When I’m riding on off-road trails I enjoy getting my bikes as filthy as possible—the more mud the bigger the smile. However, I never put a dirty bike back on the storage racks. When a bike is in my garage I want it looking like new, even if it is ten years old. A reader to this blog suggested I write an article on how to wash and wax your bike. I am going to describe the process I use at the moment, but please be aware that I am always trying out new products and the one suggested in this article are “subject to change without notice.”
Before you can wax your bike you have to clean it first. While there are many good products you can use to wash your bike at the moment I am using Dawn dishwashing liquid—the same stuff many of your use to wash your dishes. Dawn does a great job of cutting through grease and grime. I just squirt a small amount of Dawn into a bucket before I add the water and then as I fill the bucket the suds form. Using a soft brush I gently scrub the frame, rims and tires of my bike. With a gentle rinse the dirt should fall of your bike (don’t ever use a high-pressure washer on your bike or you will drive dirt and water into places that will cause you trouble in the future). Now dry the bike off with a cotton cloth (an old T-shirt will do). If your drivetrain still looks grimy it might be a good time to clean your chain with White Lighting Clean Streak Dry-Degreaser. After your chain is clean apply a layer of White Lightning Clean Ride self-cleaning wax lube.
I use Dawn to clean the bike, but it does absolutely nothing to make a bike shine. If your bike is several years old I would suggest you use Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound on the frame to remove scratches in the paint and smooth out the finish. If you have any chrome on your bike you can use a bit of Brasso Multi Purpose Metal Polish to make it shine (even though Brasso changed their formula a few years ago I still use their product, but the old formula was a lot better). After everything is clean apply a coat of Turtle Wax Super Hard Shell Paste Wax and your frame should look like new.
If you apply a good paste wax to your bike every year you will find it is a lot easier to keep it clean. When I get home from a ride I usually wipe the bike off with a Grease Monkey Wipe to remove dust and road grime. If the bike is really dirty I use a Veloshine Bike Wipe—a large, heavy-duty cleaning cloth that quickly takes mud and sand off a bike and leaves it with a decent shine. If your bike needs “brightening up” you can always spray on a bit of Sunlite Bicycle Pro Polish (available at your local bike shop). This polish leaves a slick film that helps prevent dirt build-up on frame and is safe for metal, carbon fiber, plastic, rubber, and vinyl. However, you need to keep it away from disc brake rotors.
One other quick tip: If some of the paint has chipped off the frame your local bike shop can sometimes find a bottle of touch-up paint to match. If they can’t match your paint a good alternative is to use acrylic fingernail polish (if you need help matching the color you should ask your wife or significant for assistance). Give the acrylic nail polish several days to set and then seal it with a coat of paste wax.