They say the world of cycling is split into two groups: those who clean their bike and those who do not. If you ride cyclocross, you have to become one of the former. There’s no getting around it. On some race days you will spend more time cleaning the bike afterwards than you actually spent racing — if you clean up properly, that is.
A lot of race organisers are generous enough to provide on-site high-pressure sprays, which riders can use to hose off the worst of the mud and gunge from their race machines. This is a good start, but you do have to be careful. The danger of these hoses is that you might shoot water into your bearings (cranks, freewheel and headset are all vulnerable) or even into the frame itself (through the cable guides) or even into the wheels (through the spoke or valve holes). So aim carefully. And, no, you’re not finished yet.
Once the race adrenalin has subsided and you’ve got your bike home, it’s time to get down to the real cleaning process. Don’t leave it to another day when the chain and cassette will be all rusted up: clean your bike on the same day as the race! One of the best accessories to help you really clean your bike after cyclocross is a workshop stand. A good stand holds the bike in just the right place for you to wash it down with soapy water (household washing up liquid is fine, but a budget car cleaning product is better) and a sponge. The most important advantage of a stand is that you can take the wheels out and really wash the frame and wheels carefully. Once the wheels are out, you may need another handy accessory: the chain keeper.
Not everyone has a workshop stand, and the old-school method of turning your bike upside down can work almost as well — just remember to protect your saddle and handlebar tape from the rough ground though. The chain keeper is also essential here, to keep your chain from drooping all over your frame and other places.
The rear and front derailleurs, the crank and the rear cassette all demand serious attention. You should aim for showroom sparkle after cleaning these, as cyclocross is hard enough without your gear system letting you down due to sloppy cleaning. Start by washing off the surface mud with either a bucket of soapy water or a garden hose set to a modest jet. Once you’ve got the worst off, we have one clear favourite cleaning product for our drivetrains: Cyclon Bionet Chain Cleaner. This stuff is the bomb. And it’s biodegradable! Spray it on, let it mix with the dirt for a while, and wash it off using an old toothbrush, old nailbrush or just a rag. And, no, they’re not paying us, nor do they even know us.
Cyclon Bionet Chain Cleaner will take off most of the filth and leave your cassette, derailleurs and crankset shining. But beware, these parts will also be stripped of all lubricant, due to the excellent de-greasing properties of this quality chain cleaner. So once you’re finished with your soapy water mix, we advise that you immediately use another classic product to make sure you stay rust-free.
Once you’ve rinsed off the clean drive train, we recommend spraying it with WD-40. We are aware that expert readers will know WD-40 is not really a lubricant, but a cleaning agent. So later you can apply your drivetrain lubricant of choice to finish it off. But before you overlook it, WD40 will get rid of the water. It’s in the name: Water Displacement, 40th formula. This means that WD-40 is designed to force any water away from your chain links, for example, and cover your valuable drive train bits with a thin layer of protection.
Once you’ve finished the drive train, you may proceed to the wheels (we recommend scrubbing the muddy tyres and brake blocks — if you still have rim brakes — with those inexpensive brushes marketed for cleaning car wheel rims). And then the frame. Again, generous amounts of soapy water on a sponge should be enough here. Pay attention to the bottom bracket area, and the chain stays, especially if you have removed the wheels. Also check for damage while you clean.
Nowadays even average cyclocrossers have disc brakes on their bikes. For these, you need to clean the brake shoes with a decent jet of water, and then sponge the outsides and discs with soapy water. Once rinsed clean again, shine a torch on the pads to make sure they still have some life in them. Don’t pull disc brake levers with the wheels out, or you will have a fight putting them back in. The pistons inside hydraulic brakes may stay extended and you will have to reset them. Now sit down and have a cup of coffee.
Once the washing is over, put the wheels back on the bike and then you can begin the drying and showroom-shine process. Seriously, arriving at the next race with your bike in tip-top shape can help you psychologically. Guaranteed. So, the final touches will require a microfibre cloth and then the magic product: silicon spray. Basically we spray it all over the bike, including in and around both disc and rim brakes. Yes, we know all the legal eagles at the giant corporations say this could be dangerous. But we do it anyway. So we are leaving it up to you to decide, just be careful. A quick test ride round the block will get rid of any excess. Now you’re ready for the next race, and you have certainly earned yourself a beer!