How to Wash a Bike
Bike Cleaning 101
Proper bike cleaning should be a big part of your bicycle maintenance routine. Washing your bike regularly will ensure all your expensive bike parts have a long and happy life. Whether you ride a road bike or a mountain bike, taking the time to wash your bike (especially your drivetrain) is a necessity. For road bikes, we suggest degreasing and "re-greasing" your drivetrain every 100 miles. For mountain bikes, you should clean your bike after every muddy ride or every couple of weeks with regular use in dry climates.
So, can you use a hose on your bike? YES!
It is true that if you leave water sitting on your bike for a long time, leave soap or degreaser on your bike, or do not properly dry off your bike before storing it, you could have some rust and wear issues on your hands. However, with proper bike washing technique, using a hose and a bucket of soapy water is the best way to get your steed sparkly and clean!
Bike Cleaning Supplies
- Hose & nozzle
- Bike-specific cleaner or dish soap
- Bike-specific degreaser
- Brush kit
- Chain lube
- General bike grease
- Rubbing alcohol* (if you have disc brakes)
- Bike polish
How to Wash a Bike
1. Fill a bucket with water and dish soap or bike-specific cleaner. Try washing your bike in a shaded area to prevent premature drying.
2. Rinse your bike.
DO: Use hose on “shower” setting to thoroughly rinse your bike.
DO NOT: Use too much pressure, like a power washer or the “jet” setting. Using high pressure on areas that having bearings (like your bottom bracket, pivots, headset, and hubs) could cause dirt and debris to move into these sensitive areas. You could also wash away grease which is intended to prevent water and dirt from penetrating into your bearings.
3. Apply degreaser.
DO: Use bike-specific degreaser on the entire drivetrain (cassette, derailleurs, chain, chainrings) and allow the solution to soak in for at least 5 minutes while you clean the rest of your bike.
DO NOT: Spray degreaser onto brake calipers/brake pads/rotors if you have disc brakes. If degreaser finds its way to these areas, it can cause contamination and squeaky brakes!
4. While the foaming degreaser is working, use your brush kit to scrub the rest of the bike. Keep “drivetrain brushes” and “frame brushes” separate, lest you fancy having a very greasy bike! You can scrub everything easily accessible! Continue to occasionally dip your brushes into your soapy water as you scrub.
A brush kit provides lots of safe brushes for your frame and finishes, and the brushes come in different shapes and sizes allowing you to get into the nooks & crannies of the bicycle. Make sure to use soft-bristled brushes for your bike frame and firmer brushes for the drivetrain.
5. Re-visit the drivetrain with your “drivetrain brushes” and scrub the entire thing, including the pulleys on the rear derailleur cage. Holding a sponge on your chain as you pedal backwards is a great way to clean off goopy grease.
6. When you’re satisfied, again use the “shower” setting on the hose to rinse off the entire bike.
7. Take your bike off the stand or flip it over and bounce it on the tires to remove excess water.
8. If it is a sunny day, you can sit the bike out in the sun to dry. If the bike isn’t likely to dry in about 5-10 minutes, you’ll want to dry it as best you can with clean rags. Pay careful attention to bolts, the drivetrain and any other location that tends to hold water. To dry your drivetrain, wipe the cage and chainrings and hold a rag on your chain while you pedal backwards.
9. After drying your drivetrain, always add lube to keep your chain moving freely. There are many different kinds of lube out there (Wet, Dry, Ceramic, etc), ask your shop what they would recommend for the conditions you usually ride in. Shake the lube well before applying. Hold the nozzle at the chain and squeeze gently to release a gentle stream of lube while you pedal backward with your other hand. You want to coat the entire length of the chain, so back pedal at least 6 pedal rotations. Allow the lube to soak into the chain for about 5 minutes.
*You do not need to lube the cassette or shift while the lube is sinking in. The goal is to lube the chain, not the rings of your cassette or chain rings.
10. Wipe away excess lube with a rag. Excess lube will attract more dirt to your drivetrain.
11. If you think you may have contaminated your rotors while cleaning your bike, you can clean your rotors with rubbing alcohol.
12. With frequent washing, some parts of your bike may need fresh grease to prevent squeaking or seizing. This includes: saddle rail clamp bolt(s), seat post, seat post clamp, headset, stem bolts, thru-axles, pedal threads, bottom bracket bearings, derailleur pulleys, etc.
13. At this point, your bike should be super clean! If you’re looking for a “showroom” appearance, you can use bike polish to give your bike some extra sparkle. Using a clean, dry rag, spray some polish into your rag, and wipe down the frame and other shiny parts! Be careful not to polish the rims where the brake pads make contact (if you have rim brakes) or the rotors (if you have disc brakes).
14. Way to go!
***DISCLAIMER: If you ride a road bike, you can generally get by without using a hose. Skip the spray down and go straight for the degreaser. Use a speed degreaser that does not require any rinsing with water. And use a soft, clean rag to wipe down the frame and apply a protective polish.