How to Clean Your Bike

There’s nothing nicer than a freshly cleaned bike

So you’ve decided to take your bike out of storage and take advantage of the beautiful weather? Or maybe, you’ve been riding it all over and it needs some love and attention.  Cleaning a bike can seem a little intimidating, but with these tips you’ll get your bike back to new with some everyday household supplies.

The Supplies You’ll Need

  • Kitchen Rags 
  • Scrub Brushes and a toothbrush
  • Kitchen Sponge (use an old one!)
  • Dish Soap or a simple household cleaner.
  • Garden Hose (optional)
  • Bucket
  • Old Towel 
  • Protip: A bottle of Bike Lust or similar product can add some extra shine for a finishing touch.

Where to Start

If you don’t have access to a hose where you live, you may have to do some extra scrubbing and rinsing as you go along.  A self service car wash is also a nice option if you don’t have the space at home, plus there’s no chance of getting your yard dirty, and the drain will capture and recycle the runoff from your wash. 

If you have a bike stand at home, now’s the time to take it out of the garage.  However, if you don’t have one at home, placing your bike on an old towel while you’re cleaning is a good way to prevent your bike from getting scratched while it’s on the ground. If you or a neighbor has a clothesline you can also hang your bike there, so long as it’s taut. 

Frame

Start with the frame.  If you have a leather seat, be sure to cover it with a grocery bag or plastic bag.  This is probably the easiest part to clean, and maybe the most satisfying.  Use the soft part of a kitchen sponge to gently clean all the dirt and grime from the frame.  For tough spots, having a hose can really help get into the grimy parts of the frame. Once you’re done, rinse it off with your hose. You can also replace the soapy water with clean water and wipe it down with a rag.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain consists of the bike’s chain, cogs, derailer, cassette, and pedals – basically all of the parts that get you moving.

When cleaning the drivetrain, be sure not to strip your drivetrain and chain of all the grease, just focus on the gunk by using a brush, toothbrush, or rag.

After you’re done going over the chain, if you have some chain lubricant, add a new layer and wipe off the excess with a rag. You can remove excess lubricant by pedaling backwards while holder a rag against the chain.

Two bicycle wheels on a white towel

Wheels 

If you have a quick release for your front and rear wheels, just take the wheels off and give them a wash and rinse with a sponge or rag.  If you don’t have quick release wheels, you may need a multitool to take them off the bike.  If you don’t feel confident you’ll be able to remove your back wheel and then get it back into the drivetrain when you’re done, don’t worry, you can always keep it on, though taking it off does make it easier to get into every nook and cranny of the wheel.

A newly cleaned bicycle

Finishing Up 

Once you’ve cleaned and rinsed off each of these components of your bike,  give it another look to make sure you’ve successfully reattached your bike wheels properly.  A loose wheel is dangerous, so make sure to check your wheel releases and ensure that they’re properly attached to your bike. Make sure to also check if any of your bike’s components need replaced. 

If your wheels are missing a few spokes, or your brakes feel a little too worn it might be the right time to take your bike to the shop.  We have a list of bike shops in Pittsburgh to get your bike ready for a great season of riding, so check them out if your bike needs any repairs!  

If your bike has been out of commission for a long time, it’s important to check and see if it needs to be brought in to a mechanic for a proper tune up.  Even a clean bike needs to be safe enough to ride.  Check out our list of bike shops for help getting your bike ready to go!


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