Riding a bike can often be a dirty business. This is especially true after it rains, which frees up the filth on the ground so it can hitch a ride on your bike. Aside from spoiling your bike’s appearance, a dirty bike performs worse than a clean one does. It almost literally pays to keep your bike clean since a clean bike requires fewer replacement parts than ones corroded by the elements. Cleaning your bike is more than splashing some water on the drivetrain, the proper way to clean your bike only takes degreaser, bike cleaner, a few household items, and a half-hour at most. Here’s bike cleaning for beginners:

  1. Before you dive in, assemble what you’ll need, like a bucket, a variety of sponges and brushes, degreaser, bike cleaner, clean dry rags, and chain lube. You can save yourself some trouble with a pre-assembled bike-washing kit that has everything for the job. A bike stand will also make it a little easier to work on your bike. Fill the bucket with warm water. 
  2. Start by removing the wheels and applying degreaser to the sprockets. Set the wheels aside to let the degreaser break down the grease. 
  3. 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 derailleur mechs. At this point, it’s a good idea to inspect the chain for any worn or stiff links to replace.
  4. 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. 
  5. Scrub the wheel rims and tyres using bike cleaner and a moderately stiff-bristled brush.
  6. Rinse the drivetrain and wheels with water. Some 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. 
  7. After cleaning and degreasing the drivetrain, go to work on scrubbing the rest of your bike with a soft-bristled brush and bike cleaner. Brushes with a rounded or domed bristle shape will allow you to reach hard-to-get spots. 
  8. Rinse your bike completely and dry with a soft, clean rag.
  9. 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 rotating the cranks. Once you feel like your chain is adequately lubed, work the lube in by lightly holding the chain between two fingers and rotating the cranks. Make sure to massage lube into each link and wipe off any excess lube.

When you learn how to clean your bike, it will run more smoothly than if it were polluted with ground sludge. Even if you can only manage a quick drivetrain scrub and chain lube between frequent rides, that’s 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.