I guess I’d like to weigh in on this one … and I guess I’ll admit in advance that I’m a bit of a curmudgeon on some of this stuff.
So, a couple years ago I, like most of us, spent a fair amount of money (to me) on a new bike that I was very proud of, and I wanted to keep it clean, quiet and shiny new. So I went through a typical list of alternatives, some already mentioned in this tread:
- First tried WD 40 on the running parts and expensive cleaner on the frame. Got stuff clean, but made my hands a mess, and left a big black stain where the WD 40 drained off. Tended to drip down the spokes and stain the wheels and tires, creating additional cleaning chores.
- Tried various degreasers, including auto parts degreasers, bio degreasers, bike-specific degreasers, citrus cleaners. All worked to some degree, but tended to leave either the heavier gunk or some other residue. Each created as many problems in my view as it solved. Many were pretty darn expensive.
- I used to work on cars, and remembered those handy-dandy carb and brake cleaner/degreasers. Sprays out in a stream, dries fast, breaks up and blows out the gunk. But wow, the fumes and all those VOCs. And the stuff is really, really effective at what it does, namely “de-grease” and it tended to get into the places where I actually wanted the grease to stay, namely hubs, BB bearings, etc. Oh, and they still cost money.
- Started to get frustrated, and cleaned stuff a few times with plain old soap and water (sponge on most stuff, stiff plastic bristle brush on the rings, cogs, chain and a few other mech parts) just to get the bike clean while I tried to find the ideal solution.
Know what worked best – by a LONG shot – on all the parts, mechanical as well as painted? Good old soap (I’m using a liquid soap made for washing cars – I think it’s an Armor All product) and water. And, leaves my hands clean, breaks up the gunk, OK for the various finishes, few if any fumes or VOCs so comparatively good for the plants, air and fishies, cheap, easy to use, doesn’t leave stains, compared to most of the prior products, soap water is more easily blocked by the various bearing seals, etc. All good.
And watching Tour and Giro videos, I could be mistaken, but aren’t those team mechanics using soap & water on the team bikes out behind the team bus?
Couple caveats: Obviously, getting rid of the water is important. I use an air compressor to help blow the water out of the little places where the town doesn’t reach. I use a low pressure hose, or just run-off from the sponge so that I’m not blasting the water past any seals, I use a superlink on the chain, and using soap & water is GREATLY facilitated by being able to remove the chain, adn no, I haven't used all the products suggested here, so my experience isn't a full comparo of everything out there.
My $0.02, I guess.