Keeping your bike clean is essential for component longevity and your own morale. Seeing a spotless bike waiting for you in the shed before heading out for a ride is a great boost, regardless of what the weather is like outside. Clean bikes just feel better to ride, fact...
For those not in the know, cleaning your bike can feel like a chore. However, it’s much quicker and easier than you think. All you need to spare is 5-10 minutes after a ride and use the following items:
- A bucket of warm water (or another water source like a hose)
- Sponges, cloths and brushes
- Bike cleaner
- Chain lube
- Elbow grease (optional)
Step One – Lather Up and Scrub
The best time to clean your bike is immediately after a ride, as any dirt that has accumulated won’t have the time to stick and harden onto the frame or any components. This is particularly important for cyclo-cross riders and mountain bikers who might have picked up some serious amounts of mud.
Start by rinsing your bike down with warm water to remove any excess muck. Jet washing your bike is not recommended, as it will flush out grease from key areas like your bottom bracket and headset. Instead, simply scrub off the claggiest areas with a sponge or cleaning brush.
Once the worst of the dirt is removed, give your bike a spray down with some bike-specific cleaning fluid. These products are made to penetrate dirt effectively and loosen stubborn areas of mud. Leave the cleaner to do it’s work over a minute or two and then continue to scrub your bike with a sponge or brush, working from the top of the bike to the bottom (from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest areas).
Step Two – Degrease the Details
One of the most important areas to consider when cleaning your bike is the drivetrain. In bad conditions, muck and grit can work its way into the chain links and other moving parts. If this isn’t removed, it can begin to wear down components at a faster rate than normal, making your bike feel horrible to ride.
Once the worst of the dirt is removed from a general rinse and scrub, spray a good quality degreaser over your chain, cassette and chain rings. This will cut through the oily dirt that builds up in this area much more effectively than normal soaps and cleaners. Leave this to work it’s magic over a few minutes before using a stiff bristled brush to get rid of any excess grit from the drivetrain. It’s worth considering that some brands make specific chain-bath tools for this step, making the process a lot simpler.
Finally, bring your drivetrain up to a shine with a last application of some soapy water or bike cleaner. This will remove the final traces of dirt, rinse away the degreaser and make everything look that bit shinier.
Step Three – Lubrication Last
Now the bike has been thoroughly cleaned and rinsed, leave it to dry naturally or do it by hand with some clean rags or chamois. Since the chain has been degreased, it is important to re-apply lubrication to keep it running smoothly. The type of chain-lube you use will depend on the riding conditions expected (wet or dry). In either case, apply lube carefully to the inside of the chain whilst winding the pedals backwards to ensure there are no dry-spots.
Lastly, if you’re particularly proud of keeping your bike clean and shiny, it’s worth investing in some finishing polish. This will help stop mud sticking to the frame and give your bike that showroom-fresh look.
After following these steps, it’s pretty hard not to be motivated for your next ride with your spotless steed smiling in front of you.