Zefal Bike Wash is one of those labour saving bike shampoos reckoned to transform bikes from scuzzy to sparkling with minimal effort and without damaging delicate surfaces. The French marque has gone for a rather distinctive blue, but otherwise it does much the same job and to a similar standard as competitor formulas.
Zefal refers to the Bike Wash as an alkaline liquid containing nonionic surfactants and sequestering agents. Put simply, these burrow beneath the grot, dissolving it on a molecular level, so it flushes away without trace during the rinsing phase. Apparently, this blend also leaves a dirt-repelling, protective glossy film behind afterwards. More about that in a minute...
Pop bike(s) in your designated washing spot, flick the nozzle open and cover them in that sudsy blanket. Leave for 30 seconds or so, then get busy with your bucket, brush and sponge.
Visually it's a comparatively lively brew, so I was surprised to discover impacted horse manure and other organic gloop requiring second and sometimes third helpings. Swapping the OEM trigger for one with a foaming function delivered a richer, seemingly more potent lather.
Strangely enough, it worked much faster on simple petrochemicals – mineral oil chain lube spatter and home brewed internal frame preserves that had reverted to liquid state in summer's heat. That grimy patina that quickly accumulates in pale bar wraps (especially when the odd roadside mechanical is thrown into the equation) was dismissed with similar panache.
More generous helpings and extending waiting times by a minute or so hasn't dulled or left unsightly streaks in enamel/two-pack paints. Overall results on polished, gloss or satin finishes are pretty sharp.
Several weeks in, I'm prepared to accept something has been lost in translation from French to English, because I'm not convinced by the corrosion-inhibiting prowess of the film it supposedly imparts. It might offer some defence against UV/similar oxidisation, but cheap electroplated fasteners still turned orange at the first hint of a puddle.
Some boutique brands I've used long-term (12 months or more) genuinely impart a rich glossy barrier that seems to offer decent protection from the salt monster, but cheap as chips car wash 'n' wax formulas often achieve better results.
Using the same techniques and standing times on matt finishes, which have become increasingly mainstream, the Zefal has done a reasonable job, but in common with other bike washes it leaves behind some glossy residual splodges. These were easily dismissed with a quick shot of matt protectant, then buffed with a soft cloth.
Overall performance seems on par with several household names, but some store-branded formulas represent much better value. True, they're a bit more aggressive to skin and finishes, but this isn't a problem as long as you wear gloves and don't extend waiting times.
Reasonably effective but otherwise unremarkable bike shampoo
road.cc test report
Make and model: Zefal Bike Wash
Size tested: 1L
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Zefal says: "Bike Wash is a special cleaning product that allows you to remove dirt from your bike whilst protecting delicate areas. The antistatic molecules leave a protective film that prevents dust (dirt or deposits) and gives a glossy finish to your frame. With no risk of rust, your bike will stay shiny after each use."
Does a reasonable job and leaves a streak-free shine on gloss/polished finishes. That said, it's not markedly better than a wealth of competitors, and judging by how fast some electroplated fasteners turned orange, I'm not sold on the corrosion inhibiting qualities.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Compositions: Alkaline liquid / Nonionic surfactants / Sequestering agents
By no means poor, just distinctly average.
Relatively kind to finishes and skin, although gloves would be a wise precaution with prolonged use and/or sensitive skin.
On par with some established brands but decidedly average alongside store branded fare that achieves similar results for considerably less.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Zefal bike wash is a decent enough, if unremarkable bike shampoo. On the plus side, it works better than might be expected on petrochemical gloop and achieves a decent, streak-free shine on gloss/polished surfaces. I'm not sold on the corrosion-inhibiting film it supposedly leaves behind, though, and many shop brands do much the same job for half the asking price.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Reasonably effective, intuitive to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
By no means a bad brew, just unremarkable in an over-crowded market.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? On balance, no.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not over anyone else's.
Use this box to explain your score
Middle of the road bike shampoo that does a reasonable job. Not obviously better than a wealth of similar and often cheaper formulas.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)