When I picked up my first bike at a garage sale last summer I was happy to have a bike finally but was quite bummed by all of the rust on the nuts and bolts – pretty much standard for a bike that’s been sitting outside. Fortunately, two weeks later I had my 3700 and unlike the first bike, it was maintained well. Same with the Cannondale, even though that bike was more than 21 years old when I bought it, a little spit an polish and it looked pretty good. The Trek took a little bit more love than that, but it polished up the best of all three. You should be able to see from the photos I snapped in my office, I hate a dirty bike.
That being said, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to clean a bike. First of all, if I’m starting off with a relatively clean bike to begin with, a damp soft cloth is more than enough to get it pretty, quickly. If I’ve got some road grime to get off, I’ll put it up on my homemade bike stand and rinse it down to get it wet (no water jets and absolutely NO power washers, a gentle rain at most taking care to stay away from the hubs, headset and cassette). From there, a mild dish soap in a bucket of lukewarm water and a soft bristle brush works just fine. After the rinse, I use the Park Tool Chain Cleaner… Some people disagree with its use or necessity and they have dozens of ideas as to why it shouldn’t be needed, and that’s all good but I’ve got a day job and I don’t have time to tinker with an old toothbrush, degreaser and my chain for an hour when I can use a chain cleaner and get the same job done in two minutes. The point is it works, and fast. From there, another rinse and a nice towel dry and I’m ready to lube the chain. Now, I’m not even going to jump in on the fracas that comes with choosing chain lube so I’ll simply say I use the best one that my LBS recommends. With that nebulously cleared up, I’ll usually let the bike sit for a while so the degreaser can dry up before lubing the chain. I’ll concentrate the lube on the rollers as is the usual instruction, then let the chain sit while I wipe the cassette clean with a soft cloth. That makes the cassette shine. From there, I squirt a little chain lube on my forefinger and thumb and hit all of the exposed cables followed by a small squirt on the moving parts of the derailleurs. Then I wipe all of the metal parts with a dry, clean cloth.
Oh, one cool tip that I learned recently – if you chip the paint and can’t get touch-up paint (it’s surprisingly difficult) or you have a tough color to match, and my Trek is really tough (a deep red with orange metallic flake)…use nail polish. I also heard about model paint and talked that over with Matt at the bike shop – he sticks with the nail polish because it dries faster and won’t run. The look on my wife’s face was pretty awesome when I started inquiring about where I could get some funky colored nail polish.