Bike Cleaning Steps
Even though winter is fast approaching (and, in some cases, is already firmly here) that doesn’t mean there’s no time for a few more adventures on your bike. With the change in the weather, though, it means you’ll need to pay close attention to how dirty it is once you return home. We get that this is something you’d much rather avoid, but it can have disastrous consequences if neglected and could cause you a bit of heartache when the time comes to take your bike out again, however soon that may be. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, so check out our 10 post-ride steps to keep your bike clean, and never get stuck in the wrong gear again.
It’s definitely one of the last things you want to do, especially after a particularly muddy, wet, and cold ride, but there are a plethora of reasons why you should clean your bike after every single ride.
It Lasts Longer
It’s not rocket science to understand that the better care you take of something, the longer it will last. If you take care of your bike and clean it thoroughly after every ride, you’ll prevent things like rusting, clogging, and more and feel free to jump on it and take it for a spin whenever you like.
Compare cleaning to using bike locks, you don’t want to risk your bike being stolen when you leave it somewhere, and so you should also take care of it even when at home. Cleaning your bike regularly ensures this.
The Ride Is More Fun
And, much like a car, you’ll have much more fun while you’re actually riding. The whole point of getting out on your bike and speeding through the marvels of nature or wherever you choose to explore is about having fun. However, if your bike is clogged up with grime, dirt, and debris you might not get the experience you’re looking for.
This is because your bike won’t perform as you expect or want it to. The wheels may feel stiff, there might be a mysterious noise that you’re sure wasn’t there before, and this could cause you to call it a day sooner than you’d anticipated.
Frequent Cleaning Means the Eventual Job is Much Easier
Remember how, as a kid, you would avoid cleaning your room as much as possible (unless, of course, you were some kind of perfect child) and then when it became too much the eventual task was overwhelming? Well, that’s what it will be like if you don’t clean your bike often enough. If you neglect to properly take care of your bike, any mud or dirt will harden and make it much more difficult to remove once you finally get round to cleaning it – usually when you don’t have any other choice.
If you clean your bike as soon as you finish your ride you don’t have to worry about this happening and can look forward to your next ride on a clean, functioning bike.
By ensuring consistent, thorough cleaning of your bike, you guarantee a safer riding experience. This correlates to what we mentioned above, if you leave dirt to dry, it will clog, and this can have potentially dangerous consequences as parts of the bike may not work as they are supposed to, such as the brakes and handlebars.
While you are no doubt careful in your riding, the conditions do not always care about this and there is any number of circumstances that you have no control over which could cause an accident. Save yourself a trip to the hospital, and just clean that bike.
Fewer Costs In the Long Run
Sure, frequent cleaning means you’ll probably spend more money on cleaning products, but this pales in comparison to how much money you’ll end up spending on your bike if it’s not properly cared for. If after a ride your bike is dirty and you leave it, this dirt can affect crucial parts of the bike and could mean you have to buy replacements.
This is especially true of the chain – which without that means you aren’t going anywhere unless you happen to live at the top of a hill – allowing grease and grime to build up could damage the chain beyond repair and require a replacement. But other parts can be affected just as equally, and all of these replacements will cost money, which, after probably spending months deliberating over the best mountain bikes for men, is not what you really want to do.
Before Getting Into Gear
Hold your horses (or bicycles, we suppose), you won’t be able to wash anything without first getting the proper equipment. Thankfully, it’s not too complicated to collect all necessary materials, you should have a few of them lying around the house, and if not they don’t cost too much to get your hands on them.
- Clean rags such as old shirts that you should have thrown away years ago, anyway.
- A small brush
- A big soft brush, or alternatively a big car sponge
- A large bucket of warm water
- Soap or washing up liquid
- Dedicated bike degreasers
- Old plastic containers (such as empty butter boxes and the like)
- A hose
- (OPTIONAL) Rubber gloves, these things can get messy.
Sure it looks like a lot of stuff, but most of this is more than likely readily available in your garage or tool shed.
1. Rinse It Good
This part is easy enough. Simply take your hose – or, if you don’t have a hose, a bucket of water will suffice – and rinse down the bike. This doesn’t have to be too thorough, but it’s an excellent place to start, and if you’re still not completely happy that you need to clean your bike, it’s a good way to get into the groove. To make your job easier for the rest of the steps, make sure you go over the whole bike and not merely the places that you know are dirty. We’ll also advise you to use a hose that doesn’t have too much pressure, as this can have the opposite effect you’re looking for, and dirt could get lodged in small crevices that you didn’t even know existed.
2. Rinse It Again, but Closer
The first rinse will get rid of loose dirt, but going over it again, focusing on each individual part of the bike will ensure you get as close of a clean as possible. Spend some time completing a closer rinse of the frame, handlebars, chain, and wheels, as well as the bike seat, which even if it’s not dirty, we don’t want to feel left out. Much like the initial rinse, this is done to make everything else much easier.
3. Degrease It (and Don’t Be Shy)
This is where things start to get messy. Take your degreaser and apply it on the greasy (duh) parts of the bike. This includes the chain and its links, chainrings, cassette, and jockey wheels.For even more thorough cleaning and a better effect, you can use a small brush (such as a toothbrush) to really get into those hard to reach places and ensure your bike is thoroughly degreased. To make life easier for you, use one of the plastic containers and fill it with degreaser so you can dip in and out without needing to touch the bottle with greasy hands.
4. Soap It Up
While the degreaser takes effect, focus your attentions to the rest of the bike (aside from brake rotors and brake pads). This should be done with special bike soap products, as using anything else could cause damage to the bike, which is definitely not something you want.
5. Get Scrubbing
After leaving the soap for a couple of minutes – to let it soak in – you’ll be able to scrub away the dirt and grime from the parts of the bike you’ve applied this soap to. This is best achieved by using a stiff brush to ensure you’ll definitely get rid of as much as possible at that time. To make sure this is as straightforward as possible, use warm water over cold, as this is better at breaking down the dirt. Give it a quick rinse when you’re finished to remove any remaining soap.
6. Dismantle and Start Again
You won’t always have to do this step, but if your bike is particularly dirty, then it might be easier to dismantle the bike as best you can – while also remembering how to put it back together – to complete a more comprehensive clean of smaller parts. If your bike is one with suspension, this will help remove dirt from the inside that is smeared down there while riding.
7. Wipe It Down
Congrats! The hard part is pretty much over and despite being moderately filthy, you’re getting close to the end. To prevent any water, soap, or grease sticking to the bike, especially in places not in plain view, give it a quick wipe down with a rag or cloth. This also removes any left over dirt that could have been missed.
8. Dry It Off
If there’s still moisture left on the bike after wiping it down, go over it again with a different, dry cloth to speed up the process. This involves giving it a few bounces to knock water off that you can’t reach, as well as drying the chain by wrapping a cloth around it and pedaling backwards (or forwards, if you’re someone who uses a chain keeper). This isn’t done to give you something extra, but instead helps to prevent moisture buildup on the chain and preventing rusting while also removing whatever dirt you could have missed.
You could leave it to dry in the sun, but that could cause water to dry in place and ‘spot’ over the bike. While this won’t affect how it operates, it still doesn’t look as attractive as a clean, shiny bike.
If you have taken it apart for a deep clean, you should also put it back together, hopefully like it was before and less like a Homer Simpson Outsider Art piece, there are other ways to express your creativity, man.
8.5. A Job (Almost) Well Done
Admire your handy work and think of starting a business cleaning other people’s bikes for them. Also, pat yourself on the back, or better yet get someone else to do it for you, and maybe celebrate with a beer.
9. Lube and Prep
Lubing up the bike is another step taken to prevent rusting while also limiting potential damage to the chain and the surrounding area. You will have either a drip-on or spray-on lube and, while drip-on is perhaps easier if you have a spray-on, it doesn’t matter.
To apply and use properly, simply drip (or spray) the lube onto the bike chain and rotate the pedals backwards (or forwards with a chain keeper) until you have applied it to the whole chain. When this is done, remove any remaining lube with a rage as this can catch debris and cause issues later on. Leaving it will give the lube enough time to soak in, as opposed to applying it before your next ride, saving you time.
10. Test It Out
With everything complete, look over your bike to check for any issues, and if there are issues, be sure to get them fixed immediately by a repair professional. Go through the gears to make sure they switch and lock correctly, as well as checking the brakes still work while also spinning the wheels. If everything’s a-okay, then you’re good to go for your next ride, which might be right now, just don’t forget your helmet.
Off The Chain
Like anything in your life, you want to make sure that you take care of your bike as well as possible. Following these simple steps will ensure years worth of happy biking, with no accidents or mistakes along the way. Happy riding!