Total cost: $2.00 USD. You don't have to spend a lot of money to keep your bike looking new
You paid a lot of money for that new ride. You are rightfully proud of it, and people give you many a complement when you are out on the road. You want to keep it shiny, new, and happy. And, since bikes can be pretty darn expensive these days, the least we all can do is treat them with some respect, and keep them in the best mechanical and aesthetic condition possible.
And, now for a little bit of bad news. The world a bike must live in is very harsh, dirty, and nasty. It is as if every element in the universe is keen to take the sheen off of your ride and tone down its rolling awesomeness. Yes, by the sheer act of riding, our beautiful bikes can get very dirty. However, with a little active effort, they can be kept looking good for many, many miles. Here’s how I do it.
The key is to get your bike clean to the point that you can follow a simple, post-ride regimen to keep it there, that way you are not doing a major job everytime you turn around and look at it. For example, in less than a few minutes, I can wipe the chain, clean, and polish the bike, and it is ready to go for the next outing. If the bike is very dirty, it will require a hose-down, with soap and a scrubbing. No high-pressure washers, just a hose, some mild detergent (Dawn dish soap is very effective at removing grease and dirt), and a soft rag.
Once I get the bike to the point where it is clean, there are basically two schools of thought from here-on regarding a continuous cleaning schedule. First method is to use commercially available, bicycle specific products, which are nice and convenient, yet expensive. The other method, and the one I use, is to utilize everyday household products. They are readily available, effective, safe, and best of all, very, very cheap if procured with a little bit of forethought. What I have discovered through trial and error is that a combination of Mr. Clean in a spray bottle and simple furniture polish (like Lemon Pledge) works wonders on my bike.
Post ride, and after servicing and cleaning the chain (Chain Cleaning And Lubing: How To Ride More Efficiently, And Look Good While Doing it, Cycling Dynamics, 09-28-2013) I use the Mr. Clean sprayed onto a clean rag and wipe the bike free of dirt, grime, brake dust, chain lube, and the inevitable electrolyte spills from the water bottle. I also clean the controls, wheels, and my Microtex bar tape. I then use a clean micro-fiber cloth for the polishing. As with the cleaner step, I always spray the polish onto the rag, not onto the bike, as this would just cause over-spray mess and waste product. First the polish step, then the wipe-down with another micro-fiber cloth to complete the process to a high shine. Elapsed time: Less than five-minutes.
Three years-old, and it still looks as good as the day I bought it.
The results are fantastic, and the costs involved are minimal. The cleaner, polish, and micro-fiber cloths can all be had from your local discount store. I get my Mr. Clean, furniture polish, and micro-fiber’s (usually in a pack of three) from my local 99-Cent Store for a total cost of $3.00 USD. As for the cleaning rags, well, we all have rags lying around the house in the form of old cotton t-shirts, socks, sheets, and towels.
The cleaning regimen I use has been tried and tested, and not just on my own bike, but it was honed to a science on my motorcycle, my car, and yes, I have even utilized it on business jets I used to maintain for a living.