Monday, April 7, 2008


The idea here was to show the before and after. This is where the phone cam falls a bit short in the fidelity department.

Take my word for it. The bike on the left is muddy and dirty. Really. On the right, it's sparkly and clean. (Ding!)

Note the hose. I almost never clean my bikes, but when I get that nice wet mud everywhere it sprays off very easily.

So I took advantage of the wet mud coating I got yesterday on the High Drive trails and gave the old RB-T a spray down.

If you spend anytime on the various bike lists and forums online, "cleaning your bike" thread will pop up at some point. While it's not nearly as ubiquitous and predictable as the helmet vs no helmet threads, it's interesting to learn how different people clean their bikes.

Some people clean their bikes after every ride. Others have a routine schedule ("every 1000 miles I do x, y, and z") for cleaning and maintaining their bikes. Others rarely do anything. And there's a bunch of people in between that.

I tend to wait until the chain is orange with rust or the rear cassette is so caked with dirt/grease that's it's shaped more like a smooth cone, rather than a defined set of sprockets.
Instead of removing and cleaning the chain properly, I'll typically just get as much crud off as I can with a rag and a chain cleaner tool for 5 minutes or so, then re-grease. This is not a best practice.

But I see this type of "maintenance" as a benefit of running friction shifting. Given that none of my shifters match my derailleurs or chains or cassettes, being able to not properly maintain my bikes make them nearly as maintenance-free as an internally-geared hub set up.

A couple times in the past, I've brought my bike to a self-service car wash and hit it with the high-pressure hot-soapy stuff. This is a particularly painful method for some folks to even think about. Using hot, high-pressure, soapy water to clean your bike has all sorts of potential bad endings: getting water in the bearings, peeling paint, removing the lube from the chain links. The list goes on. But damn the bike sparkles when it's done. And it's so easy!


Hank Greer said...

I usually hose the bike off and lube the chain every 2-6 weeks depending on how bad the weather has been. And I'll wipe the rims off so my brakes don't sound like an Alton's commercial. I have found it's best to do that before taking the bike into a shop for a tune up or repair. Otherwise I hear, "Oh my gawd, what did you do to this bike!?!?" I think they charge me more if I bring in a filthy bike. Not that I'd blame 'em.

Bujiatang said...

I just washed my bike this weekend, first time since last summer.

it took 3 buckets of water.

I wash and wax about once a year. I'll repack the bearings at the same time. If my wallet is too thick I'll replace the cables too.

Living in an apartment makes all this much more awkward, if I had a garage to spread out in I might strip it down more often but...

our LBS I think likes to see a dirty bike cuz it looks ridden.

David Blaine said...

I clean my bikes twice a year. In Spring when all the snow is off of Mica Peak and in Fall when the first snow is back on the top. I lube regularly and sometimes I even wipe off the chain. I have over 2000 miles on one bike so far this year and it is developing a nice patina. I do not recommend this method it is simply all that I am capable of. I am fascinated at the thought of waxing a bike.

Michael said...

You're supposed to clean your bike? Actually, I keep the drive train sparkling clean and well-lubed (Boeshield), but the rest of the bike gets pretty grungy.

13-b122 said...

I never clean my road bike like I should. Usually only when it makes so much noise I can't stand it anymore. My track bike on the other hand I've been cleaning just about every time it gets dirty. It's so easy to wipe down and since the chain is pretty much it when it comes to speed control, I figure it's pretty important to keep in good condition.

Bujiatang said...

Here in MN we don't plow roads, we salt them. We pour tons and tonnes of salt every time there is a dusting, and, to my knowledge, don't file environmental impact studies.

For my 36 year-old steel bike this means rust if I'm not careful.

And for two miles the bike looks like new.