Sunday, March 30, 2008

Make Your Bike Faster! UPDATED!

When you get your hands on a brand new bike the suspension is plush, the gears are smooth and the whole machine just feels great. How do we keep this level of performance? The answer largely comes to keeping it clean. When we ride off road, abraisive dirt and grime attatches itself to your bike, concentrating in and around the moving parts, accelerating wear and decreasing performance. When the drivetrain and moving pars are free of cruddy dirt, the chain and derailleurs dont have to work as hard to change gears, the dust seals on your bearings and suspension are under less pressure and your bike looks nicer! Here's how to do it:

Tools of the trade

  • bucket
  • warm water
  • garden hose
  • simple detergent (I like to use dishwashing liquid)
  • sponge
  • stiff bristled brush (eg. washing up brush)
  • any other brushes that you see fit (eg. tooth brush to get into the nooks and crannies)

- give your bike a quick rinse with the garden hose to remove most of the loose debris. It is important that the water pressure is no more than a rainshower as high pressure water will force past the seals in your suspension, hubs, bottom bracket and headset, damaging the components (see useful hints for a way to give these parts extra protection).

- put some detergent and warm water an a bucket and begin to sponge bath the bike, from top to bottom. clean down the suspension sliders and around the headset, not forgeting the bottom bracket. Sponge down the rims and hubs as well. Using one hand to hold the cranks steady, scrub the rear cassette cogs and then move onto the front chainrings. While your bending over, scrub the chain, front and rear derailleurs as well as the pedals.

- now that your bike is covered in soapy suds, grab the garden hose and begin to rinse it off. Remember to keep the pressure low.

- now that the bike is sparkling clean, bounce or shake it a couple of times to rattle of most of the water. You may also like to wipe it down with a dry towel. Alternitavely you can take it for a brisk 1-2 minute ride to blow the water off, however this may cause dirt to fly from the tyres onto the bike again.

- when the bike is dry, lubricate the chain and cables appropriately

Useful hints

  • Aim to clean your bike after about every 2-3 hours of riding
  • you can easily clean down your suspension sliders with a rag or with the back of your gloves which will reduce pressure on the dust seals

  • most mountain bikes these days have pretty decent seals on the bearings, however if you are paranoid that water will force through, tie some rags around them for extra protection.

  • you can use degreaser on your chain and cogs to make the drivetrain extra clean. Aim to keep it on the chain and cogs only to prevent it getting into any sealed units.

  • don't put any chamicals (lubricant, degreaser etc) on the brake pads or braking surfaces as this will contaminate them, greatly reducing brake performance.

Having a clean bike feels great and will increase it's life dramatically.


  1. hey,
    i usually wipe my bike down with a rag to clean it, but i gave your method a go and what a difference! the gears are running so much better and the bike looks cleaner aswell.
    thanks for the tip!

  2. best way to a clean, detailed bike.
    Spray TFR solution on the wheels and underside of the frame, allow 10 mins for it to soak in.
    rinse off the bike with a low-pressure hose.
    get a bucket of wash & wax mix (use decent stuff such as MER, Auto Glym, Meguiars etc...) and sponge-wash the bike, starting on the frame, saddle, handles then wheels and chainset. rinse the bike again.
    Chamois the bike dry, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies.
    identify any light scratches and use a G3 or Tcut paste to lift them off. don't go too heavy, and don't do the whole bike. buff it off.
    use some high-quality wax polish such as Auto Glym High-definition wax, and give the whole frame and wheels a good, even coating. allow a few minutes to dry, then buff it off with a microfibre cloth. don't use circular motion, keep it in nice, straight lines.
    - the bike will look good by now, but get some Silvo/Brasso on the chrome and bare metal, and it will look FANTASTIC!

    i've been a professional detailer for a long time now, and for this to be done by someone in my profession, it'll set you back around £75, so it's always cool to try it out for yourself ;)