Whether or not you believe a clean bike matters probably will influence your feelings about VeloShine Bike Wipes. On the one hand, most people would prefer to ride a clean bike rather than a dirty one. And it’s not hard to have a bias against racing behind someone with months of crust built up on their ride. But, is a clean bike more important than watching the Giro, cleaning the house, or taking care of the kids? We used to ride with a guy who always managed to have a sparkling bike on messy winter rides. When every other bike appeared to have been ridden over all the pave sectors of a particularly messy Roubaix, this guy looked like he got a spare bike from the team car after the Mons-en-Pévèle. His bike looked great, and inspired a little jealousy, though we couldn’t imagine the upkeep necessary to have our rides looking so good.
Enter baby wipes. As much as we love rags because they’re already recycled and towels because they’re washable, baby wipes seem to clean anything and everything. If you’ve never experienced the glory of the disposable soft cloths, you owe it to yourself to buy a pack. Better yet, cadge one off a friend with little kids. One of the ways Costco is taking over the world is the bulk sales of Kirkland Baby Wipes–your baby-equipped friend probably has a pack to spare.
When we first saw the Bike Wipes, we immediately thought of our experiences cleaning with baby wipes. They feel the same, thanks to VeloShine’s use of a biodegradable rayon fiber—similar in feel to the biodegradable Tencel fabric Kirkland uses. The primary ingredients in both are water, then propylene glycol. Both have aloe, citric acid, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, polysorbate 20, and a few other things.
Baby wipes were indeed an inspiration, but they are not the same. The Bike Wipes are thicker and bigger. Baby wipes measure 7.1 inches by 7.9 inches. Bike wipes measure 8 inches by 11 inches. VeloShine used a quilted pattern, whereas you can often see the weave in baby wipes. We’re told some baby wipes have talcum powder in them; that, among other things, can leave a residue on a bike. And bike wipes, being hypoallergenic, can be used on people, which we found handy during cyclocross season.
We prefer a clean bike to a dirty one, and now that we’re riding a white frame, dirt really shows up faster. Fine road dust, which was hard to spot on our old navy blue frame, is readily apparent on a white downtube. Cleaning takes time, especially if we’re washing and then hosing off the frame. While wiping down the bike seems shorter, it’s still time we’d rather use for something else. And two to three wipes per cleaning, as suggested, after every ride seemed a bit excessive. With 18 wipes in a bag, that’s six to nine cleanings per package. Still, we were game to try.
The two-to-three wipe recommendation comes from VeloShine’s founder. His cleaning routine is as follows. ‘I clean the tape, I clean the frame, I clean the wheels; even on a dry day you pick up dirt. Since the wipe is large, I can clean good underneath the components. I lube my chain before every ride and after every ride I remove excess gunk. In two years, I haven’t had to use any degreasers on my bike. As long as it’s fresh dirt, there’s enough solvent to clean it up.’
The routine makes sense to us, though we don’t lube our chains that regularly. All the same, we followed his routine minus the pre-ride lube. With only a little thinking, we were typically able to use one wipe per bike per ride. And a mildly dirty bike typically took a bit under four minutes for us to clean. We started with the bars, then saddle, then the frame tubes starting with the head tube and working back to the dropouts. Moved onto the components, the rims, the tires, then finally the chain.
He warns that a long-neglected bike will take more work. Our commuter is one that is ridden but neglected. Can’t remember the last time we cleaned it. After a gritty ride on the commuter, we pulled out the Bike Wipes, and it did fine with one wipe as well. We also cleaned our recently-tweaked, and now destined for the recycling bin, racing frame. It had gone to a dirty race already dirty, got even dirtier, was destroyed there, and we didn’t clean it because there was no reason. After a month of sitting, we took a wipe and went over every tube. Even the finely compacted dirt that had been sitting under and around the front derailleur clamp and underneath the water bottle cages came off easily and quickly. And, yes, the wipes can be used on your body. They’re fine for freshening up after a ride or race if you don’t have a shower or baby wipes handy.
One of our concerns is the environmental aspect of Bike Wipes. It’s the price, packaging, and shipping of cleaning stuffs when most of us are making our own rags just by wearing out regular clothing. The founder of VeloShine sees his product as superior than anything you can put together at home because using Bike Wipes doesn’t entail extra water usage, doesn’t use harsh chemicals—everything you use, no matter what it is or how you use it eventually gets in the water table. The solvents they use are plant-based. The cloth is corn cellulose. And quantities are controlled, rather than leaving it up to the user to decide how much stuff to spray.
The solvents, for those who are concerned about keeping their bikes looking pristine over a long, long time, are probably more gentle than cleaning products typically available to the public. Bike Wipes were specifically designed to be gentle on bike and component finishes, be they painted, clear-coated, or nude.
VeloShine is trying to get a green seal, some kind of environmental certification, for their Bike Wipes. Even though they realize that such things are kind of meaningless, as there’s relatively little regulation in this realm, they want to call attention to their green efforts.
We see the wipes being good for people who literally live with their bikes, be it in their house, apartment, car, or hotel room. It’s also good for people who want to have a fast, handy way, to clean the bike before stuffing into an interior space that is not primarily designed for bikes. The non-cyclists in our lives will probably excuse our fastidiousness if they see a benefit for them.