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Stupid bike cleaning question

I have two bikes and I confess I have never washed either of them.  Now I'm riding both regularly I feel like I should probably look after them a bit better but I've no idea where to start.

Is it just a case of chucking some water and washing up liquid over it?  Is it more complicated than that?

Do I really need loads of different products and specific bike cleaning brushes like the internet would have me believe?

Any advice gratefully received! :)
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    clean water and washing up liquid works just fine... that's what I do all mine with!...

    About the only exception if you want to be particularly fastidious, is a proper chain cleaner, but even that is far far from necessary.

    Just don't forget to put a little oil on the chain, cassette and derailleurs afterwards... and best to try and get it reasonably dry too, as some component, despite the prices can rust if left wet and in a shed!
    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
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    Stuff like Muc Off does make it a bit easier but as MC says - its not essential.

    I used car shampoo and a sponge for years and it works well.  What you do need to do in winter is get any salt off the bike or it will corrode any shiny alloy surfaces you have. Not cool at all !

    If your chain is oily and gritty it will wear your chainring and sprockets faster - so you may want to try to keep on top of that.  

    My new favourite shortcut is GT85 on a rag and run the chain through that. It will clean it up and lube it.  It doesn't last that long though but that means you arent running an oily dirty chain for weeks on end.

    And don't forget that cleaning it is when you can spot potential problems. 
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    edited February 2017
    Yep, I use GT85 too.... great stuff, but as Cougie says, needs doing every other ride... or every ride if its a long or wet one... but that's not a big deal, as it takes 30 seconds!
    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
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    Simple - only go out on nice, warm, sunny days - then it never gets dirty!!


    But I'm another fan of the chain cleaner, then spray with GT85 then a touch of lube. You can buy all three for less than 15 quid and they'll last for months, if not years.
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    White spirit is about the best cheap chain cleaner you can get.
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    Bob has said just what I was going to .. a quick rub down with baby wipes and him above is your Uncle too :smile:

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    Thanks everyone.  Baby wipes!  I don't know why I didn't think of that - I clean everything in my house with them!

    So clean it with soap and water or babywipes, then spray GT85 just on the chain?  Is that the lube or is that something else?  Is it instead of oil or as well? Or is it all the same thing?!  God, I'm so thick! :D

    Also, the guy in the bike shop said I need a stand to clean it as you can't turn bikes upside down.  Surely that's madness.  Why would I have to turn it upside down to clean it?  Why can't you turn a bike upside down, or is he just trying to sell me more stuff?
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    GT85 is a water dispersent oil, so nothing else needed.. as you say, a good clean and then GT85 on the chain... if you want a bit more longevity for the oil to avoid applying it so often, then buy a bike chain oil and use that instead of GT85... but GT85 comes highly recommended, is cheap and works well.

    As for the bike stand... the guy in your bike shop is pushing his luck with that one.... not only is it entirely possible to clean a bike without turning it upside down, even if you do so, about the only job you shouldn't do with the bike upside down is set up the gears (indexing the rear derailleur to be all bike poncy about it)... other than that, well....

    lets be honest.... its all prep for an Ironman on my 100th birthday
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    I've been turning my bike upside down for years. Just dont do it on rough surfaces - you don't want to damage the hoods and saddle. 
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    Thanks, I thought he may have been having me on!

    Thanks MC for explaining.  It's like a whole new language.  I'm off to find a cycling-English dictionary. :)
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    If I worked in a bike shop and spent a lot of my time cleaning and maintaining bikes, I'd probably think a bike stand was essential too, if only to keep everything at a nice workable height.  But for most of us they're not.  Handy if you're building up from a bare frame, and they certainly make setting indexing up properly a lot easier, but that's about it really.
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    As CD said a bike stand comes in very handy for cleaning and indexing. I also clamp a piece of wood in mine to use as a table for drinks, towel, remote controls etc. when on the turbo.
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