Cleaning off all the this crud is essential for a long and happy bike life, but like everything there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about things:
Savage cleaning fluids, degreasers and power hoses will kill your bike just as quickly as mud, grit and salt. So, today’s Maintenance Monday is about how to clean behind your gussets without getting soap in those vital seals.
When the bike is totally crud-caked we normally sluice as much filth off as possible with a normal garden hose.
Start at the top of the bike (bars or saddle) and work downwards. Be careful not to directly hose sealed areas though ie: headset, bottom bracket, fork, rear shock, suspension bushings, cables etc.
Using a jetwash may be tempting – and we know people who manage to use them carefully and keep their bikes immaculate and squeak free – however, the bottom line is that they are powerful enough to blast water right through the seals that protect your delicate bearings. If you have to use one then make sure you always spray parallel to the bearing surfaces of these areas and never directly at them.
However thorough you are with a hose, dirt will still cling on (especially after long rides or if you’ve allowed it to dry on) so whip your brush out.
Various companies make specific bike brush sets and bike cleaning fluids the ones shown here are the examples from X-Lite. The brushes come in various shapes and sizes designed to reach all those hidden crevices, and all the wire frames are coated to stop them scratching your pride and joy: They make bike cleaning a breeze.
X-Lite’s Muc-Off is a very aggressive cleaning solution which shifts any sort of grime, but make sure you follow the instructions to dilute it and rinse thoroughly afterwards as it can start removing paint, stickers and anodizing too. Other cleaners we use include Finesse multi cleaner (0800 2986116) and Stinky’s Bike Wash (cycobike.co.uk), so check your local shop for options.
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far (it really is a worthwhile investment though), then old household brushes (washing up brushes, floor brushes, toothbrushes etc.) work OK and normal washing up liquid can even be used to ‘cut through to the squeak’.
Again make sure you rinse thoroughly though as even those “kind to your hands” household cleaners are stuffed with ingredients that are potentially very harmful to your bike.
So fill your bucket with whatever dilute cleaner you’re using and start scrubbing away. Start with the cleaner areas (handlebars, saddle, frame before moving on to potentially greasy and oily areas, or you’ll just smear the filth around.
Don’t forget around the bottom bracket, rear stays, fork bridge / seal area, suspension linkages, underneath saddle etc.
Once you’ve cleaned everywhere then it’s time to rinse all that cleaner off thoroughly to prevent damage. Gentle hosing (or brush
down with clean water if you haven’t got a hose) does the trick, but again be careful of direct spray on bearings.
To stop corrosion and stop big pools of water forming underneath your bike, grab a rag and give it a quick wipe down. Again start at the clean bits and work towards the potentially grimy areas.
You can chase off the last bits of water and give a light protective coat to the bike with a light lube like X-Lite’s Bike Spray or GT-85. This will stop it rusting in the shed if it’s a while before it gets ridden again. Exposed metal (cassette, shifters, mechs, cables etc.) is your target priority but the whole frame will be shinier and easier to clean next time if it gets a coat.
BUT, make sure you keep any sort of lube away from disc brakes as it can permanently contaminate the pads, making them slippery and useless.
Finally, re-lube the chain like we showed you last week, and your bike (or in this case Darren-from-silverfish’s Cove Hummer) will be happy, healthy and ready to ride whenever you need it.
Tune in next week as we complete our immediate after-ride maintenance series with the Cable Guy, before moving on to bigger things next month.