If we learned one thing about riding in 2020, it’s that more and more people were getting on their bikes for exercise and some adventure. And you probably realized the more you go on a particularly muddy ride on the trails, or you’re looking to bring your indoors for a training session, that you’ll need to give it a good scrub.
But even if your bike isn’t completely caked in mud and dirt, it still needs some TLC every so often. We recommend cleaning your road bike monthly (or every 20 to 25 rides) and a mountain or ’cross bike more often.
If you need some guidance, watch the video above for a demo on how to properly clean your bike, and keep reading for a few tips and tricks to make the cleaning process less of a hassle.
WHAT YOU NEED
You’ll need these everyday, household items to clean your bike:
- Clean shop rags or old cotton T-shirts (free!)
- Bottle brushes
- Scrub brushes
- Soft, square-head brush for wheels
- Garden hose with trigger-style spray head
- Dawn Ultra
Optional, but Recommended Tools:
- Bike Stand (see below)
- Chain Keeper: Pedro’s Chain Keeper Tool
- Degreaser: Pedro’s Oranj Peelz Citrus Degreaser
DO’S AND DONT’S
• Recycle your dish sponges. You’ll get another couple of months out of them on bike-wash duty.
• Floss with a clean rag between chainrings, cogs, and other hard-to-reach places.
• Be committed. A clean bike rides better and lasts longer.
• Mix your buckets, tools, and rags. You don’t want to cover your frame with drivetrain grease.
• Use an abrasive sponge or brush on your frame.
• Blast your bike with a high-pressure hose. Water will get into and degrade your bearings.
Fill two clean buckets with water and a generous squirt of dish soap. Lay out your brushes, sponges, and rags.
Place your bike in a workstand (here’s our picks for some of the best)—this brings it up off the ground and makes all the nooks and crannies easier to reach. No workstand? Try hooking the nose of your saddle over a taut clothesline.
Next, remove your wheels. You can insert a chain keeper—a guide for your chain when the cassette is removed—to keep tension on the drivetrain. It’s fine to skip this step if you don’t want to spring for the tool, but using one prevents the chain from folding up on itself or falling off the bike when you try to work on it. Trust us, it’s annoying.
Step 1: Chain
Use a degreaser and turn the cranks backward so that it gets on every link. After about five to 10 minutes, rinse with a gentle stream of water from the hose. If the chain is still grimy, apply small drops of dish soap like you would a lube, grip the chain in the rough side of your sponge, then turn the cranks for several rotations. Rinse.
Step 2: Drivetrain
Dip a stiff-bristled brush into one of your pre-filled buckets and scrub the chainrings. We recommend using a bottle brush or toothbrush to get into crevices around the teeth, pulleys, and rings. Then rinse with a gentle stream of water and repeat if you still see any lingering crud. Next, grab your rear wheel and drip dish soap onto the cassette, scrub, then rinse. Repeat if necessary.
Step 3: Frame
Dip a clean, soft sponge into your second (fresh) bucket. Soap up the frame, working your way from front to back, then rinse. If you have caliper brakes, clean the pads with the abrasive side of the sponge.
Step 4: Wheels
We recommend using softer, bigger brushes for tires and rims so you can get into every nook and cranny with minimal effort. Dunk your brush into the bucket you used for your frame. Starting at the valve, scrub all the way around the wheel, hit the spokes and hub, then flip the wheel to get the opposite side. Repeat on the other wheel, then rinse. (If you have disc brakes, use the soft side of a clean sponge with soap and water on rotors.)
Reattach the wheels and spin the cranks to make sure the drivetrain runs smoothly. Wipe everything down with a dry, clean cloth or let it air-dry in the sun. Lube your chain.
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