Working smoothly and looking sharp are crucial parts of being a bike owner and cyclist. Worried your cleaning methods may not be up to standard? Bicycling Magazine has you covered. Bicycling Product Editor Mike Yozell recommends cleaning a road bike monthly (or every 20 to 25 rides), a mountain or cross bike more often, and any bike after every messy ride.
Now to get started on cleaning your bike:
What You Need
Round up these everyday household items to wash your bike:
- Clean shop rags or old cotton T-shirts
- Dummy axle
- Scrub brushes
- Repair stand or taut clothesline
- Garden hose with trigger-style spray nozzle
- Chain lube
- Two-sided abrasive sponges
- Dish detergent
1. Fill two clean buckets with water and a generous squirt of dish soap. (Mike likes Dawn Ultra.)
2. Lay out your brushes, sponges, and rags.
3. Place your bike in a work stand. This brings it up off the ground and makes all the nooks and crannies easier to reach. No work stand? Try hooking the nose of your saddle over a taut clothesline.
- Remove your wheels and insert a dummy axle or a chain keeper. “I like to insert a chain keeper [a guide for your chain when the cassette is removed] to keep tension on the drivetrain,” Mike says. 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.
- Rinse the frame and components.
- If the chain is still grimy, apply small drops of dish soap like you would a lube, grip the chain on the rough side of your sponge, then turn the cranks for several rotations. Let it sit for five minutes, and rinse.
- Scrub the derailleurs, chain, and chainrings with a stiff-bristled brush. “Use a bottle brush or toothbrush to get into crevices around the teeth, pulleys, and rings,” Mike says. Rinse with a gentle stream of water and repeat if you still see any lingering crud.
- With a clean, soft sponge dipped into your second (fresh) bucket, soap up the frame, working your way from front to back. “Be methodical, so you remember what you’ve done,” Mike says. Rinse.
- Clean your brake calipers, bottom bracket, rear dropouts, and under your fork. Clean brake pads with the abrasive side of the sponge.
- Rinse the frame with a light spray.
- Grab your rear wheel, drip dish soap onto the cassette, scrub with a brush (dunked in the bucket you used to clean your frame), then rinse. Repeat if necessary.
- Wash your wheels. 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. Scrub your tires. “I use softer and bigger brushes for tires and rims, so they get into crevices with less effort,” Mike says. (If you have disc brakes, use the soft side of a clean sponge with soap and water on rotors.)
- Gently rinse your wheels and reinstall. Spin the cranks to make sure the drivetrain runs smoothly.
- Wipe everything down with a dry cloth or let it air-dry in the sun.
- Lube your chain.
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