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Bicycle Maintenance – What’s The Best Way to Clean My Bike?

By Jiri Kaloc

Cleaning your bike is more than just making it look nice, it’s a key to unlocking your ride’s full potential. We bring you a simple step-by-step guide to do a simple cleaning with basic supplies you probably already have at home.

Why even clean your bike?

Maybe you don’t really care if your bicycle looks dirty or not. Why should you care about cleaning? It’s simple: your bike will ride faster, last longer, and stay safe. And this applies even if you ride your bike on nice roads without rain. Even in dry weather, dust and pollen accumulate everywhere on your bike. As soon as they build up even a little bit, they start acting like sandpaper on components that move, such as your drivetrain or head tube. So, by removing the grime that builds up, you’re improving several things at once.

Less grime = less friction

Less friction = faster riding, less wear and tear on your components

And we can’t forget about your sweat that drips down onto the frame: the salt in your sweat can corrode your bike and cause serious damage. So, it may be worth cleaning your bike even if you are mainly using it for indoor rides.

The basic cleaning kit

There’s not much you need to get a basic bicycle clean done. Here is a list of the essentials, most of them might be freely available at home already.

  • Clean rags, brushes, sponges
  • Liquid soap
  • Bucket
  • Garden hose with a spray head
  • Lubricant

For the optional stuff, a specialised degreaser for the drivetrain can be very helpful, especially if you haven’t cleaned it in a while. Also, a bike stand will make it easier to reach every nook and cranny.

Here is a step-by-step cleaning process guide you can follow after you assemble the basic cleaning kit.

Clean and Protect Lube
By lubing your bike chain regularly, you prolong its life and enjoy the smooth sound of improved performance.

1.    Rinse off loose dirt and grime

Begin by gently rinsing your bike with a hose or a bucket of water. Aim to loosen and remove large pieces of dirt, mud or debris from the frame, wheels, and components. Keep the direct spray away from bearing areas such as the bottom bracket, headset, and hub internals. This step will also prevent you from scratching your frame by trying to remove dry, sharp pieces of dirt.

You can even use a pressure cleaner for this step but make sure to set the pressure to low and hold the nozzle at a good distance from the bike itself so the water isn’t forced into bearings and components.

2.    Apply cleaner and scrub

Apply soap onto the frame, components, and wheels using a sponge or a spray. Let it sit on the bike for a few minutes. Then gently scrub the bike using a soft brush, starting from the top and working your way down to ensure that dirt flows downwards and off the bike. Focus on areas that accumulate grime, such as the bottom bracket, chainstays, and around the drivetrain, using a smaller brush for tight spaces. This would also be the time to use a degreaser for the drivetrain.

3.    Rinse and dry

Rinse the bike gently to remove all soap, cleaner, and degreaser, ensuring that no residue remains. Use a soft, clean cloth or sponge to absorb excess water from the frame, components, and wheels, patting the bike dry rather than rubbing to avoid scratching. Let the bike air dry in a well-ventilated area before proceeding to lubrication.

4.    Apply lubricant

After cleaning, lubricate the chain and other moving parts to ensure smooth operation and protection against wear and corrosion. You can check out our previous article if you aren’t sure how to handle the chain.

For extra points, you can even add bicycle polish or dirt protector. These things cost extra but they help prevent dirt from sticking to your bike so your next clean will be easier. Just be careful around your brake pads with these. If they get contaminated, use a cloth with some bike-specific brake cleaner to restore their performance.

How often should you clean your bike?

If your bike is visibly dirty, it’s time to clean it – that’s the simplest rule. If you see grime on your frame, chances are that your drivetrain is a lot worse. But even if your bike isn’t completely caked in mud and dirt, it still needs some cleaning now and again. Even a road bike that doesn’t have to face bad weather should be cleaned about every 25 rides.

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