Now that you've done the hard yards, your drivetrain is a black mess, and your frame is covered in who knows what. It's time to clean that bike! If you've ever seen the bikes the pros ride, you could eat off their shiny new looking drivetrain. It's really about having the right combination of chemicals and brushes. Here's how...
This is a great video with one of the Quickstep mechanics showing step-by-step instructions on how to get your bike as clean as the pros. We won't mention that the bike he's cleaning isn't the least bit dirty. But hey, this is the big time after all. His name is Kenny and I've stood in some of the best parking lots this country has to offer washing bikes with him ;)
You'll notice he puts a chain keeper or "ghost hub" in the rear dropout after removing the rear wheel and before cleaning the chain. It's made by Morgan Blue and you can find it for $7 at ChainReaction. It will cost you about that much to get it shipped from England.
If you want what the pros are using, Abbey Bike Tools has a "Wash Buddy" for $75. Like all their tools, it's a work of fine art; durable, precision crafted, and beautiful. I have one and it's the best $75 I've ever spent.
You can do better than Kenny's brushes, however. A not-so-secret among American pro mechanics is the use of Tampico brushes. They are made of vegetable fibers (from Mexican agave plants) and don't hold onto grease. Dip them in a bucket of water and the grease/grime literally falls off. The cheapest place to source Tampico brushes is a website called DIYcleaning.com.
My favorite 2 brushes are:
15" conical brush - perfect for hard to reach spots on the frame, derailleurs, bottom bracket, brakes/brake pads, and hubs, etc.
20" long handle in foam block brush - perfect for cleaning the cassette and spokes without bending over so far. I choose the foam block for durability to outfox the inevitable drop in the aforementioned parking lot. They make a wooden handle version as well which I've cracked more than a couple. After letting the cassette sit for a few minutes with degreaser and hitting it with this brush, you're well on your way to a brand new looking drivetrain - and you won't need to use a cloth in between the cogs like Kenny does.
For degreaser my hands down favorite is made by Muc-off. JensonUSA has it for $20
There are plenty of great chain lubes out there. No real favorite...
For frame polish there are plenty of good options. Pedro's Bike Lust or even Pledge. The Lampre mechanics loved putting Pledge on their bikes. Just don't get any on the brake pads or brake surfaces! WD-40 makes a good polish:
And perhaps the best chemical of them all... is Dawn detergent. If it was good enough for the U.S. government to clean up the Gulf oil spill in 2010, it's good enough for me ;) (Seriously... that's what they used). In every pro wash bucket is a hefty squirt of Dawn. The Muc-off degreaser knocks 80% of the grime off your chain. A sponge with a dollop of Dawn gets it the rest of the way.
And finally, a word about water. When rinsing off your bike, do your best to aim the spray away from bearings as much as possible. While the pros can swap out bearings every few races if need be, that's a total pain for the rest of us, not to mention time consuming and expensive.
You now have the means to clean your bike like the pros. Thanks for reading and happy washing!
About the author: Stan Barrett is a professional race mechanic. He's worked with SRAM Neutral Race Support as well as a number of World Tour teams including: Radioshack, SaxoBank, Lampre, and Tinkoff. He lives in Oakland, California.