Bright and Shiny

I have friends who wash their bikes once a year whether they need it or not. I, on the other hand, tend to be a little more compulsive about these kinds of things and wash my bikes on a fairly regular rotation about once every 3-4 weeks. It’s a chance to go over the bikes and check for any potential issues before they lead to being stranded on the side of the road. Plus, clean bikes are more enjoyable to repair than dirty bikes. Truth be told though, mostly I do it just because bright and shiny bikes make me happy.

This afternoon there was a little hint of fall in the air. We had blue skies and 80 degrees with a wonderful breeze out of the south coming up from the delta. It was an absolutely lovely afternoon to take the bikes out back and give them a good cleaning and going over. The only thing better would have been a bike ride, but we already did that earlier today in the cool of the morning.

15 Responses to “Bright and Shiny”

  • Molnar says:

    “This afternoon fall was in the air. We had blue skies and 80 degrees …” You Californians don’t know the meaning of Fall. (Alright, I was born in San Francisco, and my father’s father’s father was a 49er – you know, the real kind. Still, …) I’m a lazy bum who tries to keep the drivetrain in good condition, but I figure the dirt on the frame helps break up the turbulance and make the bike go faster. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

  • Alan says:

    Hey, there are no value judgements here about grime or shine – whatever makes you happy!

    It isn’t really fall out there yet, but I just caught a glimpse of it in angle of the light, and a little whiff of it in the air. Mostly I’m ready for summer to be over…

  • Dottie says:

    I’m one of the once-a-year type people. My poor bikes! I have the task on my to-do list, but so many other tasks keep jumping priority – like watching Mad Men or blogging :)

  • ksteinhoff says:

    We have changing colors down here to signal the change of seasons in South Florida.

    Fall is when we see the first Canadian license tag. South Ill. tags show up at the start of winter. When you see the first North Carolina tag, then you know you’re well into winter.

    Reverse the colors in the spring.

  • 2whls3spds says:

    Spending a bit of time in the Twin Cities…fall isn’t in the air yet, but it is just around the corner. As far as cleaning bikes, depends on the bike. Most get a wipe down after a ride and a thorough cleaning a couple of times a year. Most of mine are Vintage and shiny chrome is good.


  • bongobike says:

    Another member of the once-a-year club…

  • Random Ray says:

    Good for you Alan somebody 50 years from now may get to enjoy your bike too . On the other hand my current bike is going to be recycled before then . I wash it when it’s raining , lube it once a day . Most of my rides involve loaded touring also , very hard on even a good bike . I have a 46 year three speed that is all bright and shiny and I never take it out in the rain , for my town cruising .

  • Kevin Kavanagh says:

    Re. Random Ray’s “I have a 46 year three speed…”

    I’m just about to invest in a 30-year-old Raleigh three speed for use as a commuter bike. It’ll set me back about $50. This is so I won”t have to spend as much time cleaning the drive trains on my more expensive, non-internal hub bikes, which collect filth in the nasty rainy months where I live. I like a spotlessly clean bike when I can manage it, but it’s a losing battle come November. The Raleigh, as pretty as it is (it’s in really great shape), may have to be sacrificed to the elements so that others may live.


  • robert johnson says:

    Here in Portland, keeping a bike clean for about 10 months a year would involve either not riding it or cleaning it everynight in the kitchen/garage or some interior space. I too am going the 3 speed route for commuting, the Xtracycle gets absolutely filthy with all those bags and such and will only come out for grocery shopping. I am seriously thinking about a box bike
    so that the cargo compartment can be protected from the elements. With a couple of drain holes in the box you could just hose the dirt off periodically. I am embarrassed to say I have bikes that have not been cleaned in years, and I think lubing chains regularly is a total waste of time causing more gunk to stick to the chain which then gets spread onto clothes, legs the couch etc.. I have friends who only lube their chains once a year, wipe of all excess lube and are keeping their bikes much cleaner as a result. This is an idea that I am warming up to and their is some logic to really staying away from so much lubrication on the drivetrain, using very full fender sets (2 rear fenders as opposed to the tiny one in the front). Us wet climate folks have bikes that look different than those in the southern latitudes.


  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Beautiful photo as usual, Alan. Your colors there seem to mirror ours here in the northern Adirondacks. One color is different, though — those cool Kool Stops. I’ve GOT to install mine…

  • Jeff says:

    I want a Long Haul Trucker. Clean, dirty, blue, green, new, used, I don’t care but it WILL happen. P.S. Don’t mention this in front of my One Way!

  • Adam says:

    Can you describe your cleaning process for those not so accustomed? What kind of cleaner do you use? Very much enjoy your site.

  • Alan says:

    Hey Adam,

    It’s simple and just takes a few minutes. I have a bucket and a soft sponge just for the purpose. I pour a little Simple Green in the bucket, fill it about half way with warm water, then give the bikes a quick once-over. I then rinse with a garden hose and dry with an old bath towel. I have a couple of old plastic produce bags I place over the saddles to keep them from getting wet, and I’m careful to never spray high pressure water directly toward any bearing races.

    Once the bikes are clean, I’ll lube the chains, then hit the discs and rim surfaces with a cloth dampened with a little metal prep, just to be sure there’s no soap residue on the braking surfaces. Yesterday I cleaned and lubed two bikes and it took less than 15 minutes, start to finish.

    I hope that helps!


  • Andrew Priest says:


    Spring here and Sir Lancelot got his regular winter 500 km service on Sunday plus a spring bonus of a polish :) Lucky boy.


  • Rick Steele says:

    Hey Alan, need you to come to the shop some time to clean some of the clunkers my customers drag in. No 15 minute clean-ups here. LOL! I can’t believe some of them are actually ridden vs. the common sat in the garage for four years.


    PS. Great pict!

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