I keep my bikes very clean, but I never "wash" them. If the bike is exceptionally dirty I'll take a wet or soaked rag and wipe it down. After it's been wiped down I use my secret weapon...Pledge furniture polish. If it's just dirty and dusty from riding a week or so in dry conditions, I start with the Pledge.
When I clean my bikes I always start with the running gear. I do the chain 1st. I take a rag wet with WD40 or odorless mineral spirits, and wipe the chain down while rotating the cranks. When it's pretty clean I use "home brew" mixed 3 parts odorless min. spirits to 1 part oil. What kind of oil? Pretty much whatever I happen to have on hand. We're not lubing parts on the space shuttle y'know. Motor oil 5W-20 usually, because that's what my car takes. Using an old catsup squeeze bottle, I drizzle it on the chain, aiming for the middle where the rollers are. Then, while that's drying I'll do the cassette, chain rings and derailleurs. I clean them using the odorless mineral spirits (OMS).
Park's cog cleaning brush is good for doing the cassette. For the chain rings, I just use a rag with OMS and wipe them down while I'm turning the cranks. I do the same to the rear derailleur pulleys and any other parts of the derailleurs or brakes that are grungy. Park's brush is useful here too.
I then remove both wheels, set one wheel flat on my work bench. Using a Scotchbrite pad soaked with Simple Green I scrub the braking surfaces of the rim clean - both sides - both wheels. I then spray the rim, spokes, and hub with my secret weapon...Pledge furniture polish. Goes on & comes off easily. Spray on - wipe off with a clean rag. I do every spoke, the entire rim and hub. When finished, I hit the braking surface of the rim lightly with the Scotchbrite pad to clean any slippery stuff from the braking surfaces. I do both wheels like this, and then set them aside.
Next I go to work on the frame. Turning it upside down in the repair stand, I spray it with Pledge and wipe it down. Anything the Pledge won't take off gets the OMS treatment, and then gets sprayed with Pledge. I try to get every bit of dirt off that I can see. I put the rag between the brake arms; use Qtips to reach hard to get at places. I also do the bars, stem, etc., etc. I don't clean the bar tape, because I always use black. I never do anything to the seat, except to wipe it off if it needs it. I lightly spray all the pivot points on the derailleurs, pulleys, brake levers, brake arms with WD40. After that I take a piece of 60-100 grit sandpaper and lightly sand all 4 brake pads. When doing this I look carefully for grit, tiny stones, or small pieces of metal that may have become embedded in the pad. If I find any I remove them using an awl.
By now the chain is dry enough to wipe down. I put the wheels back on the bike, and while it's still on the repair stand, I turn the cranks slowly with one hand while the chain runs through a clean rag held by my other hand. I keep turning the cranks, and the rag until no more black residue comes off on the rag.
Notice that the only bike specific thing I use, besides the repair stand, was Park's gear brush. IMO, IME bike specific chemicals, waxes, cleaners, lubes, etc. are a complete rip off - a total waste of $$$.
DETAILING YOUR BIKE
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
1. Chain Lube (Home Brew = 1:3 motor oil and odorless mineral spirits.)
2. Clear Fingernail Polish
3. Cog/Chain Brush
4. Needle Nose Pliers
5. Odorless Mineral Spirits and/or Simple Green
6. Plastic Garbage Bag (use as drop cloth)
9. Rags (3 or 4)
10. Repair Stand
11. Scotch Brite Pad
12. WD 40
ORDER OF CLEANING
1. Drive Train
B. Crank, Chain Rings & front Derailleur
C. Cogs & Rear Derailleur
3. Lube All Moving Parts
A. Derailleur pulleys and pivots
B. Cables Guides
C. Brakes and Levers
D. Seat (squeaks)
E. Cleats and Pedals
4. Underside of Frame and Rear Triangle
5. Main Triangle
6. Forks, Head Tube, and Bars
Work in clean, well lighted, well ventilated area
If possible put bike on repair stand
1. Spray rag w/WD40 & wipe chain holding rag around chain & pedaling backward
2. Using “home brew” spray or drip lube/cleaner on chain. Try to get lube on the inside of chain on the roller links. Let this sit for 10 min.
3. Remove front wheel –
Clean rim braking surfaces with Simple Green & Scotch Brite pad then wipe clean
Spray wheel (spokes, hub & rim) with pledge & polish
Set wheel aside
4. Wipe off chain with rag while pedaling – top/bottom – inside/outside.
5. Using the same rag wipe off the teeth on all the chain rings
6. Lube all moving & hinged parts with WD40 (front/rear derailleur, brakes, pulley wheels, levers, cable guides. Wipe off excess lube.
7. Remove rear wheel & clean same as front wheel
8. Spray the cogs with Simple Green. Holding rag taut, slip between rear wheel cogs & clean.
Set wheel aside
9. Lightly sand brake pads with med. fine sandpaper. Wipe off with rag or finger.
10. Turn bike upside down on stand. Depending on how dirty the bike is, either spray with Pledge or use Simple Green to remove dirt, then spray with Pledge and polish. Don’t forget to shine and clean the front/rear derailleurs, crank arms and chain rings. You’ll hurt their feelings if your whole bike looks like a million bucks except for them. You don’t want them to seek revenge against you when you’re riding in South Chababaland, do you? Use Q tips, toothbrush, or toothpicks to dig out dirt in crevices and tight spots. Be thorough. Don’t leave any grunge behind. If you do it’ll attract more grunge. It should look like a brand new bike except for any scratches and chips.
11. Rotate bike until right side up and clean all top tubes by spraying & polishing with Pledge. Again: it pays to be very thorough. Use Q tips, toothpicks, do one section at a time to avoid missing spots. Be sure to clean under water bottle brackets, pumps, remove bags and clean behind them, and then clean the bags themselves using a damp rag and/or a brush.
12. Reinstall wheels.
13. Clean & polish handlebars and stem using Pledge.
14. Inspect nuts, bolts & fasteners for tightness and rust.
15. If you find rust, apply Naval Jelly or similar to the rust and leave it on for 10 min. Wipe it off paint immediately. After 10 min. wipe thoroughly and apply clear, matte fingernail polish to prevent rust.
16. One last hint...this goes MUCH FASTER & EASIER if you don’t go too long before cleanings. Think about not cleaning your house at all for 6 months. WoW! Now you’ve got a real big job. The more you clean it, the easier & faster it is.
This is important stuff
By cleaning your bike regularly it’s easy to find any safety issues like tires with threads showing through or a small piece of glass stuck in the tread. Loose spokes, nuts, bolts, frayed cables are other things that are actually hard to miss when doing a thorough cleaning and polishing. Finding things that need adjusting or repairing like those mentioned could end up “saving your bacon.”
OK! We’re done. Treat yourself to a soft drink, a good hand wash using WD40 and a nail brush, then regular soap, and get ready to ride. Of course...you know what’s going to happen don’t you? The next time you take the bike out on a ride ...
There’s nothing that rides like a nice, clean, great looking bike!
(and don’t forget that nice, lemony smell)