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How to wash a bike the pro way

Bike washing
Stu Bowers
3 May 2016

After a winter of filth and grime, it’s the right time of year to give your bike a proper scrub-up – the way the pros would do it.

Fenwicks Cleaning kit

One thing’s for sure with cyclocross, both man and machine are frequently going to get filthy. Regular bike cleaning, lubrication and some basic maintenance are part of the sport. But with the right cleaning kit and a bit of know-how it needn’t be a huge chore.

Bucket list

There’s no substitute for a bucket full of hot soapy water, but if you don’t have access to an outside tap and hose pipe then a portable pressure washer, with an internal rechargeable battery so you can use it anywhere, is a sound investment. A workstand to hold the bike off the ground also makes cleaning much easier. The key thing to remember when you’re cleaning the bike is to focus on the bits that matter most in terms of wear and tear - i.e. the drivetrain, brakes and the wheels. Slightly grubby frame tubes or saddles will perform just as well, but a dirty chain and sprockets will not, plus they will wear out much quicker.

Deep clean 

First, apply degreaser before the bucket and hose stage so that it can work to its maximum effect and doesn’t become diluted. Using a good quality chain degreaser will dramatically reduce the elbow grease required to get rid of the muck, and if it’s water soluble it will rinse off easily, taking the grime with it. Spraying on a bike cleaning solution can be a big help to break down grime at this point too. It’s worth bearing in mind, if you want the best results, that these are two separate products: degreaser is for the chain and sprockets, bike cleaner for the rest of the bike.

Water displacement

Once clean and rinsed down, use a multi-purpose lubricant to disperse and drive out water from moving parts such as derailleurs, so they don’t seize up when you put the bike away. This is an important step, as parts that look clean on the outside can still retain moisture that will soon rust and corrode internally and eventually stop them working. However, do not use any products of this type close to disc brakes if your bike has them. It will inevitably find its way onto the pads and contaminate them, rendering them practically useless. Wrapping disc brake callipers in cling film or old carrier bags is a good idea to prevent this.


Re-lube the chain only once it’s clean and dry. Spinning the cranks backwards will help to throw surface water off the chain and then it’s best to dry it thoroughly with a rag before oiling. A good tip is to oil the chain in the smallest rear sprocket as this forces the chain to bend round a tighter curve and will help the oil to penetrate deep into the links. Be sure to use oil that is right for the conditions. A light summer ‘dry’ formula will not be up to the job of protecting your drivetrain in wet, muddy races.

Final touches

If you’re using a bike with rim brakes then check the surface of brake pads for fragments of grit stuck in the pad. Clean and smooth them accordingly. If it’s been an especially wet and muddy event then consider removing your seatpost (mark the height first with tape) and turn the bike upside down to drain any water that might have found its way into the frame tubes. By regularly removing it you will also ensure that your seatpost doesn’t seize in the frame. Use carbon paste or grease as appropriate when refitting the seat post.

Pro finish

If you want to finish the job the pro way, a light covering of a silicone based spray will give your bike a showroom shine and help prevent mud sticking to it next time you ride. But again, don’t get it anywhere near the disc brakes. As a precaution, having some disc brake cleaner in your armory is advisable, as a quick blast on the rotor and pads before you use the brakes will make certain there’s no contamination to prevent nasty surprises.

Page 2 of 2How to clean a cyclocross bike

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Page 2 of 2How to clean a cyclocross bike