Tender Loving Care: Cleaning Your Bike

February 10, 2014 Updated: February 10, 2014

With many modern road bikes now costing into the thousands of euro, bike care is an essential part of making your investment last longer while reducing costs from replacement parts and increasing future re-sale value. 

Bikes pick up all kinds of dust, mud and road grime, especially in wet weather. Cleaning your bike after every road-trip is a good habit to get into, especially if you cycle beside the sea, where sea spray and fine sand can get on your bike and start attacking it. Never, ever take your bike onto a beach, as the salty sea-sand can get into all kinds of nooks and crannies including bearings, causing wear and pockets of corrosion.

To clean your bike properly, you’ll need a garden hose, a couple of soft cloths and sponges, some foam or spray-on de-greaser, a bucket of warm, soapy water, and a high-quality bicycle lubricant.

First, use the hose to remove any heavy mud and grime. If using a pressure washer, don’t go too close to the bike (1 metre away is fine), setting the nozzle to a wide fan to keep from damaging the paintwork, and to avoid driving water into bearings where it could cause corrosion. 

Spray the de-greaser onto the chain at the sprockets by manually rotating the pedals backward, and spray the front and back sprockets. Let the de-greaser do its magic, and wipe down the rest of the bike with a rag soaked in soapy water, starting at the top and working down, from the cleanest parts to the dirtiest, rinsing out your rag as you go. Avoid touching the chain or de-greaser with the rag, as this could distribute oily gunk and grime all over the bike.

Use a tough kitchen-sink sponge to encase the chain with your hand, and run it backwards again to clean off the chain. Use a special brush (or an old toothbrush) to clean the sprockets. Rinse the bike off with the garden hose, and allow to dry – if you have a compressor, you can speed up the drying process with some compressed air. 

Most importantly, don’t forget to re-lubricate the chain, front and back sprockets, and all the other lubrication points on the bike before storing it (if possible, in a warm, dry place).

And of course, what goes around, comes around: your bike will thank you for looking after it by looking well and keeping you moving for many years to come!