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I regularly (almost daily) ride my bike, often in bad weather. I mostly ride on roads, but sometimes through parks, forest etc. on unpaved surfaces. My bike is usually rather dirty, at least the lower parts, especially when the weather is rainy. I do have mudguards, but they can't keep off everything.

I would like to keep it reasonably clean, both because it looks nicer and to avoid unneccesary wear. On the other hand, I don't want to spend an hour every week keeping it clean.

So what would you recommend as a cleaning routine that strikes a reasonable balance? Just hose it down? Only wipe critical parts? Use some wonder cleaner?

And are there functional problems or increased wear due to dirt, or is it mostly an asthetic problem?

Related question (more about maintenance in general):

Periodic maintenance tasks for bike commuters

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Similar question with a differently used bike: How often should I strip my bike down? (This question is more oriented towards practicality and has an off-road component.) –  Neil Fein Feb 9 '11 at 1:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Overview

As needed or as inspired, rinse off bike with water, clean with soapy water and degreaser, wipe down, rinse off. In practice, I do this every month or two or... of commuting. And yes, there are advantages to cleaning your bike; a clean bike will last longer, perform better, and serve as proof of the love of a proud owner.

Materials

  1. rags
  2. sponges
  3. bucket filled with warm water and soap
  4. scrub brush with plastic bristles
  5. simple green or citri-solve in spray bottle
  6. lube

Methods

  1. Rinse bike off with water
  2. Liberally apply soapy water to entire bike with sponge
  3. Wipe dirt off everywhere except drivetrain with sponge
  4. Wipe dirt off drivetrain with a dedicated greasy sponge
  5. spray drivetrain with degreaser
  6. wipe down drivetrain with rag
  7. rinse again
  8. apply lube to drivetrain
  9. remove excess lube with rag

Notes

this answer focuses on cleaning the bike, but cleaning is also a good opportunity to check the bike for mechanical issues, including worn or loose parts:

  1. tires
  2. brakes
  3. bolts
  4. all other parts, including frame
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Don't hose it down unless you also enjoy rebuilding/regreasing the bearings.

If you have somewhere dry to put it (shed/garage) just brush off the dried dirt/mud in the morning. Especially dirt underneath the bottom bracket where the rear cables go under the frame and around the axles / pedals.

Once a week I clean the chain and re-oil it (you might have to do this more often depending on how many miles / how bad the weather is) I also check and oil the brake/gear cables and brake pivots etc.

Run your finger over the spokes to just check if any are loose, at least once/week - daily if you have rough off road sections.

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If you spray it rather than waterblasting, and avoid hosing the bearings as much as possible you should be fine. I use a fairly hard spray to shift mud off the downtube/BB area without isses, but I'm careful not to use the hose to push dirt into the bearings (or grease out). Degreasing your bearings is a risk, not a certainty. I think the rest of the tips are excellent. –  Мסž Feb 9 '11 at 1:28
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@moz: Yes, I believe hosing down with a regular garden hose (basically letting water run over the bike) should not hurt the bearings. A pressure washer is a different story of course. –  sleske Feb 9 '11 at 2:25
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There's always a temptation with a hose to put your finger over the end to give a jet and remove that hard to reach stuff stuck around the bearings! –  mgb Feb 9 '11 at 3:45
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Very nice answer. I've added three links -- two to the terminology index, one to an answer on lubing the drivetrain. –  Neil Fein Feb 9 '11 at 4:33
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hosing it down is fine; even with a strong spray, the key is to spray perpendicular to the axis of rotation (e.g. spray the headset from the side or front of the bike, bb and hubs either straight down or from the front / rear but not side of the bike) –  David Feb 9 '11 at 6:09

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