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Bike Maintenance: How to Clean a Bike

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After a thrilling bike ride in the mud, terrains and possible everywhere on the road, it's time for the not-so-thrilling feat! Yes, you got it. Bike cleaning! Bicycles are no different from motorcycles or cars when it comes to servicing and maintenance; they need regular cleaning for a longer life and smooth running each time they are out on the road. But because of its numerous removable parts, cleaning a bicycle takes a little research and reading. Fret not though; this article tells you how to clean your bike perfectly so that it remains almost as good as new for a long time. We share with you easy ideas, quick tips that would change hot mess cleaning to hassle free! Feeling better now? Then let's dive straight into how to clean a bike. 

Bike Cleaning Supplies

First, let’s check out the basic bike-cleaning supplies that you will need to have.

Basic Bike-Cleaning Supplies
Bike Cleaning Supplies

1. Rags

These should be clean rags that preferably don’t shed lint when used. You will need them for greasing, oiling, and wax-application, and drying the bike off too. Never get your rags mixed up; you don’t want grease or lube getting onto the frame. You can also use your old dishwashing sponges instead of rags, so don’t throw them out just yet.

2. Water

You will need a sprayer or hose to wash your bike. Remember never to hose your bike down with a high-pressure spray as it can harm the sensitive bike parts like bearings.

3. Brushes

Ranging from small to large, and in various shapes, brushes are used to clean the hard-set dirt and grime that doesn’t budge with water and soap. You can substitute small brushes with old toothbrushes too.

4. Degreaser

A bike degreaser is used to clean the tough, greasy parts of the chain. Preferably choose a solvent that’s natural and eco-friendly, as well as gentle on the bike.

5. Lubricant

A bike lubricant lengthens the life of the chain. It helps the chain move smoother and easier; a non-lubricated chain can become rusty, hard, and break. You should apply lube to all the moving parts of the bike, like the chain, mech, and pivots.

6. Soap

A milder soap like dishwashing liquid or shampoo can be diluted to clean the bike. Or you can get a bike cleaner.

7. Bike Stand

This will help you hoist the bike up to a height so that it’s off the ground and easy to clean. This way, you can clean it comfortably and rotate the pedals and wheels too.

8. Pair of Gloves

Lastly, if you don't want a hot mess while cleaning your bike, then a pair of gloves is a must! Bonus point- you would save your hands from bruises and cuts!

How to Clean Your Bike?

Let’s get down to the actual business now, and understand what to clean and how. A bike has various parts – some are removable, and others are fixed. Also, the different parts need to be cleaned in their specific way. This is how to go about cleaning your bike.

1. The Chain

How to clean a bike chain efficiently and effectively?

First, put the bike in a lower gear. Take a damp rag and run the chain through it, pedaling backward. If the chain is still dirty, add the degreaser into each cog, rotating the chain so that it gets into every nook. Let it sit. Use a damp cloth or a brush to remove any excess. Then work the degreaser into every chain link with a rag. This will prevent rust and hardening.

What to Clean and How
The Chain

If the chain has some particularly bull-headed grime that refuses to leave, then you will need to scrub it with a hard brush. The chain cassette also needs to be de-greased – every cog of it. Follow the same procedure as the chain. You can avoid mishaps while cleaning with effective tips for troubleshooting your bicycle.

Livingit Tip
If the chains aren't too dirty, then rag and degreaser would do the magic of cleaning. 

2. Wheels

If you were thinking of just splashing water on the wheels, then it’s time to make your hands dirty!

Scrub the wheels with a sturdy brush to get all the dirt out. You can use soap water or plain water. Clean the rim and spokes with a damp rag and some bike-cleaning solution. Moreover, if you have disc brakes, then clean the discs with degreaser. You can spray degreaser on a tissue and then wipe across the discs to remove any grease or grime! 

how to clean a bike

3. Frame

Wouldnt you want a brand new looking frame?

Then it’s super easy. To clean the frame, first, wet your bike and spray on some bike wash. Remember what we talked about – no high-power jet sprays! They can easily age your bearings and we are quite sure you wouldn’t want that. Would you?

Rear sprockets and mech

You can even use a soap it with a sponge. Then, brush it down firmly yet gently. The next step is to rinse it all off with water. Wipe it dry with a clean cloth to avoid rusting. 

Now it's time for some shine! Buff up your bike with a bike polish to give it that extra shine, but remember to restrict the buffing to the frame! You can use Silicone bike polish or PTFE spray to get the extra gleam!

Livingit Tip
Don’t use a very hard brush or hard sponge or you’ll end up damaging the surface. 

4. Drivetrain

Admit it, the drivetrain has the highest amount of grime, grease! But when you have the right cleaning tools, what’s the need to worry?

For cleaning your drivetrain, scrub the chain rings to get rid of any tough grime, using a stiff brush. This will help force all the crud out. To get into the smaller crevices, use a toothbrush or a long, thin brush. Then rinse it out by pouring water on it. Repeat if needed. Don’t hose the drivetrain; a mild stream should do it.

Clean the discs

5. Clean the Rims and Brake Pads

Tired just thinking about how tough cleaning your bike can get? Well, here is the easy peasy cleaning! Just soap and water would do the magic.

Both rims and brake pads need to be washed with soap and dried thoroughly in order to clean a bike. Rinsing them well will ensure that they are clean and crud-free. In case your bike has rim brakes, wipe them well to remove any grime.

How to Clean a Bike Chain
Clean the Rims and Brake Pads (source)

6. Front Mech

Start off by using a brush to get out the visible and bigger chunks of grime. Using a smaller-sized brush or a toothbrush will work well. Then clean out the mech by flossing it with a clean cloth.

Brush it down
Front Mech

7. Rear Sprockets and Mech

To clean the sprocket, use a brush and hot water. If grime remains, then use the degreaser. To wedge the grime out, you can use a thin-bristled brush, stick, or screwdriver. Be thorough, as existing grime leads to a faster build-up. To clean the degreaser out, floss through the sprockets with a clean cloth.

Clean the rims and brake pads
Rear Sprockets and Mech

To clean the mech, start with a brush for the more obvious chunks of crud. Then prod the smaller remnants out with a stick or screwdriver. Then de-grease the mech and clean it out one last time with a small brush or toothbrush.

8. Derailleur and Chain Set

The best approach is to use degreaser on the derailleurs and chainset. Spray it on and then scrub it firmly but gently with a brush. Then wipe it off. Removing the chain set may make it easier to clean.

 how to clean a bike
Derailleur and Chain Set

Livingit Tip
You can use WD40 degreaser on the thick, greasy chain set. It will slough the dirt, smoothen the chain movement and the bring a shine!

9. Apply Lube to Moving Parts

This step of how to clean a bike is like icing on the cake! 

Once the degreaser has dried off, take your bike lubricant and apply the lube to the moving parts such as chain, mech and pivot points. Apply the lube on each chain link and turn your pedal backward. Word of caution- excess lube will only make your bike chain dirty. 

how to clean a bike
Apply Lube to Moving Parts

Why should you apply chain lubricant?

If you don't want your bike chain to rust off and if you want to enjoy smooth rides, then a chain lubricant is a must!

So these were the quick and easy way to clean your bike. Now that you know how to clean a bike, you can read Bike Maintenance Basics For Beginner Cyclist.  Don't feel lazy! These are the most basic tips that don’t need a professional look-over. Do not underestimate the importance of bicycle cleaning and maintenance; it is important for a long and healthy bike life. 

Happy Cleaning!

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