How To Properly Clean Your Bicycle
From long-distance tours to casual rides around the neighborhood, more people are choosing to hop on their bikes every year. Back in 2015, 36 million Americans over the age of seven rode a bicycle six or more times. But if you're like most of those 36 million Americans, you're not going to be overly cautious about avoiding dirt and mud while you're cycling. A grimy bike is no big deal, but you have to know how to clean it properly. After all, what good are those comfy carbon fiber bike saddles if they get dirty and worn-out before their time? If you're a bit unclear about the best practices for cleaning your wheels, frame, seat clamps, pedals, and more, this brief how-to guide will set you on the right path.
Gather all your cleaning supplies
For the most part, your bike cleaning supplies will be fairly basic. You'll need:
- A bucket of water -- don't use a hose, as the higher pressure can damage your equipment
- Soft-bristled brushes and sponges -- various sizes for different components work best
- Soap or gentle cleaner -- use diluted dish soap or a specific cleaning agent meant for bikes
- Degreaser -- use a gentle bike-designed solvent, rather than turpentine or kerosene
- Chain lubricant and clean rags
Then, follow these cleaning steps:
- Clean the frame
Wipe down the frame with water, soap, and a sponge. Then, spray the frame with your bike cleaning product and leave it on for the recommended amount of time. Use clean water and a soft-bristled brush to scrub it down. Dry thoroughly.
- Clean the rims, brake pads, and seat
Wash down the rims on your wheels and use a bristled brush to clean any tough spots. An unused toothbrush can work great in a pinch! If you're using rim brakes, wipe down the pads to eliminate any dirt. For those who use carbon fiber bike saddles, carefully wipe down the clamps and the seat itself. (If you have a leather bike seat, you'll should use only recommended cleaning products.) Dry thoroughly.
- De-grease the chain, cassette, and derailleurs
Use a degreaser to spray the chain, cassette, and derailleurs. Gently scrub these components to get out any grime. You may find that taking the chain off of the chain ring will allow you to work more easily. For especially dirty chains, you may need a chain cleaning device.
- Lubricate the chain, lever pivots, and derailleurs
Once your degreaser has dried, you'll need to apply a few drops of lubricant onto the chain, lever pivots, and derailleur cables. Let it dry and wipe off any excess. You should relubricate these components if they appear dry, start squeaking, or after riding in wet conditions. Be sure to keep the lubricant away from your brake pads.
Why you should clean your bike regularly
Aside from helping your bike look its best, keeping it clean can actually help it last a lot longer. If you've spent a lot of time and money looking for the most comfortable bike seats and high-quality components, you'll want to protect your investment. While carbon fiber bike saddles don't normally require a lot of maintenance, they still need periodic attention. And if you ride in rough weather conditions, you'll want to clean and inspect your bike frequently to catch or reduce common issues. That way, you won't have to worry about replacing any of your bike's components for a long time to come.