How To Clean and Maintain a Bike
A clean bike pedals smoother, stays quieter and lasts longer. Here's how to clean a bike in a half-hour or less.
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An hour or less
Less than $20
With bicycle and bicycle parts in demand and hard to find, properly maintaining the bike you own is more important than ever. Step one is keeping it clean. A clean bike is a happy bike, and a lot more fun to ride.
How often should you wash your bike? Try to wipe down your bike after every ride, especially if it's a mountain bike you're taking on dirt trails. Inspect your chain and rear derailleur often, wiping it down frequently. (Don't forget to re-lube your chain!)
Aim to do a more thorough cleaning, as shown here, at least once a month. It's a great way to pass 30 minutes or so on a rainy day. And although it's one of the simplest maintenance tasks you can do, it also may be the most important. Plus it's cheap. If you don't want to invest in the specific tools we mention, you can still get a perfectly clean bike for just a few bucks.
- Chain-cleaning device
- Dummy hub
- Garden hose or other water source
- Hose or portable sprayer
- Sponge or wash mitt
- Chain lube (not WD-40!)
- Degreaser spray
- Dish soap
- Hot soapy water
Project step-by-step (6)
Give It the Hose
- Rinse off loose dirt. Be sure not to spray directly into the bottom-bracket area, where you could potentially damage your bearings.
- If you're washing a mountain bike, be sure to remove that residual mud and dirt from your tires.
Note: If it's a routine and not a deep cleaning, I'll forgo the bucket of soapy water and use Finish Line Super Bike Wash spray and a rag.
Remove the Wheels
- Remove the wheels and insert a dummy hub, like this Park Tool version. The dummy hub allows you to turn the crank normally so you can better clean your drivetrain later.
- Spray the degreaser (I recommend this non-toxic Finish Line Citrus Degreaser) onto the cassette so it can penetrate the grime while you're working on the rest of your bike.
- Start from your saddle or handlebar and begin washing your bike, paying special attention to the little nooks and crannies.
- Work your way down the bike.
Dive Into Your Drivetrain
Expect to spend the bulk of your time on the dirtiest part of your bike — the drivetrain.
- Use either soap-and-water or a specific chain-cleaning device filled with solvent, like this one from Park Tool. Go through multiple rotations, wiping off the chain with a rag after each round.
- When the chain looks clean and no longer leaves a grease mark on the rag, move onto the derailleur pullies and chain ring.
- Brush out all the residual gunk that's accumulated in the pullies since the last time you cleaned it. More often than not, I find myself slowly rolling the pullies with my thumb, making sure each small section on both sides is clean.
- Do the same with the chainring.
Clean the Wheels
- Using a sponge or brush, work your way down from the top of the wheel.
- When you wash the rear cassette, use a specialty brush like this one from Muc-Off to really get in between each cog.
- Be sure to hit the back of the cassette. Don't forget to clean your quick releases or thru axles as well.
- Remove the cassette if it's really dirty and give each piece a thorough scrubbing.