Posted - December 6, 2020
Cleaning a bike is cleaning a bike, right? It’s not a difficult thing to do (unless you count the motivation part) but it is important. There are a number of reasons cleaning your bike should be a priority, especially in winter.
Getting into a good routine can mean parts last longer and you’re less likely to develop weird squeaks when whatever has found its way into your frame and components does its worst.
You don’t need to give it a full deep-clean every ride, but it’s a good idea to give it some love if you’re riding it more often or it gets particularly dirty. Obviously for certain bikes this will be more necessary. Mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and cyclocross bikes will likely get a lot dirtier than road or urban bikes, but it’s always worth giving your bike a good clean every so often.
What you will need:
In addition to these;
· A Bucket (if you don’t have a hose)
· Optional: pressure washer (Our favourite is this Muc-Off Bicycle Pressure washer specifically designed for bikes!), protection spray, chain cleaner tool, bike stand.
If you’ve just rolled up from a ride, use a bucket with a cloth or brush and rinse the bike with the hose (you can use a pressure washer, but don’t blast it at high pressure close to the frame, and be careful around components). The first rinse is important because it can help prevent scratching when you scrub it. If mud has dried onto the bike, wiping it without first wetting the bike can scratch the frame (you don’t have to worry as much if you have frame protection).
· Clean your drivetrain first.
· Wash front to back and from top to bottom.
· Don’t be tempted to use washing up liquid or very hot water (there are mixed views on this, but we recommend lukewarm at most and proper bike cleaners).
· Leave cleaning your rotors until last (if you have disc brakes).
Spray your bike with your chosen cleaner and leave it to work. After its had some time to soak in, scrub the bike with a soft brush or sponge to work the dirt and debris, enabling you to wash it off. Finally, rinse the bike down with the hose or pressure washer.
Wipe your chain with a rag and backpedal (whilst in a bike stand or holding the back wheel off the ground) to remove excess dirt and grease.
Cleaning your drivetrain
If your chain is particularly dirty use a degreaser and a chain brush (paintbrush or toothbrush if you don’t have one, natural brushes are great for this). For this method to work best you should remove your rear wheel to access the chain and drivetrain. If you have a bike stand, pop it in the stand, if not either get a volunteer to help you hold it, or flip the bike up so it rests on the bars and saddle and use a chain keeper (to take the place of the back wheel and provide tension). This may make things a little difficult but will ensure you can give the drivetrain a good clean.
Next coat your chain, pulley wheels, cassette, and chainring in degreaser and use the brush to remove any gunk (it may be worth letting the degreaser sit for a while if it’s very dirty. Brush everything down, removing everything you can. Finally, rinse with water. You can also use a chain cleaner tool if you have one. Once everything is rinsed and clean, wipe the chain clean with a clean rag, pop your back wheel back on and lube your chain with suitable chain lube (only once you’ve finished cleaning the bike, more on lube below).
What to Avoid
Using a pressure washer is absolutely fine but make sure not to use too much pressure or use the nozzle too close to the bike, especially around areas such as your bottom bracket, frame bearings, hubs, and around seals (such as on your front and rear suspension). Obviously this will differ depending on the kind of bike you have, be mindful of cleaning e-bikes too, although things are sealed it can be worthwhile avoiding high pressure or something that can do damage. Be mindful when spraying around the battery and motor. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your e-bike.
A quick tip: don’t use washing up liquid – it takes the anodising off some components. Only use cleaners that are recommended for bikes, certain cleaners can cause damage to your bike and the components. Don’t use the brushes you used for your drivetrain elsewhere on the bike, especially near your brakes, this can contaminate your pads and discs. Don’t be tempted to spray things directly onto your bike, spray a rag first and then wipe what you need to, it’s too easy for things to end up where they aren’t supposed to be.
Chain lube reduces the friction from the metal chain on the cassette and chainring. Wet lube is designed to last longer in wet weather but can attract more dirt over time so it needs cleaning and re-applying more often. Dry lube is better during nicer weather, but doesn't last as long as wet lube.
Don’t be tempted to overdo it, less is more when it comes to chain lube. One cycle of the chain is enough. Wipe the excess off afterwards.
Once your bike is rinsed and clean, allow it to dry and use a dry cloth or microfibre to wipe it down. This will remove any remnants of dirt and give it a nice shine. It’s a good idea to get a clean paper towel or rag and wipe your rims and brake discs (if you have them) over with degreaser or brake cleaner to help remove any contaminants. Isopropyl alcohol is also great for this.
As an optional step you can use a bike protection spray or a coating to help keep your bike cleaner by stopping things adhering to the surface as easily. When using a spray take care to avoid getting any near your brakes.
There’s a lot of advice out there for something seemingly as simple as cleaning your bike. There’s a lot of different methods, but you can decide what works best for you and your pride and joy.
Here’s a few of our favourite products to get your bike looking like new;
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