How to clean your bike
If you get out and ride your bike, it won’t stay clean for long. Neglect it and you’ll soon find that your drivetrain suffers and parts start wearing out more quickly, and who wants to be riding around on a filthy bike? We've got everything you need to keep your bike in top condition - just click here to see our bike cleaning range.
Getting your priorities in order
If you’re stuck for time, and you really can’t do a full clean of your bike, you should prioritise your drivetrain and braking surfaces. The oily moving parts of your drivetrain can really suffer from dirt, which can stick to them, mix with the oil, and create a grinding paste. Similarly, bits of dirt or road grit on your rims, rotors or brake pads can cause them to wear more quickly.
This is a difficult question to answer – you should clean your bike when it’s dirty! Obviously if you’ve been out for a muddy off-road ride, this could be every ride. On the road in the summer, you could get away with it less often. Similarly, your Sunday best race bike will probably get more attention than your winter commuter. Aim to clean your bike as often as possible – especially your drivetrain – and try not to put it away dirty or wet, and you won’t go far wrong.
Now, without wasting any more time, here’s how it’s done:
1. Rinse your bike
Start by rinsing off your bike, preferably with warm water. Any loose mud, dust or dirt should come off here. Avoid using a high pressure hose, and don’t spray water directly at areas where there are bearing seals (like your hubs, bottom bracket, and headset).
2. Clean your drivetrain
For a quick drivetrain clean, use a chain cleaner machine and some citrus degreaser or drivetrain cleaner to scrub your chain, then spray or brush some more onto the other oily parts of your bike like the cassette and derailleurs. Use a brush to agitate any really dirty areas. If there are instructions with your drivetrain cleaner, follow these instead. If you’ve got gunk built up around your cassette and jockey wheels, use a small flat blade screwdriver or an old spoke to clear this out.
Once that’s done, rinse everything off again, making sure you’ve gotten rid of all the degreaser. The cleaner you can get your drivetrain now, the slicker it’ll be and (hopefully) the longer it’ll stay that way.
3. …and the rest
Next, clean all the non-oily parts of your bike. Start from the top – the water will wash the dirt downwards, but you’ll also avoid using a grubby sponge on your saddle or bars. Either use a bike cleaning spray over everything, using a brush to agitate stubborn areas, or break out the bucket and sponge with some hot soapy water. If you have rim brakes, make sure you clean your brake pads and rims thoroughly. Then, give everything another good rinse.
If you’ve got disc brakes, now is the time to clean them with disc brake cleaner for the pads and rotors. Again, follow the instructions for your specific product, but you’ll probably find yourself spraying an aerosol onto the surfaces and using a clean rag to wipe them.
4. Dry your bike
Once you’ve cleaned your bike, dry it with a clean rag or microfiber cloth. This will keep water from sitting in areas like bolt heads and rusting them. Also make sure that your drivetrain is clean, dry, and ready for fresh lube.
Now apply your chosen lube – normally wet lube for wet weather, and dry lube for dry, dusty conditions. Pedal backwards while dripping the lube into the inside of your chain’s rollers, and add a drop to your derailleur’s pivot points. Then, use a rag to wipe up any excess. Extra lube on the outside of your drivetrain provides a surface for muck to stick to. Be careful not to get any lube onto your braking surfaces.
Some extra tips
- Once you’ve cleaned your bike, applying polish can help stop dirt sticking and make your bike easier to wash next time.
- The time you spend cleaning your bike is also a good chance to give your bike an inspection and look for any broken or worn parts.
- A work stand can make life much easier by saving your back and keeping your bike from falling over while you’re cleaning it.
Ready to get started? Click here to go to our bike cleaning range.