How-To: Wash Your Bike 6

Just as crucial as performing day-to-day maintenance procedures, keeping your bike presentable is a sure-fire way to increase the service life of your components and stay on top of any issues that may develop. Regular washings provide a chance to look for cracks in the frame, keep an eye on drivetrain wear, and notice any loose parts. Remember; a clean bike is a happy bike! Waterless Put the bike in a stand and take the wheels off. Put plastic bags over the brake calipers and use rubber bands to hold the bags in place. These will protect your pads from contamination. Better yet, remove the pads.

Spray a mild all-purpose cleaner or dedicated bike wash liberally all over the bike, being careful not to spray directly at bearing seals or electrical connections. Then spray a bit on your rag and wipe the bike down. Take care to get the underside of the downtube and bottom bracket. Both of these areas accumulate a ton of gunk and are frequently missed. Be sure to wipe off gunk and old dried up drink mix that accumulates on external cables and cable guides.

Although this is something you should do as part of your regular maintenance, make sure to wipe off fork seals and pivots. When wiping fork stanchions always wipe side to side rather than up and down. Vertical scratches provide a pathway for oil to get past seals. To clean your wheels, apply bike wash to your rag, and then use the rag to wipe off the dirt, rather than spraying the cleaner directly on the wheels. If bike wash gets on your rotors and stays there, it will contaminate your brake pads and make your brakes unsafe. If you have to clean your rotors, use isopropyl alcohol and a dedicated clean rag.

If you want to go the extra mile you can apply Bike Lust or a similar product to make the bike shine. These polishes have the added benefit of preventing dirt from sticking to the paint.

To clean the chain, either keep the chain on the bike and use a chain cleaning machine, or remove the chain and let it soak in citrus-based solvent. Drop the chain in an old water bottle and fill with enough solvent to cover the chain. Shake it up and let it sit for a while. Then extract the chain, reinstall, spray with the cleaner and wipe off, then lube immediately.

Don’t forget to reinstall your brake pads. With Water The garden hose only needs to be used with caked on dirt or mud. It’s often not necessary except in the rainy months.

After putting your bike in a stand, remove the wheels and cover the calipers or remove the brake pads. Use very gentle water pressure, mist is best, to avoid forcing water into past seals. Use a soft brush to break up any stubborn dirt as you spray the bike. Give a squirt under the saddle.

After rinsing with water, spray the bike down with a dedicated bike wash and loosen any residual dirt with a soft brush. Then, spray more cleaner on a rag and wipe the bike down from shifters to rear dropouts. Hit the bike with some spray polish for shine and to make cleaning easier next time. If you want to give your tires the “wet look,” spray some polish on a rag and wipe down the sidewalls only. Don’t get polish anywhere near the rotors or brake calipers. Clean the chain as previously mentioned.

Don’t forget to reinstall your brake pads. Remember that cleaning your bike regularly isn’t just about looking pro; it is a great way to identify cracks or other damage before they become a bigger problem later.

Credit: Art's Cyclery / Vital MTB
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6 comments
  • TheRage43

    3/22/2015 7:34 AM

    I take issue with this description.. If you use a MRP guide, they recommend against using anything citrus related to clean your chain. Also, if you lube your chain directly after cleaning it, the cleaning agent will immediately begin breaking down the lube you just applied. Truthfully you DO NOT need to buy any fancy cleaners or bike-specific products. I use a light mixture of of a soft soap like dish washing liquid over most of the bike. IF my gears and chain are gunked up badly, they get completely removed and cleaned with a hard cleaner like Simple Green, then they completely dry before going back on and getting lubed.

  • Art's Cyclery

    3/23/2015 9:43 AM

    Rage, good call on the citrus compatibility and lube concern. We recommended spraying the chain with your regular bike cleaner after reinstalling for just this reason. Dishwashing liquid mixed with water works fine, and we have no problem with it. Using a pre-made bike wash simply reduces your prep time. Sounds like you've got a happy bike!

  • ZMC888

    3/22/2015 6:27 AM

    Yeah right, I ride 5 times a week, if I kept the bike that clean I'd hardly ever have the time to ride it.

  • filthyanimal

    3/21/2015 8:20 PM

    ...or drop a dollar at the car wash.

  • styriabeef

    3/21/2015 8:09 AM

    next time clean an actual dirty bike with that "sprinkle"

  • Art's Cyclery

    3/23/2015 9:37 AM

    Hi Beef. You're correct, using a mist or "sprinkle" setting requires some extra effort with a brush, as shown in the video. However, the consequences of blasting water past seals makes it worth it in our opinion.