Whether you like to bike for exercise/recreation or you rely on your bicycle as your primary means of transportation, taking care of your bike is a must. In addition to occasional tune-ups and adding air to your tires, one of the most essential maintenance tips you can follow is cleaning your bike often.
If you’ve never cleaned a bike before, you may not be sure where to start. By having a better understanding of why cleaning your bike is important and how to complete this task properly and thoroughly, you can keep your bike in great shape for many years to come.
The Importance of Cleaning Your Bike
Why is cleaning your bike so important, anyway? Aside from keeping your bike looking shiny and new, regular cleaning can really help to prolong the life of your bicycle and avoid the need for costly repairs or premature replacement.
Over time, dirt and other debris can build up on your bike and its many moving components. The chain, wheels, gears, and even brake handles can become damaged by this “gunk,” which could result in the need for expensive repairs or replacement of parts. By keeping your bike cleaned and clear of debris, you can maintain its condition and smooth operation.
A clean bike is also safer. Dirt and other debris, for example, could clog your brakes and make it difficult to stop—which could put your safety at risk.
Signs Your Bike Needs to Be Cleaned
The frequency with which you should clean your bike will depend on a number of factors, including how often you ride it and the conditions in which you ride it. If you only ride your bike on occasion for exercise or recreational purposes—and if you tend to stick to paved bike trails or city streets, you won’t need to clean your bicycle as frequently as you would if you used it for your daily commute or for off-roading.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to give your bike a thorough cleaning about once a month, or any time you notice signs that it needs to be cleaned. Some signs to watch out for include:
- the appearance of caked-on dirt or debris
- debris covering brake calipers or brake levers
- dirt or debris lodged in your bike chain
Cleaning Your Bike: Step-By-Step
Now that you’ve established the need to wash your bike, where should you begin? Start by making sure you’ve set aside some time and that you have the right supplies. Depending on how dirty it is, you can expect to spend about an hour (or possibly more) washing it. You’ll also need some essential tools and supplies, including:
- some clean rags or old (clean) t-shirts
- scrub brushes
- a large sponge
- dish soap
- a large bucket
- a garden hose or garden sprayer
- a degreaser
If you don’t have access to an outdoor area where you can wash your bike (such as a garage or driveway), consider using your bathtub. This is a common solution among bikers who live in apartments or other rentals where access to outdoor space (or a garden hose) may be restricted.
Create Your Cleaning Solution
You don’t need to buy a special cleaning solution to wash your bike; you may be amazed at what a little dish soap and warm water can do. In a large bucket, combine warm/hot water with a few drops of your favorite dish soap. The grease- and grime-fighting properties of any quality dish soap should be enough to remove even caked-on debris while remaining gentle on your bike’s paint and other finishes.
Clean and Degrease the Chain
Start by using a degreaser to clean your bike chain, working link by link to ensure the entire chain is thoroughly cleaned. For best results, leave the degreaser on the chain for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off. If the chain still feels slippery or grimy after you’ve cleaned it, you can also use a small amount of your cleaning solution to remove leftover lubrication; just be sure to dry the chain thoroughly when you’re done, as bike chains can be prone to rust if left wet.
Scrub the Bike’s Drivetrain
Next, use your scrub brush and cleaning solution to wash your bike’s drivetrain; this consists of all the chainrings, pulleys, rings, and other nooks/crannies throughout your bike. This will be the most tedious work of the entire project and may require a fair amount of your time. For small nooks and crannies, you can use a toothbrush or a bottle brush for best results. Give the drivetrain and its components a thorough rinse before moving onto the next step.
Wash the Bike’s Frame
Now, it’s time to wash the frame. A large sponge and a few clean rags will come in handy here. Use the sponge to wipe down the frame and remove large clumps of debris. For any remaining grime, spot-treat with a rag. Scrubbing in small, circular motions will break up any lingering areas of dirt. Again, be sure to rinse the frame thoroughly when you’re done with this step so you don’t end up with any soap residue.
Don’t Forget the Wheels
Last but not least, it’s time to clean those wheels so you can have the best possible traction as you ride. A scrub brush will come in handy here; simply dip the brush into your cleaning solution and then scrub the wheels thoroughly in circular motions. If there is any dirt caked into the treads on your bike, a toothbrush or bottle brush can be useful here as well. Don’t forget to wipe down the disk brakes and rotors on your bike during this step as well.
Once your bike is shiny and clean, use a clean rag to dry it off as thoroughly as possible. If you can, you may also want to leave your bike sitting out in the sun to expedite the drying process. From there, you’ll be ready to get on your bike and start riding once again.
Need Additional Cleaning Help?
On its own, cleaning a bike isn’t a very difficult or time-consuming project. When combined with other cleaning tasks and life responsibilities, however, things can get overwhelming. At Valet Maids, our professional cleaners are here to save you time and make your life easier by offering quality cleaning services for your entire home. From regular, scheduled house cleanings to deep cleanings and more, we do it all.