Thursday, 13 November 2014


Since joining forces with Total Rush a couple of years ago, I've have a pretty big change of heart regarding how clean my bike should be, especially my drive train.

A clean bike is certainly a nice thing, and lends itself to important things like being able to instagram it anywhere, any time. A clean drive train on the other hand, is more than just being pretty, I now firmly believe it has performance and to a lesser extent, cost benefits too. You don't have to believe me on the cost side (it helps prolong chain, cassette and chain ring life), I certainly wouldn't have a few years ago, but the performance side should be easy and cheap for you to test yourself.

Anyway, those words above are just a prelude to me talking about bike washing, and the technique I now use. I clean my chain most weeks, and my whole bike every few weeks on a as needed basis. I live in an apartment, and do this all outside with a bucket of supplies, a hose, and an air compressor, with the air compressor just there to speed up the drying process so I can lube my chain straight after washing.

This, along with a rag or two, is what my bucket contains

1. Aerosol Degreaser ($3 a can, good for 1 incredibly filthy drivetrain, or 2-3 cleaner ones)
2a. Truck wash ($12 for 1L, dilute it 10:1, a 1L should last you 30-40 washes)
2b. Garden sprayer ($15 1.5L, good for a year or two)
3. Big soft paint brush ($5-$10, should last you yonks)
4. Kitchen brush ($5, should last you yonks)
5. Park Tools GSC1 ($10, should last you yonks)
6. Small paint brush ($5-$10, should last you yonks)

So, first step is to clean your drivetrain, and for that, a can of aerosol degreaser (1) from a local auto store is amazing, and worth the $3 cost. I just lean my bike against a wall, and aim the jet of liquid from the can at the lower portion of my chain as I back pedal the cranks. Grease and crap melts away, under the combined might of high pressure and chemicals.

If it's a particularly dirty chain i give it the occasional rinse off. Once the chain is approaching spotless, I have a go at the chainrings, cassette and the teeth of my jockey wheels. I try to be cautious around those last items, the jockey wheels, as there are teeny tiny bearings close by that get sad if you remove all their grease. If in doubt, apply degreaser to a rag and use that on them instead of a direct stream from the can. The park tools brush is helpful for stubborn grease on chain rings and cassette. I keep mine solely for this job so I don't transpose any latent grease to other parts of my bike.

When you're done with your drive train, give it a rinse off with a hose. You'll likely notice that in the process of getting it spotless, you've splattered the surrounding area of your bike with filth, which is what we attend to next. If I'm just cleaning my chain I only clean the rear wheel and the stays at this point, if it's a whole bike was day, I do the whole bike, either way, I don't leave the mess I made over the rest of my bike.

Chains tend to have writing on them, and silver inner links. Keep cleaning until you see these things. I keep cleaning until I can run the chain over a finger or rag, and it doesn't leave a grease mark of any kind.

Right, so CT18 (2a), diluted roughly 1:10 with water, and whacked in a hand pressurised garden sprayer (2b) is my cleaner of choice. Allegedly it's gel formula wont harm paint, chrome, copper, aluminium, steel or a bunch of other things, which makes it suitable for a bike, I also think it works pretty well at cleaning. Anyway, I spray it all over my bike, including the wheels and drivetrain. I use a big fat paintbrush (3) to massage it into small spaces of my frame (back of the fork crown, near the front derailleur, under the BB). You might want to take out your front wheel to make getting at the inside of the forks, and the rear for the inside of the stays... I generally don't because that takes effort, and means my bike frame will touch the ground. I use a stiffer kitchen brush (4) to scrub my rims, especially the brake tracks, and if I've removed my wheels to clean my brake pads.

Once that's done, I hose off the bike, giving the drivetrain an additional rinse for luck. At this point, I consider my bike clean, but obviously severely lacking in chain lubrication. I cheat and use a narrow nozzle on a air compressor to dry my chain, and with any air left in the tiny tank, I blow excess water away from bearings and bushings on other parts of the bike (derailleurs, wheels, brakes). Pre air compressor purchase, I wiped my chain off with a rag, and gave it an hour or so to dry.

Now that my chain is dry, I apply some lube (currently that's Boeshield T9), leave it for a few hours to sink in, and then wipe off any excess with a rag. If I'm feeling super keen, I'll apply a small amount of light lube (Prolink gold) to my derailleur bushings to keep them super smooth.

After all that, my bike feels like it doesn't have a chain, and any noise is an indication (to be confirmed with a gauge) that my chain has stretched, and needs replacing before it chews out my cassette.

D: 5.6km
A: 49m

PMPW: 86kg


Gus Gollings said...

Hey mate, I've found the aerosol degreaser can seep into the hub over time and remove the lubrication around the contact surfaces of the pawls and axel bearings. Cheers,

neil said...

Good to know Gus, thankfully I haven't had those sorts of issues (yet).

Right now, I'm favouring speed of process and drivetrain cleanliness above all else. It's a compromise, and acknowledge it might not be the compromise that others want to make.