Add a Little Wild West to your Bike Ride: Genoa, Nevada
Bikes Get You Far, Transit Can Get You Farther!

Easy clean: 10 tips for taking care of your bike

You have spent the summer adventuring around on your bike and it probably needs a little care and attention about now. We at Found by Bike want to remind you bike maintenance is important and can be as simple as cleaning your bike.

Dirty Bianchi Bike
This bike needs a bath!

You could clean your bike after every ride (which is a little excessive), or after a few months of hard riding.

This advice also goes for mountain bikers as well; the dirt and occasional mud from riding on trails can get into housings, chain, cranks, pretty much everywhere, so it’s a good idea to clean your bike from time to time.

Why a clean bike?

A clean bike is easier to work on, and in most cases, less expensive to fix, because you notice small problems before they become big problems.

Time spent cleaning your bike is time to be at one with it. It gives you the opportunity to check the bike over and notice if anything is amiss. As you go over the frame, wheels and drivetrain, you give your bike a visual inspection.

You might notice if there are cracks in the frame, for instance, or if the chain’s links are too tight or becoming loose, or if the bottom bracket is loose. Left alone, these little issues could become big problems, something you wouldn’t want to happen when you’re deep into a bike tour or 43 miles into your century ride.

Bike Bath

I know, I know. As I write this, California is in a continuing drought condition and while we would recommend you take your car to a car wash where the water is recycled, you can clean your rig with only a little water, a little dish soap or bike-specific detergent, a couple of sponges (one for the frame, the other for the drivetrain), brushes (for the drive train) some rags, and a teeny, tiny bucket.

Bucket, rag, sponge brush, degreaser
You don't need much to clean your bike: Soapy water, sponge, brush, degreaser

Tips for Cleaning Your Bike

A pro tip is to work methodically over your bike, from top to bottom and end to end. This ensures everything is rinsed, washed and rinsed, and if you get interrupted, it’s easier for you to remember where you left off.

Bike cleaning is easiest if you have a stand to mount the bike on. If you don’t have one, leaning it against a wall or to the side of a curb helps.

1. Remove the accessories, if you have any: bags, computer, pump, water bottles, light, etc.

2. Rinse your bike gently by squeezing a wet sponge to drip water onto the frame. This pre-wash rinse loosens any road grit or dirt and lets it drip to the ground.

Alternatively, turn on the hose and dribble water over the bike. No high-pressure washing down! A hard spray can get water into the housings where it won’t dry for a long time, aiding corrosion of internal parts.

Also, a blast of water washes away grime, but it also blasts away the grease that lubricates the bearing components (headset, bottom bracket, hubs, cassette and pedals).

Finally, when you start with a gentle rinse, you get most of the gritty dirt off, so that when you go back over the bike with a sponge and soapy water, you won’t scratch the paint.

3. Dip your sponge or rag into the soapy water and soap down the frame. Rinse gently and carefully.

4. Follow up with a bike-specific degreaser, if needed. Just be sure to thoroughtly rinse again to get the grime the degreaser dislodges.

Cleaning the teeth of the rear cog
Using a brush and degreaser, scrub between the teeth of the rear cogs

5. Clean the drivetrain. These components (chain, rear cassette, chain ring, derailleur) take a little more work, because they generally have grease on them and, depending on what type of lube you use, could have road grit along with the oily stuff that gets kicked up as you ride along.

Rinse gently, then use a soft brush dipped in soapy water to scrub between the rear cogs, the teeth of the sprockets and the chain ring. Rinse again.

6. Clean the braking surfaces. If you ride with standard brakes, you also want to scrub your wheels along the sidewalls where the brakes grip the rims. Clean rims insure your brakes will have a smooth surface to aid slowing and stopping.

Here's where the scrubby side on the sponge is useful: you can use it to scrape any rubber residue or dirt off the wheel rims.

Once everything is as clean as you can make it, rinse everything thoroughly. Fill the bucket with clean water and again, gently pour it over the frame from above.

Dry the frame and as much of the componentry as you can -- if your rag can't get into the tiny spaces between the cogs, let them  air dry.

7. Lube the chain and drivetrain. (Cleaning the drivetrain takes the lube off, natch.) Spin the cranks and shift a few times to work the lube into the chain, the cogs, and sprockets. Wipe off any excess lube, since too much of a good thing can cause problems as well -- too much lube attracts dirt and grime to the chain.

DIY inspection

Now that you have a clean and well-lubed bike, do a quick visual inspection to be sure there aren’t any issues that might need a bike shop pro’s attention:

8. Check the bottom bracket and pedals. If there’s any wobbling as you turn those cranks, you might want to take your bike in to a shop. Bike Maine recommends grasping the cranks and trying to move them from side to side. If there is any play in the assembly, have a pro look at it.

9. Check wheels for loose spokes. If you find loose spokes, unless you have a truing stand, take the bike to a shop and have their pros tighten and re-true the wheels.

10. Check brake pads for wear and replace if necessary. Make sure the brake pads are centered on the rim, not touching the tire. The pads should be flat and evenly worn.

Keeping up with the general maintenance and keeping your bike clean will ensure you have many hours of good riding, knowing that your bike is well-maintained.






Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Yeah, power washing is definitely NOT recommended. Don't want to be forcing water in places where it doesn't belong!


That's a great tip, Beeline Andy. I love this biking community! I never would have thought of bouncing my bike to help get rid of the excess water.

Beeline Andy

One thing that really helps with drying is a little bouncing :)

Bounce the bike a bit on the rear wheel...then a bit on both wheels...then dry it a bit and bounce it a bit more. You'll see water "bounce" out of some little crevices so you can wipe it away.

And...thank you for not telling people to blast the bike with a power washer and just let it air dry. I call that bike abuse!

The comments to this entry are closed.