Saturday, May 24, 2008

How To - Clean Your Bike, Illustrated

I did a post a while ago on how to clean your bike but I didn't take any pictures. Since I wanted to redo it and add perhaps twenty three thousand words of description, I decided the easiest way to do it would be to take 23 or so pictures and add a bit of text. I do type a lot but 23,000 words... that's beyond my capabilities for a simple blog post, my other posts not withstanding.

In the previous installment (I focused on the work stand in that post) there is a picture like so:

Equipment you need to clean a bike, including a bike to clean.

You'll need the following equipment:

If you have a hose collect the stuff below:
- One bucket with soapy water (use car wash stuff, the kind with wax in it is fine)
- Simple Green sprayer (on the right, on the ground)
- gear brush (mine is a Park one to the left of the Simple Green, I also have a Pedros one)
- big brush just in case (to the left of the Park brush, I didn't need it)
- car wash mitt thing (the green thing hanging on the rim of the soap bucket.

If you don't have a hose add one bucket of water and a screw type waterbottle. The flip type bottles end up too slippery when they're soapy and wet. Trust me on this.

Here are the the gross "before" pictures.

Ew. Yuck.

Ew, yuck.

First things first. Put it in the big gear - big ring up front, little cog in the rear.

The bike looks fast in its top gear, doesn't it? When I was a kid I'd go downstairs to check my bike before a race. Problem was that I didn't know how to do anything so I just looked at the bike. If I was really antsy I'd hang the bike by bungie cords or ropes and spin the rear wheel as fast as I could.

Set gun to "stun". Okay, not really. Set it to Spray, not Stream. Shotgun, not rifle. Unless you're really good at aiming with a bottle sprayer. I don't know how many times I've sprayed a stream right through the chainring and into whatever was behind the bike.

Start spraying. Hit the chainrings.

Hit the cassette.

I start by scrubbing vertically on the outside of the chain, spraying Simple Green in the bristle area every few brush strokes. Makes the black chain reveal that it's actually silver. Get all the gunk off as you slowly backpedal. Feel free to keep spraying the Simple Green onto the brush/chainring area.

When the plates start looking silver (after one lap of the chain), I start hitting the inner bits of the chain. The outside plates build up a lot of crud on the inside. Push it out using the brush.

When you finish the middle, hit up the chainrings. Wow, the teeth have silver on them. Note that all the gross stuff is streaming down my previously clean cranks. Don't worry, keep spraying, it rinses.


Yikes. I don't know if that's supposed to happen. Is everything melting off my bike?

Rinse and pray.

Hey now. I knew that it would work. (By the way, note even the frame is clean - just hit it up with some Simple Green right before you rinse).

I did the rear without taking pictures. Get the sides and the valleys of the teeth. The valleys hold the actual grit. Get the derailleur pulleys while you're at it. After you rinse, it might look like the picture above. Note that the cassette is so clean you can see the reflection of the blue spacer between the cogs.

Yeah, that blue spacer.

Now wash the bike. You can take the wheels off if you want. If you don't have a stand, you can make do with the wheels on. Either way, use the gear brush around the brake calipers and front derailleur, and spray that Simple Green stuff on the chainstays, seatstays, downtube, and seat tube, since there will probably be chain stuff there.

Start with a soaking wet sponge thing and start washing the bike down. This isn't dripping like it was when I first pulled it out of the bucket because it took a few seconds to dry my hands and pick up the camera. After you soap the bike, rinse it with the bottle.

When you're done, put the frame bit aside. I lean it against something, carefully placing the fork tips and the brake levers on the ground.

A better illustration of how wet you should have the sponge. I'm not squeezing. Wash the wheels off the bike, you need to get ALL of the Simple Green and chain gunk off. You don't want to find that one slippery spot of stuff on the side of the tire in the final turn of the crit, do you?

Take this chance to clean up the cassette if necessary. Yeah, I found some imperfections. Also get the inside of the rear derailleur cage. It's really, really dirty. Trust me.

When you put TWO wheels on at one time on a frame, by yourself, it can be awkward.

Do it like so:

Firrst, put the front wheel on without bothering to tighten the skewer.

Second, put the rear wheel in. It's easier when the front wheel is holding up the fork right? Beats trying to balance the fork tips in the dirt or on the pavement. That's the bit that's tricky. Use the front wheel to hold the front of the bike up off the ground.

Then, after the rear wheel is secure, secure the front.

No fuss, no muss. I'm holding the bike up right after I slipped the front wheel in place. Note the skewer is not closed.

Wow. Looks impressive!

Now for some obligatory "show off the bike" shots.

A clean bike is a happy bike.

Once you're done, bounce the bike gently to shake off any excess water. If you're in arid conditions, this won't be necessary, as the bike dried before I could take all the pictures in the 70 degree, sunny, breezy conditions I had for this shoot.

Lube the chain, paying special attention to the rollers in the middle, and hit up the pivots for both derailleurs. Wipe off excess lube with a towel or rag, repeat once, and you're done.

Congrats! You have a clean and happy bike!

(NOTE: Simple Green, if left on metal too long, will damage it. Chains will actually crack. Rinse with lots of water, and if you have any doubts, rinse more. It's water soluble so if everything looks clear, you're good.)


Anonymous said...

I read somewhere in the Bike Forums that Simple Green has something that damages aluminum/anodized aluminum after a while.

They've got a variety called Extreme Simple Green Aircraft cleaner that is safe for aluminum.

Your frame appears to be painted with a glossy finish and should be unaffected.

Anonymous said...

I used your method today and Simple Green to clean my bike and i just wanted to say thank you! My bike is VERY happy :)

Aki said...

Awesome! I'm glad that you found use in my post :)