpensive method of getting all the grit out of the chain links and keeping it in excellent condition.
- After all the above give the bike a rinse and dry down.
- Apply a liberal coating of a good quality lubricant (ideally with a Teflon or similar additive) to the chain and cassette, but not too much. Applying too much lubricant to the chain and cassette will attract grit, especially if it’s wet and will wear these quickly. Again I have some new lubricants that claim that they repel grit – which do actually seem to be holding true, so I feel a further piece with the cleaner may be in order.
- Lastly if you’re feeling like treating the bike, a spray of the frame with a silicone spray and a buff with a cloth will have it looking tip-top.
Don’t worry if it all seems too much, nobody is going to stop you riding your bike if it’s dirty, but it may make you feel better and if you do remove all of the dirt and grime – it may go faster!