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How to clean a bike quickly

22 Sep 2016

Our guide to cleaning your bike quickly and leaving it in a worthy condition for the next time you go for a spin.

A bit of rain and road spray won’t wreck your bike, but leave it to build up and it’ll eventually start to cause problems. The first thing most people want to do after a rainy ride is jump straight in the shower, but don’t forget about your bike. Leave it to dry off and it’ll be harder to clean when you come back to it later, so get to work as soon as you can. Post-ride cleaning is a good idea at any time of year, but once we get into the winter months, when councils start putting salt on the roads, a little extra post-ride bike love becomes even more important. Neglect it and you risk a gritty and potentially rusted chain, prematurely worn cassette and chainrings, along with scratchy brakes that’ll quickly start eating into your rims. Instead of risking this terrible fate, follow our quick drill and your bike can be put away happy in under five minutes. 

Meet the expert

Chuck Buckley has been a bike nut since he was a boy growing up in New Zealand. After moving to the UK he worked as a bike mechanic in London before joining Team Madison-Genesis two years ago.

Time taken: 5 mins

Money saved: In the long term? Quite a bit.

You will need: Bucket, degreaser, lube, silicone spray, bike cleaner, old rag or towel. 

1. Spray the chain

Give the chain and sprockets a quick blast with a can of degreaser. Try not to get too much on the rest of the bike, and don’t go too crazy on the cassette, as you don’t want the solvent seeping into the freehub body where it could potentially melt away the grease inside. 

2. Brush down

Give the sprockets and chainrings a good brush down. Make sure to scrub both sides of the chainrings. This will require switching the chain from one ring to the other mid-scrub. The sides of the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur will also benefit from some attention.

3. Extra filthy?

If your chain is in a bit of a state, it’s worth investing in a dedicated chain-cleaning device. These make the process much quicker and provide far more thorough cleaning than brushes alone. Simply fill with solvent, snap over the chain and backpedal the crank – the machine will do the rest. 

4. Floss between your teeth

If the cassette is really mucky, pop the wheel out of the dropouts. Give it a further squirt of degreaser and get to work cleaning between the cogs. Some dedicated bike floss is ideal, although the edge of a folded rag also works well to get into the gaps between the sprockets. 

5. Lather up

Spray the whole bike over with some dedicated cleaner. This should be applied and then left to do its work for a minute or two. Alternatively, a bucket of warm water with a squirt of washing-up liquid will also do the job, but proper bike cleaners are formulated for bike frames and parts.  

6. Check your brakes 

Because of their location, your brakes take a particular pasting from riding in rainy conditions – grimy road spray gets fired off the tyres directly onto their pivots, while grit can get lodged in the pads, which can cause them to wear or stick. Get to work on both with a suitable brush.

7. Wipe down

After rinsing the soap off with clean water, give the frame and rims a good wipe down with a rag. Pay particular attention to areas where dirt likes to accumulate, such as behind the fork crown and around where the chainstays meet the bottom bracket shell.

8. Apply some lube 

Now your bike is sparkling, it’s time to replace some of the old oil that you’ve just stripped off the chain with a fresh coating. First make sure the chain is dry by running it through a rag. Next drop a spot of lube on each link while backpedalling the crank. Then wipe off any excess lube.

9. Finishing touches 

Silicone spray applied to your bike’s pivots and joints will drive out water and keep them working smoothly. Pay particular attention to your brake pivots, although be careful not to contaminate the rims and pads. Target the pedals, jockey wheels and derailleur pivots, then you’re all done!  


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