Step 1 in clean up: knock off the big stuff. Photo: Dave Trumpore
A clean bike is a fast bike is a quiet bike is a...and so it goes, something like that. Depending on who you talk to, you'll hear more passionate opinions related to how and how often one should polish their bike than on e-bikes and land access in America. Nevertheless, after getting out on the trails, it's inevitable that you're going to need to clean things up at least once in a while to keep your bike operating as it should.
While a lot of it is dependent on where and how often you ride, a periodic washing can go beyond knocking the filth off and prolonging the life of your parts. It's also quality personal time spent with your bike learning its nuances, fine-tuning and inspecting it for any potential issues that could leave you stranded trailside on a future excursion.
Personally, I end up hosing a bike off every ride or three, depending on how mucky it is out. I wipe down and lube the chain every ride. A full cleaning happens about half as often. There are a lot of fancy bike specific products out there I've used that work really well, along with some bottles of what might as well be snake oil, claiming to get the mud off of your bike without having to scrub at all. *I have yet to see one that actually works.
A lot of what I and many people I know use comes down to personal preference or what the bike shop has in stock. It also depends on whether you have access to a water source and where you store your bike. Most of the time, I use whatever degreaser is laying around to scrub the drivetrain and then Dawn dish soap (one $5 bottle lasts a year) and a soft brush on the bike.
How often do you break out the cleaning supplies? Share your tips, tricks, best, and worst advice below.