Bike wash 101

I firmly believe that reinventing the wheel and pretending it was an original idea is not only a waste of time, but doesn’t really educate people. For a long time I’ve had requests to post up a video on my bike washing technique (which I learned from former USPS mechanic Geoff Brown years ago) that has carried me through years of racing, and gotten me off the hook for a lot of team work at stage races. I’m the guy that gladly volunteers to wash the bikes because I’ve developed the system that lets me clean 5 bikes in little more time than it takes me to clean one, and everyone loves racing a clean bike. Besides, I don’t trust the piss poor job many riders do on their own bikes. Anyway, putting together clean videos is tough to do on your own, so I was very pleased to run across a great video courtesy of OPCS mechanic Kenny Latomme. Kenny takes you through all the steps you need to follow to get your machine spotless and race reading.


The myth is that bike washing takes a lot of time. This is only true if you let your bike go for a month or more of heavy riding. My schedule when I was racing (training 250-400 miles/week) was a weekly washed, usually on Thursday or Friday before a race. I’d also wash my bike after a rainy race so it was ready to train on Monday. A dirty bike is a bike that breaks down! During the washing process you’re looking for possible damage/mechanical issues on the bike, including cracked/separated/dented tubes, tire cuts, or gnarled chains (all of which I’ve spotted). If you clean your weekly, you should expect to spend no more than 15 min to complete the task; if you’re on a race team, you can easily clean and service (not repair) 5 bikes in under an hour. Your team bikes look great, and the riders will appreciate it. Pedro’s makes a nice cleaning kit, but you can also build your own based on the video’s suggestion for brushes. Having different brushes makes it easier to clean specific areas. I bring my bucket to every race, and usually wash my bike before packing up. Here everything you need to get started:

  • a┬ábig bucket with a lid
  • assorted brushes and a big sponge
  • rubber gloves keep your hands clean, dry and free of cuts, plus in the winter you can wear gloves under them to keep your hands warm
  • Simple Green or similar all purpose cleaner in a spray bottle; I use SG full strength on the chain by spraying it heavily then using a brush the chain. Let it sit while you get the rest of the bike.
  • Dry lube for dry conditions and a heavier lube for wet conditions; remember to wipe the excess lube off!
  • Frame polish for most frames is a nice touch, but WD-40 is a trick that George Sykes taught me for Titanium; the kerosene cuts the oil the smudge and the wax makes the frame shine.

Regarding MTB’s, I have generally let my bike go a bike more in dry conditions, but if I ride in mud or excessively wet conditions, I wash the bike. When in doubt, wash it.

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