How to Clean Your Bike
Bike maintenance is an important part of cycling. Regular cleaning is crucial to keeping your bicycle looking and riding like new. Whether you have an old, hand-me-down bike or a carbon frame, we'll show you how to properly clean and maintain your ride and its components. We'll give you everything you need to know to make cleaning less of a hassle, so you can spend less time washing and more time riding. It's what your mom would want.
You may ride a mountain bike, road bike, or some type of hybrid bike. Maybe you ride in a dry climate or maybe you're ripping down muddy singletrack trails three times a week. We've seen a light dusting of dirt, a drivetrain that's fully caked in mud, and everything in between. Whatever your style, the basics of bike maintenance remain the same.
1. Bike-Cleaning Station: Set up shop in an area that's well-ventilated with a floor that you won't mind getting all wet and dirty. Garages, backyard patios, and sidewalks are popular options, but if you're limited on space, lay down a plastic sheet, tarp or beach towel in a room with concrete, vinyl, or hardwood floors. Just stay away from carpet, please.
To ensure thorough cleaning, make sure you can spin your pedals to clear all the gunk out of your chain and drivetrain. You can either flip your bike upside down onto the seat and handlebars, lean your bike against a wall, or use a bike stand. Workstands are great for positioning your bike at eye-level, so you won't miss any spots or break your back bending over to scrub.
2. Supplies: To clean your bike like a pro, you need to have the right supplies at the ready. As many of these items are common household products, you probably already have most of this stuff at your disposal.
• Water: Grab a small bucket. Or a large bucket. Any bucket will do, really. Oh yeah, and fill the bucket with warm water. Use a hose or a second bucket of non-soapy water for rinsing.
• Soap: Bike cleaning formulas are great for loosening dirt buildup without causing any damage. Some come in spray form and others are a concentrated liquid that you dilute in water. When not using a bike-specific solution, make sure to use a mild detergent that doesn't contain salt as salt content can gradually cause corrosion.
• Rags: This can be a fine chamois cloth, microfiber towel, old t-shirt, or even a sponge. Paper towel is fine in a pinch. Keep a couple on hand for washing, wiping, and drying.
• Brushes: A small brush is an invaluable tool when clearing dirt and grime out of your chain and cassette. You can use a toothbrush, bottle brush, or any small brush you have on hand. Bike-specific brushes can be super helpful as they often have a thin plastic probe at the other end which helps floss the tight spaces in between cogs. Larger brushes with soft bristles can be used to scrub your frame and wheels.
• Degreaser: A good degreaser will gently clean your drivetrain without causing damage to your bike components. Choose a biodegradable degreaser made for bicycles or automobiles and avoid products containing harsh chemicals like kerosene and turpentine.
• Lubricant: Bike chain lubricant comes in two main varieties: wet lube and dry lube. Dry lube won't attract as much dirt but will wear off quickly if exposed to any wet weather. Wet lube is better for a wider range of weather conditions, but it tends to pick up more dirt and grime along the way, requiring regular degreasing and re-application. Both have their upsides and downsides, but wet lube seems to be the more versatile option for year-round use.
Alright, so you've gathered your supplies and your workstation is all set up. Now let's get into the nuts and bolts of polishing and protecting your favorite precious metal.
• Use a brush or rag along with your soap and water to remove dirt and grime. Start with your frame and wheels before moving down to your drivetrain so you won't spread grease or lubricant all over your bike. Rinse off sudsy water and dry with a clean rag.
• Dab degreaser onto a clean rag and wipe down your drivetrain and chain. Keep this stuff away from your rims and brakes. Let the degreaser evaporate and dry.
• Now that the chain is clean and dry, drip your chain lube into each link as you slowly push the cranks. Shift your gears and work the chain all the way through each tooth on your cassette to complete the process. Wipe down any excess lubricant with a clean, dry rag.
• Take a step back and marvel at the beauty of a sparkling clean ride. Your bike is very happy with you and ready to get back to work.
FAQ's, Tips & Tricks
How frequently should I clean my bike?
How you ride and how often you ride can vary wildly from person to person and will affect your bike cleaning practices. As a general guideline, we recommend washing monthly or after every dozen or so rides.
Can I clean my bike without a stand?
Bike stands can make the cleaning process more efficient, but they're not mandatory. An easy and effective method is to balance your bike upside down on its seat and handlebars.
How do I wash my bike without getting the seat wet?
Water is the culprit of wetness, so keep the water away from your seat if you plan on riding shortly after washing. If you're really concerned, wrap a plastic bag around your seat or put a shower cap on it.
Can I use dish soap instead of bike cleaner?
Yes, but use a mild detergent without salt content as salt can corrode bike components. Just make sure to give it a good rinse.
How do I clean my bike chain without removing it?
Position your bike in a way where you can pedal the bike with your hands and run the chain all the way through. Using a bike stand makes the process much easier.
DO NOT use an abrasive brush or scrubber when washing your bike. This can cause your bike to rust.
DO keep a couple rags and brushes on hand. You won't want to wipe down your frame the same greasy rag you used the chain. Keep them separate and don't mix 'em up!
DO NOT go overboard with lubricant. This will only attract more dirt and cause chain deterioration. Same goes for applying lube to the outside of your chain. We only want lube on the inside of our chainlinks.
DO remove your wheels when cleaning. After a while, it can get pretty mucky on and around the wheels. Taking them off every once in a while is an easy way to ensure a thorough cleaning.
DO NOT blast your bike with a pressure washer or high-pressure garden hose setting. This can prematurely degrade your bearings and also remove essential lubricants.
DO use baby wipes for a quick cleaning between rides.