SATURDAY MAY 20 / 2017 / by Andrew Talati

One dirty bike

Dirty bike before cleaning without water and chemicalsOne dirty bike caked in mud and road grime

This is my old bike that has plenty of white paintwork; the natural enemy of dirt. After a morning ride it's covered in a thick layer of road grime and dirt. I was a purist when it came to cleaning my bike but relented after years of hearing riders speaking of the wonder of baby wipes.

Whether you live in an apartment, are travelling, have limited time or access to an outdoor area to clean your bike the traditional way with water and various contraptions to clean your drive train, you can always resort to using wipes.

1.Getting the major stuff off after riding in the wet

Industrial Strength Heavy Duty WipesNo shortage of suppliers including major hardwear chains

Depending on whether you were riding in the rain you can do a major wipe over with the industrial size cloth (this was recommended from a local bike shop). Typically, you can buy these at your local supermarket and they include brand names such as Chux super wipes, Scotch Brite or the major supermarkets home brand that looks deceptively similar to my product from Bunnnings.

The great thing is these are re-usable so a good tick for the environment but the road grime will be washed down your sink.

Also wipe your tyres, rims and perform the unspeakable, turn your bike upside down to clean the underside of the bottom bracket and chain stays.

Note: You are rubbing the fine particles over your paint work so care is to be taken to avoid giving your duco a quick sanding with the cloth.

2.The minor clean/sweep over

Bike cleaning wipes

Now the major gunk has been removed, you can use the baby wipes or Wet Ones. Personally, I prefer the latter as they contain some secret solvents that miraculously remove the staining caused by oil and ride grime.

You will need to use 2 -3 wipes so it’s a balance between more landfill with some contamination from road grime versus the water leeching into your garden and storm water drains (using a house and bucket).

3.The drive train

BBQ wipes for bike cleaning

Without doubt I found Selleys BBQ wipes (available from most hardware stores) are hard to beat. Their textured surface together with the next level up of solvents is great stuff to clean your chain, rear cassette and chainrings.

Bike cleaning utensilsVarious utensils including a cooking skewer, tooth brush and specific bike cleaning tools

I recommend using Mitrile Soft Examination gloves, I managed to hunt these down 10 years ago from a major medical supplier but now a days just consult Google and a plethora of online vendors will be happy to oblige.

Cleaning your chainrings with a scraperUsing a specific tool helps get into those hard to access places without removing the chainrings

Close of chainrings during cleaning processAfter using the scrapper, use the tooth brush or similar type of tool to remove the finer bits

Use the various tools to clean the jockey wheels of the rear derailleur, chainrings and the cassette.

Not great environmentally, again a balance between landfill with more contaminents versus deposing of the chain cleaning fluid containing oil.

Cleaned chain detail of chain linksCleaned Chainrings and chain

Tip: Using one hand, hold the pedal crank arm m while grabbing the chain with the BBQ wipe and proceed to wipe away from the chainring, make sure you repeat the process for the underside and side of each section of chain. Presto - one shiny chain!

4.Wheels off

To get to the brake pads, the seat stays, the rear of the seat post (near the rear wheel) and the bottom bracket it’s best to also remove the wheels.

Cleaning the cassette After using the cloth you will need to use a brush to remove the finer cloth filaments

Tip: To clean throughly between each cog of the cassette, fold the BBQ wipe in half and by grabbing each corner, you can apply tension to the folded section and run the folded wipe between each cog.

5.Wheels back on - final wipe

You will inevitably have some grease/oil residue that leaves the confines of the BBQ Wipe and makes its way onto your frame so, using the Wet Ones, perform a final wipe down of the bike including the braking service of the rims, spokes and the hubs.

6.Leather/material bits

Citris Cleaner for bar tapeCitris cleaner is available at most supermarkets, hardwear shops and $2 shops too

If you have white/coloured handle bar tape and seat, you may wish to give it a quick once over using a solvent such as a Citrus Cleaner. This product was again recommended by my local bike shop from the $2 shop and works perfectly.

The caveat though is to be vigilant with regular cleaning from day one of adding your new bar tape.  If you let it go for months, it’s going to the next level of solvent that will melt the plastic on your hoods (joking).


Give the chain a quick re-lube; the beauty of the wiping versus the complete washing in a bath of chemicals is your chain’s connecting pins still maintain oil as you have only performed a surface clean. Anecdotally I can say that since adopting this technique I haven't experienced any greater wear on my chain. I still replace my chain at the same intervals and it doesn't jump on the rest cassette (just my experience only

One clean bike

One clean bike