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Newbie Tip #15: How to Wash a Bike like a Pro Mechanic(17 posts)

Newbie Tip #15: How to Wash a Bike like a Pro Mechaniclonefrontranger
Feb 18, 2003 3:08 PM
Computerman's topic below reiterates that not everyone knows how crucial (not to mention painless and fast) washing a bike should really be. I was taught this method by a guy who wrenched for Motorola and can get a bike showroom clean in less than 15 minutes.

Bike Washing Kit:
- Dress old, black and comfy. Rubber clogs, sandals or galoshes are key. A shop wrenches' apron is a nice but not necessary option.
- Short section of hose (mine is 6' long, saves tangling) hooked to an outdoor tap. A sheltered sunny locale is best for winter washing.
- One 5 gallon bucket filled with hot water and 2 tablespoons Dawn dish detergent (yes, that's a crapload of soap)
- One sprayer bottle filled with Simple Green or citrus degreaser
- One standard car wash sponge (yellow dog bone shaped kind)
- One toilet brush (dedicate one for bike maintenance, please)
- One small brush with long stiff bristles (I use a plastic stiff bristled BBQ brush)
- A couple of shop rags (available by the bale at auto parts stores)
- A clean soft cotton rag (old towel, t-shirt, diaper, underwear, etc...)

A workstand is nice but not necessary, when we're at a race I usually just lean the bike against a wall, fence, tree, post, team RV; whatever's closest to the hose tap that won't move.

The key is to work from top downward, from cleanest to dirtiest, and from biggest to smallest, using the sponge on the cleaner sections, the toilet brush to loosen up mud, grit, remove Gatorade from the downtube, etc..., and then the small stiff brush for the really grimy drivetrain work.

Start by propping the bike with the drivetrain facing towards you. Thouroughly soak the entire drivetrain, especially the rear mech and pulleys in Simple Green or citrus degreaser BEFORE putting any water into the mix. This will let the degreaser penetrate and do its job. If you are in a secure location (at home) or have an attendant to keep an eye on things (at a race), then let the degreaser settle while you collect the hot water and the rest of your kit.
Part 2:lonefrontranger
Feb 18, 2003 3:11 PM
Soak the sponge in the hot, soapy water and slather / scrub the bars, seat and frame, and don't be frugal with the water.

Next, take the toilet brush and use it to remove mud/grime from the brakes, fork, stays, bottom bracket shell, and wheels.

Now shift the chain to the small ring in front and the outmost (smallest) cog on the rear, and remove both wheels. You will not damage the bike by setting it on the fork dropouts and crank, just be certain to set it down gently and lean it against something solid so it doesn't slide or fall over.

Take the small stiff brush and scrub the rims, hubs, brake pads, crankset, spokes, cassette cogs, chain and both derailleurs inside and out. Soak one of the shop rags in a mix of soapy water and degreaser and clean the chain by running it backwards and forwards through the soapy rag held firmly in your fist. Pinch each jockey pulley between your fingers while holding the soapy rag and spinning the pulleys to remove that congealed varnish/lube/dirt that collects on them.

If you are really anal, you can take the soapy shop rag and run it between each cassette cog, around the hub bodies, and detail all the spokes; I only do this once every three or four washes.

Now get out the hose and using a moderately strong but not jet spray, hose off the entire rig (without directing the spray into bearing surfaces like hubs, headset, etc...), reinstall the wheels and bounce the bike gently to remove the bulk of the water.

Dry the frame and saddle with the cotton rags, and give the drivetrain a final once-over by backpedaling the chain through a clean shop rag to remove as much moisture / leftover lube as you can.
Thanks LFRlook271
Feb 18, 2003 3:19 PM
Now if I can find some place to prop my bike in the 24+ inches of snow here and temps get above freezing so that it won't turn into an iceball immediately, I'll rush right out and give her a scrub! =)
Part 3: proper re-lube technique to avoid re-cruddificationlonefrontranger
Feb 18, 2003 3:24 PM
Most beginners and a great many experienced riders and racers ride around on a machine that resembles the Exxon Valdez. To avoid having your bike becoming a black grimy toxic waste dump within 3 pedalstrokes of a wash job, employ the following method:

Once the bike is completely dry, lube the chain by backpedaling the cranks and dripping lube onto the chain where it bends over the top of the cassette. Lube the whole chain and be fairly generous. Keep backpedaling for a few revs to let the clean lube penetrate. Now take another shop rag and grasping the rag firmly around the chain where it exits the lower jockey pulley, do your best to remove every single drop of lube you just applied.

That's right, I said take it ALL off. This method means the clean lube gets onto the moving parts of the chain where you DO want it (pins, bushings), but doesn't leave a lot of excess hanging around on the outside of the chain where it a) does no good whatsoever and b) attracts a crapload of dirt. A dirty grimy drivetrain will do a lot more wear and damage in a lot less time than a dry drivetrain. This is not just the Motorola pro wrench speaking, this is my own personal experience as a shop wrench seeing other folks' mistakes.

Now drip a bit of lube onto the jockey pulley bearings, into your rear and front mech pivots, and again wipe away all the excess that drops out or that you see.

Voila! A clean bike that will STAY clean, assuming your next ride isn't rainy or muddy. If it is, simply repeat steps 1-3.


teacher! question!Frith
Feb 18, 2003 4:47 PM
When i have a new chain on i often get a creaking that is solved by taking the bike on one ride with the chain in the sloppiest state imaginable. after this i can keep it pretty dry like you say. Is there something mechanical that i should be looking at to avoid the creaking? If not is there a way I can reach the same effect at home without actually riding the sloppy chain?
Define sloppyKerry
Feb 18, 2003 5:05 PM
If you mean that the noise goes away when you really lube up the chain, this makes sense. New Shimano chains come coated in their funky "S-wax" which is a metal preservative, not a lubricant. If you are slosh lubing your chain, the wax "dissolves" in the lube after a few miles of riding, and the subsequent chain wiping effectively removes the S-wax. You're good to go from there.
Sloppy = well lubed + unwipedFrith
Feb 18, 2003 5:32 PM
And if i ride this way once I'm good. Then I can clean it up and continue to lube exactly as you suggest. Perhaps I should start buying and installing my own chains instead of letting the lbs put on whatever peice of crap that they do presently.
remove the initial wax crap that's on a new chainlonefrontranger
Feb 18, 2003 6:29 PM
That preservative stuff is terrible IMO. I will drop a new chain in solvent to remove that waxy sticky stuff before I install the chain.

Most shop wrenches don't remove it, they just lube over it. A lot of lube acts as a solvent and will remove it as you noted. It will form a varnishy plasticky mess if you don't get rid of it.
How come?hammer_cycle
Feb 18, 2003 7:36 PM
I'm curious why you say to remove the factory lube from the chain? Whenever I install a new Dura Ace chain on my bike with the sticky stuff on it the bike rides amazingly well. I have yet to find a lube that makes the chain run as nicely as the factory lube. What lube do you recommend? I do agree that after a while, the new chain will become black and that stuff is tough to get rid of (even with degreaser I had trouble removing it).
because sticky stuff + dirt = grinding compound as noted abovelonefrontranger
Feb 19, 2003 1:47 PM
Thanks, it's nice to have a clean rig!! [nm]bent_spoke
Feb 18, 2003 3:42 PM
No water for meKerry
Feb 18, 2003 4:17 PM
For 20 years, I just wiped things clean with rags, using water only to dampen a rag to remove especially tough stuff. Then I heard about the wash bucket method, and switched to it. Great for about 3 years, and then things started to show rust that had not rusted at all with the previous method. Using water leaves the bike wet, even after you wipe it down. Unless things are absolutely filthy (coming home from a rain ride), I don't recommend consistent use of water if you want to keep your bike/components for 5 years or more.
No water for melook271
Feb 18, 2003 4:38 PM
I usually clean mine sans water, too, especially the drivetrain and derailers. Pedro's bike lust works great and is cheap or you can use Simple green and furiture polish to shine her up. Pedro's also doubles as a great lube on the underside of plastic snow tobogans and saucers =)
Except for a few thunderstorms, me neither...Stinky Hippie
Feb 18, 2003 4:41 PM
..The only thing I use is a can of pledge and a rag. For the drivetrain, I use WD 40 on a rag. My cogsets are spotless in minutes. If I've been using wet lube and can't get the chain as perfect as I like, I use White lightning -- sucks the old wetlube and accrued crud right out of there after a ride or two. Simple Green is a great grease cutter, but if you don't wipe up the residue it can do a number on metal --- especially aluminum. Wouldn't want it seeping into my hubs.

I'm often forced to use a hose on my mountainbike, but I can't think of a time when water was necessary (or presented a more practical alternative to my Pledge/rag method) on my roadbike.

Feel the gin
steel fixie with NR track group bucket washed for 10+ yearslonefrontranger
Feb 18, 2003 4:49 PM
No rust yet.

Hey why not wash it like David MillarDY
Feb 18, 2003 7:40 PM
Did you see the pic of him a couple of months ago in Cycle Sport or Pro Cycling (I don't remember which)? I was just struck with the way he was washing his bike. He had it on it's side on the ground at one of those self serve car washes with the high pressure hoses. He was just spraying away from about 2 feet away. Well I guess he doesn't have to worry about his stuff since he gets it for free.....I would always avoid a hose or anything high pressure especially near the bearings.
Whoa, whoa: where's tips #1-14?! nmempacher6seat
Feb 19, 2003 5:29 PM