You likely already have the tools for the job; now here are the steps to how to clean your bike.
Want a bike that performs better and lasts longer? Just give yours a scrub!
Riding a bike can often be dirty business. This is especially true after a rainfall, which frees up all the filth on the ground, waiting for you to churn it up so it can hitch a ride on your bike. Aside from fouling your bike’s appearance, a dirty bike just performs worse than a clean bike does. It almost literally pays to keep your bike clean since a clean bike requires fewer replacement parts than one that’s corroded by the elements. Cleaning your bike is more than splashing some water on the drivetrain or – egad, jet washing it! The proper way to clean your bike only takes a few household items and a half hour at most. Here’s how to clean your bike:
- Before you dive in, assemble what you’ll need. Recommended supplies include a bucket, a variety of sponges and brushes, degreaser, mild dishwashing liquid, clean dry rags, and chain lube. There are also several pre-assembled bike-washing kits with everything for the job and more. A bike stand – while unessential – will make it a little easier to work on your bike. Fill the bucket with warm, soapy water.
- Start by removing the wheels and applying degreaser to the sprockets. Set the wheels aside to let the degreaser break down the grease.
- Turn your attention to your drivetrain. Shift the chain into the large chainring. Using degreaser and a brush, scrub the chain, chainrings and front and rear mechs. At this point, it’s a good idea to inspect the chain for any worn or stiff links.
- Return to your wheels. Scrub the sprockets with a brush. You’ll want to use the same brush for cleaning the drivetrain in order to spare the other brushes from collecting grease that would muck up the rest of your bike.
- Scrub the rims and tires using warm soapy water with a moderately stiff-bristled brush.
- Rinse the drivetrain and wheels with water. A word of advice about using the jet hose at the carwash: avoid blasting your bike with high-pressure water because moisture can enter things like sealed bearings and electronics (shifting, power meters etc.) and cause expensive damage. A low-pressure garden hose with a basic adjustable spray nozzle works perfectly fine for rinsing and washing.
- After cleaning and degreasing the drivetrain, go to work on scrubbing the rest of your bike with a soft-bristled brush. Brushes with a rounded or domed bristle pattern will allow you to reach hard-to-get spots.
- Rinse the complete bike and dry with a soft, clean rag.
- Once your bike is dry, apply lube to the chain. Hold the nozzle at an angle above your chain and drip an even, consistent trickle of lube on the chain links while turning the cranks backward. Once you feel like your chain is adequately lubed, work the lube in by lightly holding the chain between two fingers and turning the cranks backward. Make sure to massage lube into each link and wipe off any excess lube.
A clean bike runs more smoothly than one that’s encrusted with road sludge made up of who knows what kinds of pollutants. Even if you can only manage a quick drivetrain scrub and chain lube between frequent rides, something is better than nothing until you can perform a complete bike wash. More than just a good habit, a clean bike makes for a worry-free rider and a more enjoyable ride.