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Wash Your Bike Like a Pro, in 10 Minutes or Less

By Ian Dille | May 11, 2017 | Rally Health

For the mechanics of the Rally Cycling team, the bike washing never ceases. The bikes must always glisten and shine. At any moment, a fan or photographer could snap a picture of a team member’s bicycle, and every photo must portray a beautiful bike.

At races, even after the riders spend just an easy hour on their bikes, you’ll find the Rally Cycling mechanics feverishly scrubbing and polishing the equipment. Efficiency is paramount to this task. Here, women’s team mechanic Zane Freebairn shares his tips on how to quickly make your bike as pristine as the pros’.

Step 1 – Get Equipped

Wash Bike Scrub

 

Start by setting your bike up on a solid bike stand (Freebairn uses the Team Race Stand from Park Tool, a Rally Cycling sponsor), to securely hold the bike without clamping its lightweight tubes. He removes both wheels (he’ll get to them later), and keeps the chain tight with a chain keeper at the rear dropout. Then he places an assortment of brushes and sponges in a bucket of soapy water.

 

Wash Bike Gears

 

“You’ll want two sponges, one for the chain and gears, and one for the bike frame and parts. And two brushes, one stiff and one medium bristle,” Freebairn says.

 

Step 2 – Start With the Chain

Zane Freebairn cleans and inspects the bikes after a long, dusty training ride.

 

Freebairn puts a strong citrus degreaser in a spray bottle, and spritzes the bike’s chain, rear derailleur, and chainrings. With the stiff bristle brush, he scrubs the outside of the chainrings and the derailleurs. Then he holds the brush against the inside of the small chainring while spinning the cranks to clean the inside of the chain and the chainrings at the same time.

 

Wash Bike Chain

 

After using the brush, Freebairn takes a soapy sponge to the derailleurs and chainrings. He holds the sponge in the center of the chain line while spinning the cranks.

 

Wash Bike Chain 2

 

“The brush scrapes the dirt and grease, and the sponge polishes the parts and get in the nooks and crannies,” he says.

 

Step 3 – Do the Frame, Saddle, and Handlebars

Wash bike seat

 

Zane Freebairn is a mechanic, through and through, and has the hands to prove it.

 

When washing the rest of the bike, Freebairn uses the sponge and brush in the opposite order he used on the drivetrain. He breaks up accumulated dirt with a sponge (a different sponge from the one for the drivetrain). Then he uses the soft-bristle brush to glisten the bike.

 

Step 4 – Wash the Wheels

HED Ardennes training wheels recieve a thorough scrubdown after the race.

 

For the wheels, Freebairn washes the hubs with a long and narrow brush that fits between the spokes -- he recommends a toilet brush for this job. He uses the soft-bristle brush to clean the tires and rims -- “That’s a good time to check the tires for cuts that can cause flats” -- and he takes extra care to not peel off the wheel’s decals. Finally, Freebairn spritzes the rear wheel’s gear cluster with degreaser, and uses the hard-bristle brush to scrub the gears clean.

 

Step 5 – Air Dry

Wash Bike End

 

After putting the rear wheel back on, Freebairn gives the crank arms a few hard spins to knock off any excess water. Then he lets the bike air dry in the sun. Freebairn can wash a bike in less than five minutes. Your results may vary. “It’s like cleaning anything,” he says. “The more often you do it, the less time it takes.”

And now you’re ready to roll!

 

Wash Bike Clean Bikes

Ian Dille is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. He has written for Outside magazine, Bicycling, and Texas Monthly, and is the author of The Cyclist’s Bucket List (Rodale, 2015).
 
Ian Dille
Rally Health