A big part of cycling is looking after your bike.
I was always told as a beginner cyclist that a clean bike is a happy bike, and I completely agree with this statement after a decade of riding.
If you keep on top of cleaning your bike, you can expect some amazing benefits and even save money in the long run. Cleaning your bike properly is a skill that all cyclists should learn.
What a lot of cyclists don’t know is how to clean a bike properly. Following the correct process makes it easier and gives your bike the sparkle it deserves. We’ll be covering:
- What Are The Benefits Of A Clean Bike?
- What Cleaning Products Or Equipment Will You Need?
- How To Clean A Bike Properly In 8 Steps
- Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Clean Your Bike Properly
Let’s dive in!
What Are The Benefits Of A Clean Bike?
Having a clean bike comes with many benefits you might not have considered. Here’s what you need to know:
A Clean Bike Looks Clean
The first thing to mention is just how good a clean bike looks. Not only does it look shiny and new, but it also shows you look after your bike. We think it’s much easier to be proud of your bike when it looks the part.
A Clean Bike Performs Better
A clean bike does perform much better. The components run smoother and provide less resistance saving you valuable wattage.
Every mechanic worth their salt knows how important it is to learn how to clean your bike properly. You’ll never see a professional cyclist start a race with a dirty bike!
A Clean Bike Makes Your Components Last Longer
Another great benefit of keeping your bike clean is that your components last much longer.
A good example is your chain. When it is dirty and full of grit and sand, it wears it down and “stretches” it much faster than if it were clean.
What Cleaning Products Or Equipment Will You Need?
To clean a bike properly, having the right tools for the job is important. You don’t need an all-singing and dancing cleaning kit, just a few bits.
Here’s what we recommend:
Bike Stand (Optional)
Having a bike stand makes the task of cleaning your bike so much easier. It’s nicer on the back and means you can get to all those hard-to-reach places.
Having a brush with plastic bristles helps break dirt down on components and is great for properly cleaning the drivetrain.
When cleaning a frame – especially a carbon fiber one – we must ensure we don’t damage it like we could with a brush. We have a sponge to get to hard-to-reach places and ensure we protect the bike.
Chain Cleaner (Optional)
Then we have the chain cleaner. You don’t need one of these to complete a great bike clean, but it really helps to remove any mess from your chain to keep it in perfect working order.
- Check out our Guide To The 7 Best Chain Cleaners here!
When it comes to cleaning a bike, we highly recommend a bike-specific cleaner. This means you will not contaminate parts such as brake pads and discs or damage the paintwork.
This is used to get oil and grease from your drivetrain. Sometimes bike wash and elbow grease aren’t enough to remove all the dirt, and we have to bring out the tough stuff.
When cleaning the bike we are going to be completely stripping it of lubrication, so we’ll need to reapply lube after!
How To Clean A Bike Properly In 8 Steps
We recommend allowing 20 minutes to half an hour to do a thorough clean of your bike. Take your time. The better job you do, the more you’ll feel the benefits.
Step #1. Preparation
The first step is to get yourself prepared. Find a place where you can make a mess and work safely. Then get your bike stand set up, ensuring you use a cloth or a rag to protect the bike’s frame. Insert the bike when you’re ready.
Once your bike is set up, get all your supplies, such as degreaser and bike wash, and all your tools to hand. Consider wearing some dirty clothes when doing this job as it can get messy.
Step #2. Rinse
Now it’s time to rinse the bike down to ensure we can get all the dirt soaked. Spraying it with a hose for around a minute should be fine. You will want to ensure everything is soaked and dripping with water.
We do this for many reasons. Firstly wet dirt is much easier to remove than dry dirt. Secondly, rinsing removes the larger dirt and rocks which if you don’t rinse off can end up scratching your frame or parts.
Step #3. Degrease Drivetrain
Next, the degreasing of the drivetrain. This is one of the most satisfying parts of cleaning a bike. You are going to need to spray your degreaser on the chain, cassette, and chainrings. Give it around 2 minutes to soak in and release the grime.
Once you have done this, you need to get the brush and scrub everywhere on the drivetrain you can reach. This degreaser only works when you disrupt the area and break up the oil and grease.
Once you feel you have done as much as possible, rinse the bike off, and the drivetrain should be gleaming. If you find it’s still dirty, you need to add more degreaser and repeat the process.
Once you feel it’s pretty much there, we get the chain cleaner out and run the chain through it. Although it might look clean already, I have always found a chain cleaner gets to the dirt you can’t see that is hidden in the links.
Step #4. Remove And Clean The Wheels
Next, we recommend removing the wheels. You will either need to release the thru-axle or the quick-release and drop the wheels out of the bike. We do this so we get a better clean on not just the wheels but the frame too.
With the wheels out, give them a deep clean using the sponge and bike wash. Start at the tire, then work your way around the wheel’s rim, and finally, the spokes and the hubs. Rinse, and if you find dirt, repeat the process.
Remember not to pull the brake lever when the wheels are not in if you have hydraulic disc brakes, as this will adjust them.
Step #5. Clean Frame And Finishing Kit
Now we have the wheels off, go to the frame and start cleaning all around it. Use the sponge and the bike wash to scrub everything down, remembering to get to the underside of the bike and the inside where the wheels sit.
Once you feel you have covered everything, rinse it and go over anywhere you might have missed. The main places people miss are inside the forks, under the saddle, and between chainstays.
Step #6. Reinsert The Wheels And Dry The Bike
Get your wheels back in the bike and ensure they are properly in with the wheel straight and quick release nice and tight. Next, either let the bike dry naturally or dry it yourself with a towel.
Some cyclists like to put on a protective layer on their bikes. Companies like Muc Off offer a protection spray that stops dirt from sticking to your bike. It does work, but it isn’t really needed, provided you clean your bike regularly.
Step #7. Checks
Although we are speaking about how to clean your bike, it doesn’t come without safety checks. Now the bike is dry, it’s time to ensure the bike is in full working order. Here’s what we recommend looking at:
- Check the frame for any cracks or bends
- Ensure all your components are in good condition and not worn out
- Check your wheels are straight and true and not cracked
- Check nothing is loose such as the handlebars or saddle
- Ensure the tire pressure is correct. Here’s the SILCA calculator.
Step #8. Lubricate
Then finally, you will want to lubricate your chain to ensure it doesn’t go rusty and it works correctly. The key to a chain lasting and working properly is correct lubrication. Well done, you know know how to clean your bike.
- Check out our Easy Guide to Lubing a Bike Chain here!
Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Clean Your Bike Properly
Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!
Now You Know How To Clean A Bike…
Keeping your bike clean will not just give you a better experience cycling, but it will also improve performance and save you money over time.
We highly recommend keeping some time aside once every week or fortnight to clean your bike. Not every clean has to be as thorough as this one, but it’s important to deep clean once in a while as well as a regular quick clean after your rides!