Regular quick washing and some very quick maintenance will make any bike run better and help spot issues more quickly.
Don't use washing up liquid as it contains powerful salts etc which whilst cleaning the muck of the bike will steadily strip the protection from the paint. Don't bother with the overpriced specialist bike cleaners either.
Do use a decent quality car shampoo will do fine & is a lot cheaper.
Don't use a jet wash or high power hose & just blast the muck off as you will also wash any lube or grease out of bearings.
Do use a nice car wash brush with long soft bristles. Cloths and sponges are good too, but I find a brush is quicker & easier and long bristles can get to some of the nooks better.
- Don't be afraid to use plenty of hot water
- Start from the front of the bike at the handlebars, and work down the front of the bike and the left hand front forks. Ensure you get the inside edge of the fork, and clean the brakes.
- Clean the front mudguard (if fitted)
- Wash the front wheel and tyre including tread & sidewalls, giving the forks a good wash with the brush.
- Work back along the frame cleaning the left side & always working from the top down. I.e Top tube, then seat tube, then downtube ending up at the bottom bracket.
- Clean the left crank and pedal. Using a brush with long soft bristles lets you get into the nooks where you couldn't get fingers and cloths.
- Clean down the left hand seat stay, and brakes. Also wash any rack and mudguards that may be fitted.
- Clean the lefthand chain stay, making sure you get underneath and behind the bottom bracket.
- Wash the left hand side of the rear wheel and tyre, including the tread and sidewalls, and spokes.
- Repeat the process on the right hand side of the bike, ensuring that you wash the rear of the chainset.
- A long bristled brush will let you clean the freewheel cassette, and also the gear mechs thoroughly.
Once cleaned, let the bike dry for a short while if possible then
- Check all the brake and gear cables for any fraying, or cracks or kinks in the outer cables
- Squeeze the brakes and ensure that they release fully and are not sticking.
- Ensure that brakes are well adjusted and take up any slack. Brake blocks wear like soap in the winter and may need adjusting or even replacing more often than in the summer.
- Lubricate the chain with a good quality "wet lube". "Wet lubes" are designed to be more resistant to being washed off by rain etc.
- Don't use GT85 on a chain in the winter, or even worse WD40 (which will strip lubricant from the chain). You don't need to put loads on. Just a drop on a number of links and spin the pedals backwards to spread the lube thinly and evenly. Any more will just make you and the bike oily and mucky.
- Cover the rear wheel behind and below the rear mech with newspaper or similar and put a few squirts of GT85 or similar teflon lube on the mech hinges, and also into the centre of the jockey wheels.
- Do similar for the front mech (if you have one).
Then go ride it and get it mucky again