Environmentally Friendly Bicycle Cleaning and Protecting: A Hands On Guide

Though by some measures California is considered “drought-free” we shouldn’t be frivolous with our water usage, and cleaning your bike is no different. There’s no need to use lots of water for bike cleaning. Besides wasting water, it can do more harm than good. Even the humble garden hose sprays with enough force to push grit and grime past the seals of wheel hubs and bottom bracket bearings and should be avoided. If you have a sponsor providing a new bike every season, power-wash away, but for those looking for longevity, use a bucket and pour the water when it comes time to rinse.

Like when washing a car, this process can be a meditative experience. Take your time, make some room and enjoy being outside, though a bit of shade is recommended to prevent water spots. On a Saturday afternoon, this can be a satisfying experience, especially with the tunes turned up and a cold adult beverage at the ready.

Make a dirty bike clean! @littletim67

Clean, Lube, Protect

We’ve been using a three-part system of sorts from Muc-Off and have found it does well to not only get a dirty bike clean but to help keep a clean bike, clean. The process serves to clean, lube and protect your bike, and the biodegradable Muc-Off products are a breeze to use. And speaking to our California concerns, they require a lot less water than other cleaning products we’ve used previously.

What We Use

Cleaner (Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Cleaner Concentrate)
Degreaser (Muc-Off Water Soluble BioDegreaser)
Water-Displacement Spray (Muc-Off Bike Protect)
Chain lube (Muc-Off Bio Dry Lube)
Soft 2 ” paintbrush
Stiff plastic dish brush and/or old toothbrush
Old water bottle
Dirty bike

Local Tip: you can use recycled water to wash your bike. Check your local water provided. Close to us, the Irvine Ranch Water District has free recycled water at their facility and, while you wouldn’t want to drink it, it’ll work great for bike washing.

Process

  • Fill your water bottle with water and pour contents onto the bike. Use your 2” paintbrush to get the under areas.
  • Fill the bottle 1/4 way with Muc-Off Bike Cleaner Concentrate and top off the rest with water. Place water bottle in bike cage while you work, keeping the mess confined with easy access to the soapy mixture. There is no need for you to heavily soak down the bike, but you will want to place a tarp down where you will be working to keep the grease and lube from staining the below concrete.
  • Using the paintbrush or dish brush (or both), dip your brush into the water and paint the soap all over your bike. A small paintbrush will allow for cleaning in the hard to reach spots and the dish brush can help to get in between chainrings and cassette sprockets. You may find a toothbrush will help to loosen dirt in those hard to reach spaces, and you can dip the brush in the water bottle, rinsing as you go.
  • For the drivetrain, use the BioDegreaser, a water-soluble product that cuts through even the toughest waterproof chain lubes. Once you’ve sprayed all the drive components, let the product sit for up to 5 minutes before using the dish brush to agitate any stubborn grime. Rinse out your water bottle and fill with clean water. Gently pour, rinsing away the grit and grime.
  • Now that you have a clean bike, you’ll want to lube and protect the surfaces from corrosion and UV degradation. Use a clean rag and spray Bike Protect on all surfaces except rims, brakes, and wheels. The aerosolized product drives out moisture and prevents dirt adhesion, keeping your bike clean between washes.
  • The key while wiping down your bike with the Bike Protect spray is to use a clean rag, a dirty rag with grit and grime can scratch or nick the frame. This bike spray is water repellent so spray on areas where you’re worried about corrosion such as on the chain. Don’t use on tires, rims or brakes because its lubrication will reduce your ability to stop!
    A small paintbrush will allow for cleaning in the hard to reach spots and the dish brush can help to get in between chainrings and cassette sprockets.
  • Once you’ve wiped down your bike with a protecting spray, wipe away any excess fluid and leave the bike to dry. If you’re going to be riding without any further maintenance, now’s the time to lube the chain. Depending on conditions, choose either a wet or dry lube. The less lube on the chain the better, as excess lube only serves to attract dirt.

An hour on your rest day will give you quality bonding time with your bike. It gives you a chance to inspect your machine and make sure everything is in working order. We see our bikes from one perspective, but once a bike is hoisted up on a stand, you may notice issues that need attention. This close attention to detail provides an opportunity to inspect the frame and components for cracks, an unlikely but potentially dangerous issue if present.

Planning on working on your bike? Clean it first. It will make the task so much easier with a clean machine to wrench on. And if wrenching on your bike is above your pay grade, but below your sense of wonderment, your bike mechanic will be better able to diagnose an issue before it becomes a costly repair if you bring in a clean bike as opposed to a dirt-caked mess.

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