Introduction: Zen and the Art of Small Apartment Bike Cleaning

About: Product designer, multi media artist, cyclist, nomad dad.

With this simple and efficient small apartment bike cleaning guide you'll be surprised how easily you can keep your mechanical steed clean and oiled when the elements take their toll. 

In this 'ible I'll show you how I clean my bike after it's been raining for weeks and the caked on mud is sure to lead to grinding damage to the components.

It was late night when I cleaned my bike and realized I should share what I did after I cleaned the bike so the images in this 'ible are re-enacted. The only hint of how dirty the bike was is in the image showing the underside of the saddle.

Where in the Apartment?
Anywhere with tile or waterproof / easy to clean floor. I used my kitchen but you may want to use your balcony, bathroom, or even the hallway outside your micro domicile. 

Step 1: What You'll Need

  • 2 Wash Basins (wide and shallow is best)
  • Biodegradable Single Use Scrub Brush 
  • Pre Soaped Rag (Makes for easier cleaning later, not shown in image)
  • Hot Soapy Water 
Collect your cleaning supplies, we won't be oiling the components in this instructable, I do that outside and take the bike for a ride to help the oil set before bringing the bike back into the apartment.

Step 2: Keeping the Mess Contained

I started at the rear and worked my way to the front, in hindsight I should've started at the front wheel and worked my way back so that's how I'll structure this 'ible. Moving from cleanest to dirtiest keeps things as clean as possible. 

As you move from front to back on your bike place the wheels in the largest basin so that you catch as much nasty runoff and splash as possible. Be sure when you move to the cranks that you move the basin under the cranks, same goes for gears.

Step 3: Scrub Your Front Wheel

After soaking the scrub brush in the hot soapy water proceed to clean every part of the wheel. As we aren't doing a deep clean we dont need to remove the wheel and rebuild the hub, simply run your brush over every surface, pay close attention to the hub and edge of the rim where it meets the rubber tire. Keeping the tire/rim contact surface clean will prolong the life of your tires. Also clean the braking surface where road oil and work break pad rubber builds up. 

Mindful Cleaning
While moving your brush across your rims inspect them and contemplate the miles they've carried you and the times they may have saved your life. Or perhaps the impeccable aerodynamic engineering and workmanship that goes into a decent pair of rims. As you move up the fork after completing one side of the rim/wheel be sure to look and clean your front break from all angles, especially the underside which collects most of the debris. 

As you clean the front break check your wheel is true by spinning it between the break pads and checking for wobble. Rinse your brush often and proceed to the next side of the rim/wheel then continue down the frame letting the runoff drip into the catch basin. 

Step 4: Frame to Crank

Focus on the underside of the frame and seatpost. Then move your basin from under the front wheel to below the crank set and pedals. Proceed to clean the front derailer (if you have one) and the point of contact between water bottle holders and frame. 

Thoroughly scrub your cranks and try to get into all the nooks and crannies between the crank and frame. If your chain is particularly dirty this is the time to give your chain and pre deep clean scrub down. Scrub both sides of the chain while rotating the pedals until the entire chain has been covered. Again, this will quickly dirty the brush so be sure to soak the brush back in the hot soapy solution regularly. 

Step 5: Rear Hub and Wheel

Next prop the rear gear assembly over the soapy water and clean thoroughly paying attention to all space between the gear teeth and the gears themselves. Thoroughly scrub all moving parts inside and out of the rear derailer. There was all kinds of mud, hair, etc in my chain tensioner which quickly came loose after a couple once overs with the scrub brush. 

Move the basin under the rear wheel and proceed to clean the wheel, hub and brake following the same mindful cleaning process as we practiced on the front wheel. We're nearly done and this process is quick, easy and simple to clean up after. 

Step 6: Wipe Down

The wipe down dries the bike and picks up what the scrub brush and hot soapy water have now had time to break down. Run the cloth over the rims, frame, cranks, brakes, and derailers.

Finally get a very dry cloth and dry the rear tire so you don't leave a trail as you move the bike back wherever you keep it. You're nearly done and you're bike is ready for it's oil bath. 

Step 7: Final Cleanup

Once your bike is put aside you're left with an easy clean up. The basins caught most of the debris and runoff and the tile cleans up quick with an easy wipe down. 

Dealing with Waste
I poured the dirty soapy water into an empty 5L plastic bottle for disposal. The biodegradeable scrub brush will be buried in the compost and the buckets will be cleaned while the dirty rag is cleaned. Once the rag is clean and wrung out I used it to clean the floor and cleaned it one more time and left it soaking in fresh hot soapy water. 

Usefull and related Instructables
How to Clean your Chain
Old Bike Freewheel Cleaning

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