With Minnesota's variable weather, your bike can encounter lots of dirty conditions. A clean bike is a happy bike. Here are some ideas to help your bike be happy with you.
Don't be afraid of a little soap!
Much can be done with a mild soap and water. Having some rags, sponges and perhaps an old toothbrush will aid you in many cleaning tasks. Do not use high-pressure washers, car washes, or your garden hose. The pressure from these methods can force grit and grime into your bearings doing damage. Even the water can be forced into places you want to be dry. You are really better off with a bucket of hot water.
For extra tough problems like road tar, use a strong degreaser on the frame and metal parts. A couple of our favorites are Park Tool chainbrite and Finnish Line Citrus degreaser. After cleaning with these types of chemicals, use mild soap and water to rinse and clean off the chemicals. Be very cautious using strong chemicals on tires, cable housing, and other non-metal areas of your bike as they deteriorate plastic and rubber.
Chain, chain chain...
Your chain and drive train are simultaneously the hardest to clean and the most important to clean. Your chain is made up of several hundred small parts that can collect debris like a magnet collects iron shavings. A clean chain will shift better, last longer, and have less friction. You can remove the chain, soak it and clean it off the bike. This is very time consuming. A much easier option is one of many chain cleaning devices, such a Park Tool’s CM5.2. This tool fits over the chain. You pedal the bike backwards running the chain through a degreasing chemical and over scrubbing brushes. Ideally, you will clean your chain in the evening, let it dry over night and add fresh lube in the morning. Do not fret about doing it perfectly, but do remember to lube after cleaning. Park Tool makes a very useful cleaning tool, GSC1 featuring both a brush and a toothed hook designed to clean between cassette cogs.
Many degreasing chemicals are citrus based and biodegradable. However, after you have used them they will contain petrochemicals that are not biodegradable. Please dispose of these responsibly.
Your bike tells me to say, “Thanks for cleaning me”. After cleaning, how about some new tape or grips?