Let me teach you how to clean your bike…
The Right and Wrong Way of Things
There are always two options when you are doing a job. You can do it the right way or take the half ass route and let yourself be lazy. The latter usually is accompanied by some excuse that equates to efficiency or time saving. What it really comes down to is laziness, half ass efforts that on the outside give you the same result but inside leave you rotting.
The half-ass method to wash your bike is to take it down to the car wash. Drop in some quarters (or swipe the cc if you have one of those fancy types of car washes in your neck of the woods). And then you spray the shit out of it. Thinking that you are doing yourself a favor, you really get into those nooks and crannies making sure every spec of dirt/mud/grime is removed by the brute force of the water. Then you smartly put the bike back on your carrier device (we all know you didn’t ride your muddy bike to the car wash) and drive home with hopes that the ride will bounce/dry the poor beast. The bike is removed from the car and stuck in the garage. This method is sometimes called Riding it hard and putting it away wet.
Then there is the quarter-ass method which tends to occur after you have been berated by your local bike wrench about the effects of the half-ass method. They said, “power washers are bad, don’t use them.” You listened. Instead of taking your bike to the car wash, you go home, pull ‘er off the car (again, if you’re still in the ass method category we know you didn’t ride to the trailhead). The bike is plopped on the front lawn and the hose, without any spray device attached, is used to extricate the mud. No spraying, that would violate the decree you received from your all mighty bike wrench. Once the muck has been extricated, you wipe your love down with a rag and hang her in the shed. Smiling and thinking to yourself how cool you are.
We all know that if you take steel, add water and then let it sit you get rust. It’s a simple equation. If this is so simple then why do we see people dowsing their bikes in water. Or worse yet, power washing the poor thing after every ride. Water is not your bikes friend. A clean bike that has been blasted with water to get the job done will never be the same. Sure it looks good but give it a couple of weeks and the thing will feel horrible. Why? Rust.
The best method, the no-ass at all way of cleaning your bike (did you notice how I used clean instead of wash there. For some reason people equate wash with water and I kind of wanted to avoid that), is to hang the poor beaten machine in a repair stand (oh for shit’s sake, just buy one already) and drop the wheels. Now you are going to use brushes or rags to remove the dirt and grime. Using a wiping motion instead of water pressure to remove the trail that you took home with you. By wiping you are moving the dirt away from the bike in place of pushing it into the bearings/suspension/bb shell/cables/housing… Once you get all that stuff off, take a bike wash of some sort, I prefer Pedro’s Bike Lust (which I am pretty sure is the exact same thing as Armor All so you can use that in a pinch. God knows I have), spray this bike wash on a clean rag and polish, yes polish, your ride.
There are several brushes that I like to use. Pedro’s Tooth Brush works great on cassettes and chainrings. If you use a wax-based lube, Park’s tooth brush has a plastic end that helps remove build up between cogs. Park and Pedro’s also offer a set of brushes for bike cleaning. These range from soft to hard bristles and are great for getting dirt off. But you don’t really need any of this, a rag will do the same thing. Want to get between the cogs, cut strips of the cloth and run them between each one. The idea is to get the dirt off the bike and not drill it into the bike.
This method will take a little more time. I know you were all trying to save time by spraying the thing off, but in the long run you are screwing yourself over by doing so. When you are done you can put your shiny bike in the garage knowing that there isn’t a lake forming in your bottom bracket and that your love is dry. All that grease that was so painstakingly applied to your bearings, is still in place and uncontaminated.
Trust me, this is the only good method.