The M16 #Podium Stage System is a complete bike cleaning and polishing kit, developed by a motocrosser and engineer. There's everything here to clean, beautify and protect bikes and kit. Nigh-on £25 isn't cheap, but they're available separately and all are very effective and economical to use.
Extreme Bike Clean
Extreme Bike Clean is a double strength enzymatic bike wash designed to lift dirt, grime and grease. It's fully biodegradable, and I'm pleased to report it lives up to the hype, dismissing all sorts of cack from all your bike's surfaces with very little effort. So, what's all this enzymatic stuff then? Well, for those of you who were out on your bikes during chemistry lessons, these are biological compounds designed to break down fats, oils and greases.
Most household and bike/motorbike washes work to the same basic principles, although some act faster and can prove more caustic than others. Even though these are perfectly safe, the usual commonsense precautions (wash hands, don't drink, and keep away from children, pets and aquatic life) apply. Like everyone else's, the blurb says it's safe for all surfaces, including carbon fibre, aluminium, anodising and rubberised components, such as seals and tyres.
Modus operandi is slightly different. Having popped the bike(s) in their designated outdoor spot, start by giving them cold water pre-washes. This is good practice during the winter/early season in any case, since introducing hot water will simply accelerate the damage caused by road salt and similarly caustic spatter.
While they're dripping wet, flick the Extreme Bike Clean nozzle to spray/jet and apply liberally from 30cm or so. Now leave it marinating for a few minutes – between three and five seems optimal. While it's nibbling away at accumulated grot, harvest your buckets, brushes, sponges, maintenance sprays, chamois leather/microfibre cloth/old clean rag.
My guinea pig was my newly refurbished Univega, which, following a very wet fortnight's riding, was covered in a slimy cocktail of impacted dung, road spray, silt, residual chain lube and excess waxy frame preserve that had oozed from its breathe holes. On contact, the suds didn't look particularly lively, so I was pleasantly surprised to watch the accumulated filth slide away at the first sweep of a jumbo car sponge.
Most formulas promise a streak- and blemish-free shine, which isn't always the case, especially if you've accidentally exceeded the waiting times by a minute or two. The M16 is no exception, but most streaks and watermarks vanished with a quick second helping of sponge or cloth. As with all cleaning formulas, matt finishes require a subsequent lick of specialist polish to look their best.
Within 20 minutes, I had a gleaming, dry bike that smelled faintly of cherry bubble gum. Not an obvious scent perhaps, but quite pleasant.
This theme has remained consistent across the fleet and suggests the double-strength concentrate bit also has some substance. Obviously, technique has its part to play in getting the most from it – such as switching to spray and delivering second helpings on the down tube, bottom bracket and chainstays.
Even crusty cyclo-cross and mountain bikes only needed a quick blow-over, albeit with heaped applications around the bottom bracket, down tube and rear triangle. It will also lift cack from chain, chainrings and derailleurs, with only a gentle tickling from transmission brushes, leaving most stodgy wet and ceramic petrochemical lubes where they're needed. Be prepared to top up lightweight dry/wax preps, mind.
Even with prolonged exposure, I've not noticed any skin dryness or discomfort, but would recommend gloves for those with broken or sensitive skin.
Overall performance exceeds that of Fenwick's FS10 and other blow 'n' go formulas. Sure, it takes a few minutes longer, but sweeps cleaner and with less effort.
Think of this as the basecoat-cum-primer for the Helmet & Bike Guard. It's designed to remove any residual muck, while leaving behind a protective, waxy, silicone-free barrier. 'Ah, but they all do that!' I hear you cry. Very true, but this is designed to tolerate the sort of temperatures generated by motorcycle engine casings and exhausts. This ensures it can be deployed pretty much anywhere.
I deliberately stopped at this stage with my Univega, just to see how well it performed compared with more basic polymer/hard pastes or those ubiquitous wash 'n' wax car formulas.
Helmet & Bike Guard
The Helmet & Bike Guard is the final stage and should be thought of in the same terms as a lacquer topcoat that locks the nourishing components in and elements out. This is applied and cures similarly quickly and provides a slippery barrier to all gloss and satin surfaces.
Exact ingredients are top secret, but I wasn't surprised to learn that both the polishing components are free of degreaser/solvents, PTFE, silicones and so on. Scepticism crept in at the suggestion these could be safely used on disc and other braking surfaces without impairing stopping performance...
For best results spray into a clean rag/microfibre cloth and work into the surface. It's closer in consistency to a trigger spray furniture polish, rather than car type polymer waxes, so there's no hanging around waiting for it to haze before buffing to a shine. Ours cured within a minute or so in the open air.
A polished performance?
Even forgoing the Helmet & Bike Guard, glossy surfaces, from painted framesets to mudguard sections and polished components, were super-slippery. The Pro Finish does a pretty good job of keeping wet gloop from sticking, and what does is easily dismissed from treated areas with a damp cloth.
The benefits were less noticeable on glossy shoe uppers, such as my longserving Specialized, but applied to my traditional leather touring shoes and mountain bike booties, it offered a welcome and relatively long-lived barrier. When used regularly, this should extend their lifespan. However, I would still apply leather food every so often to keep genuine leathers supple and free from cracking/similar damage.
An hour or so's escape along wet forest tracks and boggy bridleway and yes, there's a healthy amount of slimy gloop clinging to the down tube, inner fork legs and rear triangle, but its tenure is less secure – and easily evicted in a few minutes using a garden hose or luke warm water and soft brush.
As you'd expect, the Helmet & Bike Guard makes shifting this lot easier still. Despite M16's claims that it can be applied to discs and other braking surfaces without problems, there were pregnant pauses when engaging the brakes. Minimise contact and test them a good few times before tackling traffic, or steep descents!
Despite being a polishing zealot, I will acknowledge that keeping cyclo-cross/gravel and mountain bikes hygienic, especially through winter and early spring, is a thankless and seemingly perpetual task. Many of us (myself included, from time to time) tend to park our bikes away after a grotty weather ride, basted in acres of cack, which can prove pretty stubborn given a few days.
Using the full, two-layer polish system, I found that caked mud, chain lube and similar tends to drop off pretty fast, with only moderate soft-brush persuasion. Sometimes I've used the Extreme Bike Clean, other times tepid water has been sufficient. Either way, it hasn't been necessary to reapply the waxy products more frequently than fortnightly – that's after 14 consecutive mucky rides. Like for like, it's better than most polishes I've used to date.
In my view, though relatively pricey, the kit represents decent value for money. However, it does favour those who like to venture beyond asphalt fairly regularly and/or also own a motorcycle. The Extreme Bike Clean is a winner, regardless of your riding disciplines, but road riders who use overshoes and similar barriers may find coupling it with a carnauba-infused wash 'n' wax formula better value.
Very competent cleaning and polishing kit, but a matt protectant option would be nice
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road.cc test report
Make and model: M16 #Podium Stage System Complete Kit
Size tested: 1 x Extreme Bike Clean1litre 1 X Pro Finish 500ml 1 X Helmet @ Bike Guard 250ml
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?
M16 says: "Developed and manufactured in the UK by an engineer and Motocross rider who's done Motocross, Enduro and Trials riding and knows exactly what it's like to pressure wash a bike!!!!!
"The bikes get dirty and plastered, we curse because the mud sticks and we can't even SEE the gear lever let alone move it!, the knobblies turn into slicks and mud rams in everywhere..............
"For decades we have just cleaned and pressure washed them, bike cleaners have come and gone. Some have been around a long long time (we all know that one) others have come with new formulas and one now even damages aluminium and leaves streaks.... I think we all know the colour of that one too....!
"The bikes have got quicker, more powerful, more expensive. The plastics and graphics similarly better and more expensive to replace, yet cleaners have never changed??. All on offer is the latest, cheapest new formula that promises everything but still requires EXTENSIVE blasting of everything and, inadvertently, the bearings with a pressure washer to get rid of the mountains of caked on mud and dirt............................There had to be a better way!!!
* 1 x EXTREME BIKE CLEAN 1litre
* 1 X PRO FINISH 500ml
* 1 X HELMET & BIKE GUARD 250ml
My feelings are that it's a unique and very capable system. Probably represents best value for riders with a mountain bike and motorcycle or two among their two-wheeled fleet.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Stage #1.....Extreme Bike Cleaner:
We have to start somewhere and that is with a clean bike. This PH balanced formulation is engineered to work with the following #2 Pro Finish and is truly environmentally friendly for use in a field......It is very effective...
Stage #2...... Pro Finish:
This waterless wash and wax will remove the remaining stubborn dirt and coat all surfaces, yes, exhaust too with a tough waxy coating ready for stage #3..... Use this also to clean your helmet, goggles, boots and more, ready also for stage #3
Stage #3....... Helmet and bike guard:
The jewel in the crown.....this nano technology surface sealer is designed to repel water and dirt. Having used Stage #1 and #2 above it is the final guard and protection that helps prevent the dirt sticking, use it on all the bike surfaces, yes EVERY SURFACE....... Plastics, engine, wheel rims, anodised parts and tyres, yes tyres, it helps stop the mud sticking, brake discs? (don't worry, no problem...it does not contain silicone, PTFE nor degreaser, like others) and exhausts ....it withstands over 250 degrees C..."
Not cheap but works very well. Seems genuinely unaffected by car and motorcycle exhaust temperatures too.
Slower acting in the grime-gobbling phases compared to traditional bike washes, but requires nominal effort. Grime literally falls away at the first hint of a sudsy sponge.
Surprised by the polish's staying prowess. Still on the first helping, several wet, changeable weeks in.
Bottles feel a little thin compared with some, but I've accidentally dropped ours without any drama.
Pleasant to use in all forms. As usual, gloves are a good idea for those with sensitive skin and/or prolonged exposure.
Not cheap when compared with bog standard bike washes and/or 1 litre wash'n'wax formulas, but goes a long way and seems to last a long time, so seemingly cost effective in the longer term.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised to find the M16 kit really lives up to its hype. A quick once over and left for a few minutes, all manner of grot just slides away from the frame, tyres and components, and the polishing system does a brilliant job of protecting satin and gloss finishes. Matt surfaces will still require a specialist preserve, mind.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lived up to the hype with good, long-lasting results. Two-layer gloss system works slightly better in the long run than a blow 'n' go (i.e. spray on and leave 30 minutes to cure, no polishing/buffing required) motocross formula I'm particularly fond of.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A very minor point but a matt "polish" option would be nice.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they had a varied fleet and possibly a motorcycle too.
Use this box to explain your score
Not cheap and possibly OTT for a lot of road riders, but a good option for those with a varied fleet.
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)