Giving your bike a regular cleaning guarantees it will keep you rolling for miles to come but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. MassBike's Executive Director, Galen Mook, recently joined Ciclismo Classico to break down the dirt on the bike cleaning know-how. His tips stick to the basics, without needing a lot of space or fancy equipment. You can follow along with Galen's bike cleaning workshop using the materials list and cleaning tips provided below.
Get Ready & Gather your Materials
Before you start cleaning, you should gather your materials and prepare your work area. If you’re working indoors, Galen recommends putting down a sheet or something to catch the drips to help contain the mess. You should also make sure you’re dressed for the job in a dark shirt or clothes you don’t mind getting greasy.
Bike Cleaning Materials List
- Simple Green (diluted) or Green Fizz (bike-specific wash)
- Bike-Specific Degreaser
- WD-40 (sparingly, you will need to regrease after using)
- Rubbing alcohol – (Isopropyl 70% or higher recommended) For cleaning disc rotors and brake surfaces on rim brakes
- Thin “Dry” lube (better when riding in dry riding conditions)
- Thicker “Wet” or “Wax” lube (better when riding in wet and slushy conditions)
- Thin lube in a spray can (T-9)
Rags and Brushes
- Preferably an old t-shirt for rags
- Plastic bristle brush (not metal)
- Pieces of cardboard to get in between cogs
- Watering can (preferably with warm water)
- Sandpaper (fine grit)
Now that you're prepared, it’s time to grab your bike and start cleaning with the following tips:
- Using a clean(ish) rag, brush and wipe off the grime/slush/snow/salt/sand as best you can (while it’s still frozen if out from the snow). Especially the chain, derailleurs (all parts of the drivetrain) and near the bottom bracket and chainstays. You can use a low-flow of warm water, preferably out of a watering can, and then wipe and brush off the grit.
- Optional: Degrease or soap off the thicker grit from the cogs, chain, frame, using a solvent like Green Fizz. Use *only* rubbing alcohol to clean grit off brakes, brake pads, brake rotors (if disc), and wheel rims (leaves no residue).
- Lubricate the moving parts, specifically the chain (one drop per link where the links meet), and any exposed springs in derailleurs, brake arm pivots, and exposed metal that needs to move or rotate. Every so often you can drip thin lubricant into the cables and housing to help them stay smooth and prevent water from getting in and freezing cables.
- Let the lubrication settle in for a few minutes (maybe 15 mins). Run the chain, move the derailleurs, “wake up” the exposed metal to let the lubrication settle in.
- Wipe it all down as much as you like, but remember anything you wipe off is good to remove, for both grit and lubrication. You only need to keep the internals off the components greased – even the chain.
- Every so often, check the “rotational” systems of the bike to make sure they’re not wobbly or knock around: the wheel hubs; the cranks/bottom bracket; the headset.
- If you have rust on parts of the frame, you CAN scrape it off in spots using steel wool or aluminum foil, but then be sure to coat the spot with nail polish or another coating to keep it from rusting again!
Following these tips periodically will not only keep your bike rolling but gives you a good chance to check for any issues that need to be taken care of at your local bike shop. After any muddy or grimy rides, Galen suggests cleaning off your bike with a watering can or low-pressure water to get rid of the gunk. He also notes that your chain should be lubricated more often than you deep clean. If your chain is looking dry or feeling stiff, add some chain lube to keep it working smoothly & help your chain last longer. We hope these tips help you give your bike some deep cleaning love.