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Do you wash your bike?

2114 Views 38 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  Braunstein Freres
Friend of mine was telling me that washing a bike with water will ruin it, however I was reading that it was OK to do this if you didn't use much pressure and used Dawn soap or something. Can anyone shed some light on this subject for me. THanks!
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Get a bucket of warm soapy water and you should be fine. You can use a hose so long as the water coming out is not coming out very fast. I believe the reason for this is water getting in the bearings, but I may be wrong. I heard it was bad so I never did it :p

A bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge or rag will do nicely though, thats what I use. Afterwards don't forget to re-lube chains and cables and if you wanna go that extra yard, get a bottle of Bike Lust or some kind of polish and shine it up :)

You can either wash a bike right after a ride or give the mud time to dry so it flakes off, I'm not sure which is easier. I usually wait a little bit before I wash my bike off. If you want to wash the chain, you'll need some kind of degreaser.

Anyways, washing your bike, in my opinion, is alot of fun. I LOVE the way the bike rides/looks/sounds after it is done with a thorough washing/tuning. Everything is so shiny, smooth, and quiet. That is reward enough for putting a few hours into the job :)

Good luck!
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Washing your bike will not ruin on the contrary it will extend it's life immesurably. I use a Little simple green in a bucket and wash my bike down with a rag. When it's nice and clean I proceed to empty the bucket of the soapy water and fill it with clean water and rinse the bike.

I never use a highpressure hose on my bike because it has a way of moving dirt into places you don't want it. But using a hose on low pressure to rinse your bike is just fine just be careful around your shocks and rear cassette ( I guess I can put bottom bracket here too but I don't worry much about it.)

Then lube as needed. I love when my bike is shiny and clean. And it runs great too.
Wet washing a bike is generally ok for it. You do have to be careful with getting water into poorly or unsealed bearings such as cheap headsets, bottom brackets, or hubs. Also, you want to keep direct spray away from the seatpost so you get as little water running down inside the frame as possible. It is a good idea to take the seatpost out after you are finished and hold the bike upside down to let any water drain back out. It also isn't a bad idea to have a small hole drilled in your bottom bracket shell to let water drain out. If you have a super expensive bike, that might not sound like such a great idea. I always think it is a good idea to dry the bike off once you are finished. I use a leather chamois, but understandably some are against using animal products. Artificial chamois work almost as good (I like The Absorber brand). If you have particularly hard water, it can really waterspot your stuff. Try not to wash the bike in direct sunlight or the heat of the day, as this makes spotting worse.

In my opinion, nothing lets you clean off gunk and grit better than a good degreaser and scrub brush followed by a water rinse. However, sometimes it is quicker and easier to give the bike a good wipedown. In that case, you can use a variety of things to clean everything but the drivetrain. I like soapy water (dish detergent) or even diluted windex. Then, to get the drivetrain clean I use a degreaser like Simple Green. About a gallon of it costs the same as what you pay for an 8 or 16oz bottle of bike degreaser at your local shop. Plus, it can be diluted to go even further. Take your rag, spray it down, and use it like floss to clean between the cogs on your cassette and the chainrings on your crank. I really recommend getting a SRAM chain if you do not already have one. The powerlink connector makes it simple to remove the chain, making it easier to clean. If you can remove the chain, you can clean it in a shallow bucket or small plastic tub. This is where the gallon of simple green comes in handy. You can pour in about a half an half mixture with water so it covers the bottom of the tub. Use a tooth brush or other small stiff brissled brush to clean the chain inside and out. Whether you cleaned your chain on or off the bike (cleaning it off the bike works best), always let the chain dry before you relube it or ride the bike. Chain lube and water do not mix.

I am sure I may have left out some good tips others may have. Hopefully, that is some good information for you.
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Yes, yes I do...

...In fact, I get kidded a lot because my ride is always spotless when I show up at the trailhead. If I hear, "Don't you ever ride that thing?!", one more time, I'm going to puke. I wash my bike almost after every ride, I've been doing this since 98' and I haven't noticed any adverse affects. Here's what I do:

I use Simple Green at a 2-1 ratio (2 parts SG to 1 part water) in a spray bottle. On my drivetrain, I use it full strength. Simply spray the entire bike down with SG, let it sit for about 5 minutes, go over it with a rag, and lightly rinse. If you have one of those adjustable spray hose knozzles, use the "shower" setting, almost like you were watering flowers. Any more pressure than that and you could force water into the BB, head tube, pivots, hubs, etc. For stubborn mud, simply wipe it with a rag. Note: Be careful with the SG, if you let it sit too long on bare aluminum, it will etch it.

For the cassette/chain, I spray both down with the full-strength stuff and then turn the crank while holding a brush against the cassette. Gets everything squeaky clean. When you're done, wipe everything down with a clean rag, being carefull to wick up any water that might have pooled in your bolt heads. I've got a compressor in my shop so I just hit all of the iffy spots with it after hand drying, again, being wary of the BB juncture and pivots.
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Wash it for sure. Doesn't have to be any particular kind of soap though. I use car wash soap myself. Don't use Simple Green like one poster suggests. All it will take is to get a small bit of it in your bb, hubs, headtube and it will make the grease useless. Good to wash a chain though.
Yes...leaving it covered in **** and crap will not help extend its life or finish. Remember to relube after though.

Muggsly said:
Washing your bike will not ruin on the contrary it will extends it's life immesurably.
Agreed 100%. I live in Phoenix, and the damaging effect of sand and dust is far greater than the damaging effect of water. I wash my bike after every ride. I spray the drivetrain down with simple green, then use Dawn Dish soap and water to wash the bike. Then I mist water on the bike avoiding any direct spraying of water near any bearings to rinse.

Take the bike into the garage, use my compressor to blow off excess water, then dry with a towel. Lube the chain and you are done.

One major benefit I notice after washing is that there is a significant less amount of drag on the drivetrain. Try this, after a ride that the bike gets dirty or muddy, ride your bike around on the street. You will notice how much drag there is, you will also feel the "clunky" feel of the chain. Then wash your bike and do the same. The bike will pedal and shift smoother, even before lubrication.

I change my cables and housings every 4-6 months. I replace drivetrain parts significantly less than my riding buddies that do not wash their bikes.
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I use dish detergent, a soft automotive bristle brush, and a "misting" garden spary nozzle.

I'm not a fan of Simple Green, which is somewhat benign in most cases, but caustic enough that if it sits on some exposed metal surfaces for long enough, it can cause embrittlement leading to stress cracks. Make sure anything you clean with Simple Green doesn't sit too long, and is rinsed thoroughly.

If anything, a good wash will allow you to inspect your frame for damage. Cracks hide very well under dirt but suddenly jump out when the frame is clean.
Stuart B said:
Yes...leaving it covered in **** and crap will not help extend its life or finish. Remember to relube after though.

i personally think its a waste of time and a narcisistic act at that. whats the point if its gonna get mucked 2 minutes into the riding? water causes the drivetrain and other moving parts to dry up loose its lube so theres no benefit there. To me its like dogs, they have a natural lube that keeps their hair shiny and healthy and its not a benefit to be washing them all the time, not even once a week in fact.
its debatable that dust is inmesurably more damaging than water. Are there any tests/statistics that prove this?
i rarely wash my bike, just letting the muck dry and then if so i just pass a wet cloth or soft brush to remove the dried out stuff and thats it. do clean the chain with a dry cloth and reaply lube more often though.
also, to me mud is protection against roving eyes that might want to steal my "shiny" bike, so the less shiny the better. let the thieves go for the sparkling bikes of other riders!
yes--road bike---maybe once a month. mtb--nearly every ride and rarely letting a day go by after the ride.
Stop listening to your friend.
Yes at the shower all the time, actually not all the time but i have many bikes, so end up washing one of them at least ones a month so the apartment does not get contaminated with the dirt from the trail.

is warm, is fun and works really well.
Gekkonidae said:
Friend of mine was telling me that washing a bike with water will ruin it, however I was reading that it was OK to do this if you didn't use much pressure and used Dawn soap or something. Can anyone shed some light on this subject for me. THanks!
So jumping off the the retaining wall into the lake is not an acceptable form of washing the bike? :eek:
Gekkonidae said:
Friend of mine was telling me that washing a bike with water will ruin it, however I was reading that it was OK to do this if you didn't use much pressure and used Dawn soap or something. Can anyone shed some light on this subject for me. THanks!
what does your friend wash his bike with if not water?

i've never had issues from washing a bike. i've never used a high pressure washer such as a steam cleaner or a car wash pressure washer, that seems both common sense and overkill. but a regular hose has never done me wrong. even with sealed bearing (loose bearing) hubs. just make sure to reoil/grease exposed components (chain, cables, brake posts) when finished.
all bad advice

Don't listen to what they say. Water will RUIN your bike. Never ride in the rain. Mud and dirt are just as bad. Take extra care not to EVER get your bike muddy. Should you get your bike wet or muddy, replace it immediately. There may be an exception to purple anodized spoke nipples.....I've seen literature that says those can get wet/dirty and still function, but.....the anodizing may be affected, so it's prolly a good idea to replace those as well.
Additionally, bike riding is inherently should prolly avoid riding the thing as well.
What you should strive to do is 'adjust' your bike. Adjust your bike often. Bikes (perfectly clean and unridden, safely stored in 'the garage') are the perfect excuse for getting the hell out of the house.
"where ya goin?"
"to adjust my bike"
"didn't you just adjust it?"
"dammit woman, do you KNOW the singular difficulties involved in getting an Avid Black Box rear derailleur perfectly adjusted and meshed with the new PG990 cassette? Do you? Can you even SPELL derailleur? Well?"
"you're in a pissy mood"
"Don't toy with me......I'm 'adjusting'"
It's also a good idea to leave some important component 'unassembled', on a pretty much permanent basis, like say the major parts of the drivetrain. That way you'll always have the excuse to go work on your bike.
"you work on that a lot but I never see you ride it"
"Ridin's dangerous babe, I'm an adjuster."
"is that why all those greasy parts are laying around on the garage floor then?"
"whadda ya callin' greasy?"
"that stuff on the floor"
"that ain't 'stuff', that's I'm reasonably sure the major components of a RockShox Reba, or part of the chainsaw I'm fixing for your brother, hell, I don't know, but it ain't stuff!"
"we'll talk about this later....after you clean up the garage"
And so on. So Like I said, bikings dangerous. Mud and water just make it more difficult to adjust your ride. Keep it clean.
Also helps to have a good supply of lagers in the garage, along with a cot and some blankets.
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Gekkonidae said:
Friend of mine was telling me that washing a bike with water will ruin it, however I was reading that it was OK to do this if you didn't use much pressure and used Dawn soap or something. Can anyone shed some light on this subject for me. THanks!
Sometimes I wash the bike using a pail of warm soapy water and then rinse with the garden hose. Other times I wash the bike at the car wash (gasp, heresy!). In either case, I use care directing the water spray. Want to avoid filling the fork with water or washing the lube out of the head set.

Bikes? NRS and Trance.
honestly, decent bearings with some form of environmental sealing should stand up to even direct hits with a garden hose at pressure. figure a car wash pressure washer probably wont have such high pressure as to damage the paint so that should probably be ok too. if you see grease oozing out, then stop, but i wonder if that's ever happened to anyone.

forks can be drained either passed the mounting bolts at the dropouts or by parking the bike upside down. otherwise, dont ever ride through streams... i have an idea. cross the streams. what?! you said never cross the streams!
Simple Green and High pressure

I've been doing it for 12 years. Two cautions; don't let the Simple Greens sit too long and don't use high pressure near bearings. Jesus, this isn't rocket science. With our clay mud high pressure is perfect for most of the bike.
Thorough drying is best. Compressed air drives most of the water away. I often chase chains and other areas with WD-40, as Water Displacement is exactly what it was designed for. I do this particularly in the winter when everything gets so thoroughly soaked. Overnight the water is driven from even the most secluded areas and there is no rust the next day. However it is very important to note that the next day you must relube critical areas of the drivetrain and component pivot points.
I don't clean like this after every ride. I also don't ride in crap all the time. For example the mud in from China Camp and Tamarancho falls right off with a light spray. I also don't ride in muddy clay when I can avoid it; it just isn't worth it.
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I tried....

...but I couldn't fit it in the dryer.
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