Bike Wash Zen

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There’s no chore that is more therapeutic and gives me more satisfaction than the bike wash.  I usually wipe my bike down after every couple of rides with baby wipes but once a month or so I’ll roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty.  You don’t really need much except for a few simple ingredients that you can find laying around your house.  The photo below shows a good assortment of brushes, sponges, lubes, etc that are ideal for cleaning the bike. However, all you really need to get the job done are the following:

  • Bucket of water.  Easiest to have two buckets. One with soapy water and one for rinsing.
  • A large size sponge
  • Dish soap.  Dawn dish detergent works excellent (not shown in photo).  It works like magic and is the choice of many pro mechanics.  Lots of dish soaps have a high sodium content so be careful.
  • Assortment of brushes.  A simple plastic sweeping brush from your cupboard works great.  However, the plastic bristles have a tendency to hold grease and spread it around rather than picking it up.  If you can find a brush with natural bristles the grime and grease will slide right off in the soapy water.
  • Degreaser.  Best to stay away from the harsh chemical degreasers. They may damage the paintjob of your frame.  I’ve been using Simple Green which is a mild all-round household cleaner that removes grease amazingly well.
  • Lube.  My favorite is still Rock n Roll
  • If you have a bike stand it’s a bonus but not necessary.
  • Silocon spray or Armor-All

Here you get a pretty good idea of how Andy (the Rapha mechanic) cleans the bikes under less than ideal conditions.  He’ll freak when he finds out I posted this.  He kept stressing “Bloody hell..this isn’t how I do it at home! I don’t have my tool truck! Don’t film this!

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Degrease the drivetrain. Notice in the beginning of the video how Andy has a cut-off waterbottle with the brushes and degreaser in it in the bottle-cage.
  2. Wash the degreaser off the drivetrain with the brush and sponge. Notice in the video how Andy spins the drivetrain and wheels to get the job done instead of moving all over the bike himself.  First spin the cranks with the chain in the big ring and then move it to the little ring to make sure you cover the whole chainset.
  3. Wash the rest of the bike with soapy water and the sponge.
  4. Rinse the bike off with the clean water and sponge (or a low pressure hose).
  5. You can dry the bike by wiping it down with a cloth or let it air dry. It’s a matter of preference.
  6. Finish the frame off with Armor-All or give a light wipe with silicon spray to deter the next lot of mud or dust from sticking to the frame too quickly.  For obvious reasons don’t wipe on the handlebars, brake hoods, saddle, or wheels.

YouTube link – Perhaps follow some of the related videos if you’re not at work.  Not to rain or your parade Andy. I’m sure the related videos are a pure reflection of your studliness.

Andy gives a great example in the video of how the bikewash should be done.  If he had all his proper tools, air compressor and pressure washer it wouldn’t have been much good to us.  Keep in mind when watching these pro mechanics clean bikes they’re often not overly concerned with the longevity of the bike. They’re trying to get a dozen bikes cleaned and prepped so they can get back to the hotel and get some dinner before midnight and the restaurants close.  It’s got to be the toughest job on a team.

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