cleaning & detailing your bike

I'll be the first to admit that this is a lot of work. But I'm unemployed so I have the time.

Even though I always use an SRAM master link for my chains, I still rarely remove it from the bike. I use a Pedro's Chain Cleaning tool. Frugality tip: purchase a gallon jug of citrus degreaser from Home Depot or Lowes; it's a lot cheaper than what you'll get at your LBS and it's the exact same stuff.

As you're washing, take the time to look for signs of rust and wear. Do you see any red (iron oxide) deposits seeping from the headset or other places? Something is rusting inside and needs to be re-lubed.


- bucket

- brushes (I am happy with the Park brush kit)

- dish-washing sponge (the yellow ones that have green Scotchbrite on one side). Note: do NOT use the Scotchbrite side on CF frames or wheels. It is only for wheels with aluminum rims

- car-washing mitt

- Simple Green cleaner

- citrus degreaser

- chain-cleaning machine; the one I have is from Pedro's and it's lasted me a couple years now with no signs of breaking down.

Washing Procedure:

  1. Put the bike in your workstand
  2. Starting at the top (include the handlebars) pour water on the bike. I use a hose without any nozzle, just soak the bike. This helps to remove all the salts from your sweat, the sugar from spilled drinks, and the snot rocket blowback from the doofus ahead of you on the group ride the other day.
  3. Using a soft brush, lightly remove as much dirt and road debris as possible, working from top to bottom and using water from the hose to flush the dirt away
  4. After you give the bike it's first once-over, fill the chain cleaner with your desired degreaser dujour and clean the chain
  5. Remove the chain cleaner and use the sproke brush to clean the cogs. You will also want to clean the derailleur pulleys. Make sure to clean both sides of the pulleys. To get easier access to the wheel-side of the pulleys shift the rear derailleur to the small cog and put the front on the big ring.
  6. After you're done with the chain cleaner, give the chain, crankset, and both derailleurs a very thourough rinsing.
  7. Soak the mitten in water and then pour some Simple Green on it. Go over the bike from top to bottom again and as soon as you get to the bottom, start rinsing thouroughly from top to bottom.
  8. Clean the wheels. If you have aluminum wheels, use the Scotchbrite side to scrub the inside of the rim and especially the brake track. Do not use Scotchbrite on any other surface that belongs to your bike.
  9. Remove the wheels. Clean the inside top of the fork, the wheel-side of the brakes, the inside of the fork blades and if you have fenders what the heck, go ahead and give the inside of those a quick wipe too. Where the rear wheel used to be, get the inside of the seat and chainstays and also the inside of the brakes.
  10. Clean the braking surface of the brake pads. Using an awl make sure to get all the grit out of the grooves. Feel for any embedded grit and remove it with a sharp knife (e.g. X-Acto).
  11. Using old (but clean) rags dry the bike off. Make sure the rags are clean, you don't want them to have any embedded grit that may scratch the finish of your nice bike.
  12. Dry the wheels and put them back on
  13. Dry the chain. Some people use an old hair dryer or a heat gun. I tried this once, didn't think too highly of the method. I'm still trying to figure out a good way to dry the chain other than air-drying, which has a tendency to leave some rust spots on the chain.
  14. Lube the chain according to your normal procedure. I recently got a tube of Dumonde oil and I'm really happy with it. I was using Triflow year-round and finally realized that it simply isn't sufficient for riding in rainy PNW winters (or rainy fall, or rainy spring, and quite often rainy summers. But I'm not bitter...)
  15. Work the lube in. Heck, sometimes I'll do a 10-minute roller session, especially if there is some other concurrent mechanical work going on, e.g. derailler tension adjustment.
  16. Make sure to wipe off all excess lubricant from the chain.

You're all done, now go ride your bike!

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