Dry Cleaning. (Bikes).

A little tech update…

I’m borderline A/R when it comes to bikes…and one of the most bothersome parts of bike maintenance is chain maintenance.  I’ve yet to find a cleaning/lubing protocol that I really, really like.  If you really clean things, then: 1) you’re taking the lube right out of the parts that need it; and, 2) lube it and hit the gravel and it’s all undone–insta-dirty.

Cold weather complicates this even more, as your bike gets dirty, but it’s too cold to wash outside.

In doing some research, I’ve found some interesting ideas.  There are a number of people who suggest ‘dry cleaning’ bikes–cleaning with a dry towel.  And the gents at This Bike is F&*#$@ have recently suggested both dry cleaning and cleaning your chain with oil, instead of solvent.  So this past weekend, I undertook a bike cleaning experiment.


Note: I had tried a ‘wet’ petroleum based lube on the chain, and really, really don’t like the results.  Back to dry/wax based lubricants for me.

The cleaning method I’d normally use would be to get a wet rag, use some water to wet down big dirty areas, spray mud with a little highly diluted simple green, and wipe down the frame.  Then, use a Park Tool degreaser bath machine on the chain, followed by a spray with degreaser on the cassette and chainrings, followed by brushing those chain areas with a stiff-bristled brush.  Get everything clean, then wipe down the dirty areas of the frame (those that got dirty during chain cleaning) with a washcloth wet down with simple green.  Then, lube chain…let sit overnight…and then wipe off excess lube.

The cleaning method I tried this time was different.  I started with a dry cloth rag, and wiped off the worst dirt and mud.  After that, I wet a cloth rag and wiped down the whole frame.  Then, I wiped down the chain with a rag that had been lubed with oil, which took a lot of the grime off.  But try as I might, I couldn’t get the chain and drivetrain clean.  So I tried a new method: compressed air.

Using my air compressor, I carefully cleaned off each chain link and the cassette and chainrings.  Then, I relubed the chain and drivetrain.  Results?


I’m very, very happy with the cleaning results.  We’ll see how well the cleaning holds up.  I’m well aware that the compressed air could blow lube out of the chain, and tried to avoid that.  At the very least, I’m pretty darn sure that the compressed air would not force contaminants into the roller pins, like a degreaser bath could.  The overall bike cleaning went pretty well, although it’s a lot easier to wash a wet bike than it is to wash a dry bike.  For example, if you look at the last picture, you can see areas behind the chainring that I couldn’t/didn’t reach.

We’ll see how it goes…I’ll post an update in a while, after evaluating how this holds up.


4 thoughts on “Dry Cleaning. (Bikes).

  1. The old air compressor always works well, i have always wanted to make an attachment like the park chain tool cleaner that quick connects to the hose and is more closed. One of these days i will get around to that idea.
    On pavement i always thought the pro-tour teams wet tactics were interesting.
    Lube with a layer of grease over the top to hold everything in. Some teams just use a thicker lube, you just really have to work it down into the roller/pins since the surface tension is that much stronger, but straight up grease on a chain, wild.

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