If you’re reading this, then it’s time for you to clean your bike! Contrary to what you may think about bikes, exposure to the elements, debris, grime, and mud will take their toll on the bike. Be honest here, when you are riding around, does your chain make a weird noise? Has mud solidified on the frame?
Time for a nice spick and span to get your bike shining like it’s brand new. In this guide, we will show you everything that you need to clean your bike. Do yourself a favor, and follow through!
What do you need to clean your bike?
Now obviously, it depends on what type of bike you ride, and how dirty it is. One thing is for sure though, that it will take more than just a splash of water. Nothing gets dirtier like a mountain bike, if you are riding in rough terrains with all kinds of rain, dust, and mud around then this should come as no surprise that you’ll need to clean your bike more often. Some tools that you might need are below.
Starting with the humble bucket (or buckets). Pretty helpful for containing clean water, or water mixed with soapy cleaning fluid, can take it with you outside. Odds are you already have one at your disposal but if you don’t we would suggest the Rubbermaid 2.5 Gallon Bucket.
Bike Cleaning Brushes
Some things just won’t go away unless you really scrub them off. Cleaning brushes help you clean out different parts of the bike better. A large brush works better on the frame, while smaller maybe contoured brushes get into the tight spots of your chainring better. You can use household items like a toothbrush for the job, but if you want an all-in-one package, we suggest the Park Tool Bike Cleaning Brush Kit for convenience.
A towel is needed when you dry off the bike. While you could leave your bike to drip, and air dry, you would be left with water spots all over your frame, not a good look. You may have towels laying around that you don’t use anymore and you can definitely use them. If you don’t, we would suggest the SoLiD Multipurpose Plush Microfiber Towel 6 pack as you can use them for multiple applications around the house.
Bike Cleaning Fluid
When it comes to cleaning fluid we would highly recommend the Muc-Off Nano-Tech bike cleaner, it was specifically designed for bike cleaning and it’s safer for the environment. You will mix this one up with the water to create a nice coat of bubbly foam.
The toughest thing to clean off from a bike is the grease and gunk accumulating on the chain ring. It will take a while to scrub off the grease if you are using nothing but water. To make your life easier the good ol’ WD-40 Specialist Bike Chain Degreaser is highly recommended.
After everything is done you will need to add some lubricant to the chainring to keep it in tip-top shape, there are two types of lubricants for bike chainrings, wet, and dry. These have special properties depending on where you’re riding.
Ideal for wet environments is wet lubricants. They are difficult to wipe off since they stick stubbornly to the chain. The drawback is that they tend to gather dust and dirt in dry circumstances. A wet chain lubricant we would recommend is the WD-40 Wet Lubricant.
On the other hand, dry lubes work best in dry environments. They keep dust at bay and your chainring spotless. The disadvantage of dry lubricants is that they may easily wash off in rainy weather, exposing your chain. Adry chain lubricant we would recommend is the WD-40 Dry Lubricant.
Bike Cleaning Step-by-step Guide
Step 1: The Setup
Gather all the equipment you will need to clean your bike, and choose a location like the back or front yard, any place with plenty of space and a drain nearby. You can always pick your bike apart, use a bike stand, and just make sure it stays stationary in the cleaning area. Fill a bucket with water, even better warm water, and throw a bit of the cleaning fluid inside the bucket and mix it up.
Step 2: The First Pass
At this step, you use a brush, or general-purpose scrub to clean most of the dirt off your bike. Use a hose, or plain water from a bucket, and give the first pass.
Step 3: Foam Up
After the first pass, it’s time to take the bucket with the cleaning fluid and start to apply it on the bike. Make sure you cover every area of the frame, handlebars, seat, everything. For the chainring, you will apply the chainring degreaser, make sure you thoroughly apply said degreaser. After your bike is properly foamed up, you will be ready for the next step.
Step 4: Scrub, Scrub, and More Scrub
Ideally, the cleaning fluid and the degreaser have been sitting on the bike for a bit to start taking effect, it will soften up debris, and make it easier for you to scrub them off.
While using a brush to scrub the frame will be relatively easy, you will need to pay special attention to tight spots, and crevices of the bike. Use small stiff brushes to actively scrub away all that tough gunk that sits stubbornly in between the chainring, the brake pads, and between the wheel spokes. Don’t be afraid to apply some force to it.
Step 5: Rinse & Repeat For Perfection
After scrubbing, it’s time to throw in a splash, grab a hose, or a bucket with clean water, and use it to rine the bike. You will see that debris will simply wash away, and make inspections if you missed a spot. If there’s still some minor, stubborn grease, simply grab the brush, and do some detail work.
Step 6: Dry
In this step, you can grab a towel, and start pating everything down, make sure everything is dried out, and prepare for the finishing touch.
Step 7: Finishing Touch
This final step is really important! Grab the chain lubricant, and apply it to the chain ring. It’s best that you use the pedal to move the chainring, and apply the lube evenly across. You don’t need to overdo it, just make sure it’s nice and smooth.
What to avoid when cleaning your bike?
When cleaning your bike it’s advised that you don’t submerge parts in water for prolonged times. Avoid using highly abrasive sponges, brushes, or water pressure that could strip off the paint.
Don’t try, and work around the first pass, while some people want to get straight to the point, it’s a very important step.
Keep in mind that high alkaline or solvent-based detergents can damage the outer coating of the bike. Detergent soap may react negatively with aluminum, resulting in long-term component degradation.
Frequently Asked Questions on Bike Cleaning:
Q: Why should I clean my bike?
A: Washing your bike is a great way to keep it functional for years on end. Debris, mud, and the outside elements take their toll on bike parts, maintenance is the only way to get around that.
Q: Can I use a pressure washer or hose to clean my bike?
A: When cleaning your bike thoroughly, avoid using a pressure washer since it might damage the bearings, and obviously strip away the paint. Keep the nozzle at least 2-3 feet away from the bike if you’re using high pressure, to avoid such mishaps.
Q: How do I prevent the chain on my bike from rusting?
A: Don’t allow the build-up gunk along the chain ring, use a degreaser when cleaning. Always make sure you dry the chainring after each wash and apply sufficient chainring lubricant. This is the best way to keep rust from your bike’s chainring.
Q: Can cleaning your bike properly negate the need for a winter bike?
A: Active maintenance is a tremendous thing to do for your bike no matter what season you’re currently in. Some people opt out for 2 bikes, one that’s their favorite for summer months, and the second one for winter months is a bit more expendable. In winter months rain, snow, and muddy roads are the default, so you can either have 2 bikes or do regular maintenance on a single one.
The Finish Line
After cleaning your bike, it’s time to get some refreshments, pour yourself a glass of lemonade if you have been hanging out in the sun, and look at your bike glistening, like it’s brand new. After all it takes only 7 easy steps (in principle) to get it to look like that, but the brunt of the work is the preparation. We streamlined that process and saved you a bit of time. Remember to take care of your bike, as it will take care of you on the road.
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