Washing a Bike

Apr 26, 2010
I've read on the internet about washing a bike, seen some videos of people just scrubbing them down while latched into the repair stand. I have not washed my bikes, and the whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. Not sure why. Is there anything I need to keep in mind, any pro tips? All I know is not to blast water at the hubs and bottom bracket. Can anyone give me a basic rundown of their bike washing procedure? Also, any recommendations on cleaning products to use in terms of cleaning solutions, scrub brushes etc. I figure this is something I need to know how to do, but I'd hate to screw up the bike by doing something stupid. As always, thanks in advance for your help.


Maximum Pace
We had a thread on this a year or two back which I can't find now, unfortunately. Among the membership, frequency of cleanings ranged from "after every ride" to "once every three months"... I clean the drivetrain about once per month, the frame as needed (once per 3 months, except after rain). Soap (dishwashing detergent, whatever) and water is fine, though I find a damp cloth is plenty for just the frame, saddle, cockpit. Keeping the chain clean is probably the most important, but I've found that being very sparing with the oil and wiping off the excess so grime can't accrue reduces the need to clean considerably.

I find that if I ride only in the dry I can go a long long time between cleanings, but after rain the bike really does need a going over. This is the main reason I try to avoid the rain.


Maximum Pace
Sep 24, 2007
Surly, here's what I do;

I've had troubles with this before and it's something you want to get right. Keep the bike upright, NEVER turn it upside down as water can get into the steering tube bearings as happened to me. If you use a hose or shower head, make the flow as light as possible. Unless you live in a house with a garden it can be a real pain in the arse cleaning your bike here. I use the shower room, tie the frame to the towel rack and go from there.

1. A quick very light douse of luke warm water
2. A bucket of luke warm water with about 1- 15 sprays of Finish Line Super Bike Wash and scrub the bike with a soft cloth
3. Rinse off with a soft spray
4. Same for wheels
5. I then dry the bike off, reassemble and clean the drive train in another room with a chain cleaner. These are great and hassle free. About 20 turns of the cranks and they're like new.

While I hate cleaning my bike it sure does look pretty after a good wash. Oh, and I usually only wash it after riding in the rain or just when it looks as if it needs a bit of loving:D
May 22, 2007
I ride in pretty much all weathers. Riding in the wet makes the bike very dirty, especially due to brake dust which gets suspended in the water and creates unattractive streaks down my forks and stays. So I've learned to love cleaning. Normally takes about 20-30 mins, depending on whether or not I'm doing the chain.


Start at least two mosquito coils burning, depending on season.

Kirin Ichiban in neoprene beer jacket.

Barrier cream or nitrile gloves to keep hands silky smooth.


1. If the bike is dry when I start cleaning, I won't use water at all. Just brush any solid lumps off/out with a rag and a toothbrush. If the bike is still wet, I'll use a towel and warm water to rinse off the crud and dry the frame. Then...

2. Finish Line Showroom Wax. I buy it online, by the gallon. Two small towels: wax on - wax off. Applying the wax picks up all the dirt and streaks and oil and everything else onto the towel. Then it buffs up very easily. The wax finish obviously reduces the amount of crap that will subsequently stick, so future cleanings are even easier.


3. Bucket, warm water with a little detergent, and towel. Wring out towel well. Wash tires, rims, spokes, hubs. Use this time to inspect for wear and dents and other possible future problems.


4. I use Finish Line Ceramic Wax for my chain, so it doesn't get black and messy. Most times a wipe with a dry towel and re-lube is enough; I do this at least every 200km.

Once a month, or after riding in heavy rain, I'll use a chain cleaner and degreaser, stand to dry for 20 mins, and re-lubricate. Clean chain rings and cassette with (another) towel and a squirt or two of brake/parts cleaner.


WD40/CRC5-56 multi-purpose lube or grease for moving parts of derailleurs, brakes, pedals etc. Check for squeaks.

As you'll gather, I get a lot of towels dirty in this process. I have a huge stack of little towels, collected from ryokan etc. where I've stayed. When the stack gets low I'll wash the dirty ones in a bucket with hot water and detergent, and agitate with a broom handle. Eventually they're clean enough to put in the washing machine.

--HF Mike--
May 22, 2007
Don't get me started on bike cleaning, I tend to take it to the next level :D
Yeah, James. After reading your blog a few weeks back I picked up a ballpoint pen eraser from Manrikiya for 105 yen and it works very well on my rims.

Stripping the cassette for cleaning is OCD, as you freely admit. I suspect the difference between your method and mine is only microgram-level differences of residual muck.

But I can't really criticize until I can ride faster than you. (Not likely to happen unless you forget to reinstall the cassette. Even then I don't rate my chances much.)

--HF Mike--


Maximum Pace
May 25, 2009

I only get this crazy before a race....although I do seem to race every other weekend. :eek:

But you'ed be amazed at the gunk that gets missed by the chain cleaner and the method shown on my blog will do wonders for your shifting.


Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
Always wondered....


4. I use Finish Line Ceramic Wax for my chain, so it doesn't get black and messy. Most times a wipe with a dry towel and re-lube is enough; I do this at least every 200km.

--HF Mike--
...how to stop "the blackness". I hate that oily black chain residue.
I commute nearly 250km per week, and even though I clean the chain weekly, I know not to touch my chain after the second day.
Will check your "Finish Line Ceramic Wax" suggestion.
Cheers! T


Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
For the chain, I just put the bike in a stand and run the chain through a towel in my hand. Apply a drop of oil to each link. Spin it through. Run it through the towel again.

I do it after each ride. The oil is a little red bottle that costs 100 yen from Musashi.

A clean chain is a sure way to improve performance.




Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
I just use 1 thick paper towel (buy a package of 20 at a supa) to wipe the bike after a ride, cleaning it from the dust & dirt, then run the chain through the clean side of the towel. Relubricate the chain - ... - profit!

Once in a month or two months - wheels, chainrings, bb
Aug 17, 2007
Yotsuya, Tokyo
Soap and Bubbles

After a long ride, I like to take my baby into the shower with me and give 'er a proper hands-on scrub. When she's at her dirtiest, it can take hours. 'Specially if she's well lubed.

Follow this with a brisk rub down with a soft dry towel, and finally hop out on the balcony for a ciggy. ;)


Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
HFC Mike - you got it it right, bro! Light the coils and grab the beer! Since usually I'm returning from a ride in late afternoon or evening, the mosquitos and my thirst are at the peak of their geek. And this is definitely NOT condusive to a pleasant man-to-machine moment of communion. Once we have the coils and the beer --

1) Citrus Soap from the 100yen store - taken as a tip from James, but the LBS version is too pricey if you clean your ride often. This is awesome as a grime cutter. And I mix up an ofuro bucket with it and warm water. Then of course the obligatory onsen memorial towels.

2) The citrus / soap will cut through most of the dirt and grime quickly and get your ride into shape for the final bits. Which are chain / cog / crank , etc. For these I use another separate towel and some denatured alcohol or common laquer thinner. I take the chain off and swish it around , then while its soaking , take the towel and quickly brush through the cranks , cog and other parts that tend to get greasy build up.

3) Its important not to let solvents soak into your bearings (BB, headset, wheels, etc) as this will dissolve the special purpose grease and leave you in overall worse condition. So be careful about using spray cleaners around those parts and instead just use a towel soaked in solvent to clean near them.

4) After the chain has soaked, I pour some citrus soap on it and wash in water. Then towel it off. I put the chain on the bike and spin it up using the towel to dry it off. My favorite libe - like many here - is the dry ceramic wax stuff (Finishline is ok) or Ice Wax. If its winter I have a different procedure that involves actually 'cooking' the chain in parafin wax.

5) Then I use my general lube oil - Finishline Wet, for a drop on the moving parts like brake lever, caliper, pedal, etc. Then towel off any excess.

Make sure to keep hydrated by drinking the beer between steps! And don't let those skeeter coils burn out.

By the way - I though it would be a great idea if someone would make an eco washing station for biks and you could use it at a local LBS. This would allow for using recirculated water. Oil separatr and proper disposal of the junk. PLus having a light pressure washer and air nozzle to to do the tasks. Then of course followed by any post wash lube materials. In my imagination, this would be built from plastic, have integrated stand and everything - you just plug it in and voila!