All the moving parts on your bike function well and last longer when unnecessary friction is removed. Learning how to clean your bike is the easiest way to increase your it’s performance and prolong the life of expensive components. When done regularly, it’s a quick and simple task – the title “bike mechanic” is NOT required!
Supplies You Need to Clean Your Bike:
And of course a Bike Repair Stand or something to hold your bike stable – our favorite is the Sprint Bike Repair Stand, but any of our upright bike repair stands also work, Scorpion and Rakk bike stands and even the versatile Velo Wall Post all work for washing bikes.
Make Cleaning Your Bike Easy
Fill your bucket with water and soap and thoroughly soak your brushes and sponge.
While your brushes and sponge soak get your bike set up on your choice of support. For this example we’ll use the Sprint Bike Repair Stand.
How to Clean Your Bike’s Drivetrain
We like to start by cleaning the drivetrain because it will inevitably splatter grease and grime on to other parts of the bike, which we can then remove later.
Install a Chain Keeper so your drivetrain has a bit of tension in the system and plenty of access to the entire drivetrain (or simply leave the rear wheel in the bike). Use a mild degreaser to soak your chain, derailleurs, and chainrings – we use a diluted biodegradable solution from a major home goods store. While that’s soaking, prepare a mild soap detergent to help wash this all away when you’re finished.
Start with the chainrings and give them a good scrub to remove any caked on grease. If you have extra soap, wash, or degreaser apply it directly to your brush.
Move toward the cassette and rear derailleur – scrub, scrub, scrub! Get the outside of the derailleurs, inside, the pulleys and anything you can see – various brush sizes and textures help a lot here. If your pulleys have a large build up of grease use a flat head screwdriver to scrape them clean. Apply more degreaser or wash as needed.
Once the derailleur, pulleys, cassette and chainrings are clean rotate the pedals backwards with the brush over the chain and add more degreaser as needed, either directly to the brush or directly to the chain. Work from side to side and get both top and bottom. Scrub until the chain is clean.
Rinse off the grit and grime. Once it looks clean, we recommend taking your sponge and soap solution and giving it one more clean.
Take all of these brushes and remove them from your bike cleaning process – don’t drag grease and grime on other parts of your bike!
After that, you’re ready to clean your bike frame and wheels!
Washing Your Bike Frame
Spray your entire bike down and soak areas of mud build-up. Remove by hand any mud/gravel/ pebbles that will scratch your paint – soaking and peeling them off by hand prior to dragging a brush across it will protect your paint!
We prefer using bike wash solutions (like Muc-Off Nano Tech) because they don’t negatively affect rubber or disc brake pads. Some soaps can affect the rubber of your tires and the seals of the bearings – be sure to dilute!
If you choose to stick to soap and sponge, no problem! Grab your sponge and get all the frame parts, wheels, and any smooth surface soaked.
Now grab your large soft brush and scrub your tires, rims, headset (especially behind the fork crown), and crank and any other nook and cranny that is not covered in grease. Don’t use any of your drivetrain brushes
Rinse and Hand Dry for a Cleaner Bike
Now that everything has been thoroughly scrubbed, use your sponge to soak down the bike one last time, then rinse. Using the light spray from the hose, work your way from top to bottom letting the water drip down, clearing the bike from any leftover soap and degreaser.
Grab your microfiber towel and wipe down your bike, reinstall the wheels, then allow it to air dry the rest of the way.
How to Lubricate Your Bike Chain Properly
Now that your drivetrain is clean it’s time to lubricate it. We recommend grabbing an old rag to make sure the chain is as dry as possible – wrap it around the bottom of the chain, add a bit of pressure while rotating the cranks for 30-seconds. Use a new part of the rag and repeat until you’re confident your ready to lubricate your bike chain.
Apply your chain lube of choice one link at a time to your chain. Once applied rotate the pedals backwards a few turns then wipe off the excess chain lube with a rag.
You’ve Successfully Washed Your Bike Like an Expert
The first few times you wash your bike it may seem a bit tedious but the more often that you do it the easier and faster it will become and the less dirt, grease, and grime will build up between washes. Keep your brushes, bucket, hose, and bike holder in an easy to access place further reduces the amount of time it takes. Soon you’ll be washing your bike in less than 15 minutes. As long as it’s not as muddy as a cyclocross race in Belgium!