How to Clean Your Bike: Five Simple Steps

We all know the importance of cleaning our bikes but that's not to say we all do it. A clean bike is a happy bike and a happy bike will perform at its best and reduce the risk of unexpected mechanics all while reducing wear and tear.

For this post, we've teamed up with Crankalicious, who've kindly provided us with the crème de la crème of bicycle cleaning products. Using these, along with ten years' experience as a bike mechanic, I'll show you how to get your bike spick and span before your next ride.


Step 1 - Mud Honey

A small drop of this stuff goes a long way; just two capfuls will create enough bubbles to soak the whole bike. Much like ‘snow foam’ car cleaner, the idea is that the solution in the water helps wash away dirt and grime while the bubbles remain on the frame and work away at tougher grime. Best practice is to start on the cleaner areas (top tube, bars, saddle and seat post, etc.) before working your way down the bike, tackling areas that are more susceptible to dirt build-up. Using a large bucket, give lots of water for washing away. This step can be repeated depending how dirty your machine is!


Step 2 - Pineapple Express

If the grime still isn’t shifting, you probably should have cleaned your bike a few weeks ago! To get you out of trouble, this little number will break down tougher stains and build-up of oils and greases. Spray on local areas (being mindful not to spray directly onto disc brakes) and allow to stand for a few moments. This will allow the magic to happen. Using a brush (or in my case, an old toothbrush), agitate any grime that won't budge so that the solution can help break it down. Once stood for a minute, rinse the whole bike with a gentle hose. If using a jet wash, it's good practice not to get too close, as you risk blasting out important grease from inside your bearings. Stand at a distance of 2-3m and pass over the frame quickly so not to focus on specific areas.


Step 3 - Limon Velo

By now, your frame should be clean and the last area to tackle is your drivetrain. This is arguably the toughest area to clean if excessive oil has been applied or cleaning has been left for weeks at a time. To make this as easy as possible, it helps to use oil little and often. The idea is that the chain wants to be as dry as it can be, without squeaking or rasping. This will reduce the amount of grime build-up, save you watts, and enable drivetrain components to last much longer. It's also worth considering what lubrication you're using - do not underestimate the value of high-quality oils  such as Crankalicious’ Science Friction ceramic-chain lubricant, which works very well in mixed weather and improves the performance of your drivetrain.

To clean and degrease, spray onto the chain, cassette, and chainrings and use a brush to agitate the oil and get into all the nooks and crannies. This can also be used on derailieurs as these are often left uncleaned and can cease up if not taken care of. After covering the whole area and spending a minute brushing and scrubbing, allow to stand for 2 minutes. With a hose or leftover Mud Honey frame cleaner, rinse all the components to remove all degreaser. This should be done thoroughly, as any degreaser left on will prevent the effectiveness of newly applied lubrication.

If the Limon Velo wasn’t enough, run the chain through repeatedly with a bit of Gumchained Remedy on a Cell Foam chain-cleaning sponge. The double action of gentle abrasion with super-tough degreaser will loosen up the thickest of grime. If you find yourself at this point, make a note to yourself never to let the chain get this dirty again!


Step 4 - Final Rinse and Dry

Now the whole bike has been cleaned, it needs to be rinsed of all cleaner and degreaser. Using a hose or a jet wash (from a distance), thoroughly rinse until the bike is completely clean. Allow to drip-dry for a few moments (this is usually the time I clean out the bucket, sponge and brushes). An often overlooked step in bike cleaning is the drying process. Lingering water will leave a dull and water-marked finish on your frame, will rust bolts, and will probably find its way onto your carpet! Use a microfibre cloth to wipe down the whole of the bike, making sure to reach tricky areas that may be out of sight. It's always a good idea to place the bike upside down so that water makes its way out of hard-to-reach areas, allowing you to wipe it away.


Step 5 - Oil

To oil the chain you must first make sure it's dry. To do this, use a clean rag or an old towel and run the chain through for at least 30 seconds, moving the rag around after a couple of chain revolutions. Applying lubricant onto a wet chain will thin the oil, reduce the amount that remains on the chain and encourage oil splatter all over your newly cleaned frame! Apply oil gently, rotating the cranks backwards slowly, making sure to get good coverage. Place your finger and thumb either side of the chain and rotate the cranks backwards to push oil into the rollers and pins – where the oil belongs and wipe off any excess with a rag. In an ideal world, wiping off any excess would be done again before a ride to make sure there is no unnecessary lube waiting to splatter onto your frame and kit. It’s always best to oil your chain hours if not the night before your ride, to allow any solvents to evaporate, leaving a relatively dry coat of oil on your chain. This maximises cleanliness, which ultimately reduces the amount of time spent cleaning your chain.


A massive thanks to Crankalicious for providing us with right potions for this job. All products seen above can be bought on their online store. As you'll see, these guys are the kings of clean and have all sorts of products for all sorts of bikes!


Piers Riley