Cleaning your bike regularly will prolong the life of the components. Frequent cleaning makes the process easier as dirt that is ingrained is harder to remove. In this blog post we explain how to wash a bike correctly.
Bikes are designed to be ridden in wet conditions, so you shouldn’t be afraid to wash them with water. We do not, however, recommend using a pressure washer or a steam cleaner as the pressurised water can penetrate the bearings of the bottom bracket, headset, hubs and suspension pivots.
- Bicycle stand- A stand makes the bike easier to clean. It lifts the bike off the floor so you can have it at a height that suits you and you can access all the parts quickly.
- A bucket of clean water- To wet the bike first. A bit like having a shower. Get wet first and the detergent will activate.
- Plastic floor mat– Either a dedicated product or any piece of plastic. This will protect the floor if you want to clean indoors.
- Detergent in a spray bottle- This helps distribute the soap
- Sponge- Nice and soft so it doesn’t scratch your bike. You can use a decorating sponge, bath sponge, kitchen sponge etc. Just make sure that no one is using it!
- Set of cleaning brushes- You can buy cycle specific ones or assemble your own. Useful for the very dirty and greasy components. After you have used them, it is a good idea to soak them in degreaser and rinse and dry ready for next time.
- Cloths for drying- Any moisture left on the bike will lead to corrosion. Microfibre cloths are good as they are super absorbent, but you can just rip up old cotton clothes. Make sure they’re not someone’s favourite “t” shirt!
- Chain cleaning tool– A simple way to clean your chain while it’s still on the bike. As with the cleaning brushes, it is a good idea to soak, rinse and dry it afterwards so it is ready for next time.
- Chain degreaser- This goes in your chain cleaning tool and ensures that all the old oil and dirt is dissolved. Make sure that it isn’t just a bike cleaner, but a proper degreaser. Washing up liquid is a degreaser but not very good for chains as it contains a lot of salt to thicken it.
- Plastic bags and elastic bands– A simple yet effective way to protect your brake rotors from contamination during cleaning and drying.
- Isopropyl alcohol- If you have rim brakes you can use this to clean any residue or detergent left on the rims.
How to wash a bike– preparation:
- If using a mat or plastic sheet, put it on the floor.
- Put the bike on the stand.
- Remove the wheels.
- If you have disc brakes, cover the callipers and rotors with the plastic bags and secure them with the elastic bands.
- Make a cup of tea.?☕
How to wash a bike– cleaning process
- Start with the frame and forks. Wet the bike with clean water.
- Spray it with the detergent
- use a damp sponge to clean the frame, forks and non-greasy components.
- Degrease the chainrings on the chainset and jockey wheels on the derailleur. A small, hard bristled brush is good for this job.
- Have a slurp of tea.☕
- If you have suspension forks, then use a clean rag to wipe the water and the dirt from the seals in between the stanchions and the lower legs.
- Now you can clean the wheels. Clean the tyres and rims with the detergent and brushes. Rinse with water, and if you have rim brakes, dry the rims with a rag and clean them with isopropyl alcohol
- Degrease and rinse the cogs on the back wheel. You can get microfibre “laces” to do this. They are a good investment. They don’t shred like cloth and they can be cleaned and reused many times.
- Remove the plastic bags from the brakes and rotors and refit the wheels.
- Another slug of the old Rosie Lee.☕
- Now you can clean your chain. Pour the degreaser in the cleaning tool and degrease it.
- Pour the degreaser into a container and let it settle. The dirt and bits of metal will sink to the bottom and you will be able to pour off the fluid and reuse it.
- Replace the degreaser with water and rinse the chain and the cogs.
- More tea.☕
- There will still be oil and dirt on the chain as the degreaser will have worked its way between the plates and rollers and will still be flushing out, so dry it with an old towel or rag.
- Once the bike is cleaned, use a clean dry cloth to dry it. Don’t touch the rotors as any detergent could cause contamination.
- Now lubricate your chain. If you’re not sure of the best way to do this, head over to our previous blog post on how to oil a bike chain.
- Take the bike off the work stand, admire your work whilst finishing your (now) cold cuppa, et voila, your bike is ready to get dirty again!
Washing your bike helps prolong the life of your parts. This can help save money as replacing parts can become expensive, especially if you are having to do it more regularly than is typical.
Hose & nozzle
Bike-specific cleaner or dish soap
General bike grease
Rubbing alcohol* (if you have disc brakes)