Cleaning your Bike

by Duncan Burgess August 18, 2014

How to clean your bike might seem like one of those things that shouldn't really need a lot explaining, however learning to do it more effectively could save you time and money.  We have listed a few tips below to make your regular clean, possibly that little bit easier.  In the long-run, this should save you money by making expensive trips to your local bike shop less frequent and (possibly) mean you are less likely to buy a new bike quite so often.

What you'll need:

- Bucket
- Fairy liquid (other brands available)
- Large sponge
- Large, stiff brush
- Old clean paintbrush (approximately 2 inches wide)
- Small cassette cleaning brush
- Old towel or cleaning rags
- Water
- Chain degreaser
- Chain lube
- Latex gloves (optional)
- Pump
- Furniture polish


1. Start off with getting all your kit together (mentioned above).  It's annoying to realise you're missing something basic when you have soapy water or oil up to your elbows and having to break away to go fetch it.  Fill your bucket with warm water and add a few squirts of Fairy Liquid will make for a cheap degreaser. 

If you have a hose-pipe gently rinse off the bike before taking the sponge to it.  Be careful not to focus strong jets of water near the rear cassette, hubs or bottom bracket.  These areas all tend to contain thicker lube to cut down on wear and tear of movement.  If you can work from top to bottom as working the other way will mean you will have to spend more time repeating in reverse as dirt will be washed upwards.

Now using the sponge and warm soapy water start cleaning the bike from top to bottom, starting with the seat, top tube and handlebars.  It's always worth giving bar tape, break levers and even cabling a bit of a wipe as these often get covered in sticky drinks, energy gels, food and other build ups.  When using the sponge concentrate on the frame and try to avoid the components with oil such as the front chain rings, chain, front and rear mech and cassette.

Dip the large stiff brush in some the soapy water and give the brake callipers a bit of a scrub but don't brush too hard.  Finish step one with a quick rise of clean water from the hose pipe.  If you don't have a hose pipe don't worry too much & skip this step.

2.  We are now ready to turn the bike over to clean the wheels, tyres, underside of the frame and all moving componentry.  If you have a bike stand this is a good time to use it, or like me I simply turn my bike upside down, making sure I've slipped something under my saddle to avoid scuffing.

Once your bike is upside down we'll start with the messy bit first.  Taking your can or bottle of degreaser spray this generously on your chain, sprockets, cassette, front mech and derailleur.  Give all of these parts a good working over with your paint brush to make sure there is good coverage and it works its way in.  Leave it for a couple of minutes and then wash off with water.

3. Keeping the wheels clean will ensure there is a clean surface on the rim increasing braking performance.  It will also reduce the amount of drag on the spokes as wind passes around them when out on the road.

To clean your wheels start with the tyres giving them a good scrub with the stiff brush.  Slowly push the wheel around with your hand - do not spin at this stage.  Work your way down to cleaning the rim, holding your brush square on to get the best angle.  Start from the valve so you have a marker to look for to make sure you've been all the way around.  Finally brush the spokes with a downward stroke, working away from the wheel hub. If you can get your sponge or piece of rag to give the hub a quick clean.  Finish by rinsing off the wheels with clean water.

4. Before turning the bike over you'll need to take a clean bit of rag in your hand and lightly grip the chain.  Either push the rear wheel or use your hand to push the crank around.  This action will clean any residual debris/old oil off the chain.  You'll know when it's passed through the cloth enough as the chain will appear more silver in appearance than normal.

Dry off the bike frame either with a rag or an old towel before turning over - professionals use compressed air to dry but it's highly unlikely you will have this option, towels work almost as well.  Repeat once the bike it the correct way around.

5.Almost done!  To finish take your liquid chain lube and allow the nib to to lightly touch the chain as your back pedal using your hand to push he crank arm around (slowly) - avoid the urge to squeeze the bottle as this will be wasteful and will probably create a little pool under your bike as well as flicking grease all over your clean bike.

RCE top tip - using a really thin layer of furniture on your bike frame will not only give it lovely shine but reduce down drag when moving and, due to the way furniture polish is intended to work, provide a surface that is difficult for dust to stick to.

Check your tyre pressure and add more air if required.  Pressures are dependant on tyre and riding condition but generally you should fill between 90 - 110 psi.

That's it - enjoy!

- RCE Team


Duncan Burgess
Duncan Burgess