cleaning bike gears soap oil clean maintainance
(Photo: Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr)

How to Clean Your Bike

Keep your wheels spinning soundly with this handy guide

cleaning bike gears soap oil clean maintainance
Berne Broudy

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Cleaning your bike is easier than you think. Whether it’s steel, aluminum, titanium or carbon, with water and bike appropriate cleaners, polishes, degreasers and lube you can rid your bike of dirt in grime in 15 minutes or less minutes and without getting yourself filthy.  

Dirt in your chain, chainrings, cassette, derailleur and cables are the leading cause of on-trail breakdowns, and expensive part replacements. Matt Bracken, bike industry veteran and marketing for Pedro’s North America, manufacturer of bike cleaning and maintenance products, recommends a thorough degreasing and cleaning at least once a year, but as often as your bike needs it.

“In the old days, to clean your bike, you’d fill up a five-gallon bucket with dawn detergent and lots of suds, put on the rubber gloves and arm yourself with brushes of every size and shape and start scrubbing,” says Bracken. “With Dawn and diesel fuel as degreaser, you’d spend a hour minimum working grime out of tiny spaces, then buff the whole thing up with lemon pledge. It was messy and toxic.”

These days, biodegradable chemistry to do it all for you. Environmentally-friendly cleaners won’t hurt you, your bike or the environment. Here’s a 10-minute plan for bike cleaning (20 if you include fully degreasing your drive train).

Prep: Purchase ready to use  (RTU) foaming bike wash, like Pedros Green Fizz Foaming Bike Wash, at your local bike shop safe for frame, fork, saddle, bar tape, wheels, and components, as well as a bottle of bike polish, like Pedros Bike Lust, and a small container of chain lube. Back at home, find a place to hang or hold your bike—a folding repair stand, a wall you can lean it against.  

Wash: If you’re on an incline, stand uphill from your bike so the water from your bucket or hose will run away from your feet as you wash. Apply a liberal amount of wash to all parts of your bicycle and allow it to stand for one to five minutes, or however long the manufacturer of your cleaning product recommends.  

At least once a year, give your drivetrain a full cleaning. With a clean old toothbrush, apply a biodegradable degreaser, like Pedros Pro J, onto your chain, cassette, and chain rings using a light scrubbing motion until all parts are visibly coated. Let the degreaser sit for 15 minutes.

Rinse:  Shower your bike with a low-pressure hose to rinse off the detergent and degreaser.  If you don’t have a hose, use a jug, bucket or pan—any vessel that can hold one to five gallons of rinse water.

Dry: Let your bike drip dry or use clean rags—old towels or cotton cycling socks work well—to wipe water off the frame, fork and parts.

Polish: Wipe down your clean, dry bike frame with bike polish to keep it shiny and to help repel new dirt.

Lead Photo: Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr