A step by step guide to cleaning your bike
News article published on: 11th May 2019
What you need?
You will need the following three items:
• A cloth,
• A brush,
• A bucket of (warm) water,
• A degreaser,
• A water displacer,
• A (light) lubricator or chain oil.
Dismantling your bike
Before you begin cleaning your bike, you will need to consider how you set it up and to what extent you are willing to dismantle it. There are various (expensive) maintenance stands on the market, but even a (much cheaper) stand that raises your rear wheel slightly above the ground will provide a great benefit.
Clearly the more parts you remove the easier they will be to clean, but the longer and more complex the process. The rear wheel and chain can be removed relatively easily, as can the rear mechanism and jockey wheels. To remove the cassette or chainrings you will require specialist tools.
Some guides suggest cleaning the components of your transmission before degreasing them, but this has always seemed counterintuitive: how will a simple cleaning solution get past the grease to clean the component?! Nevertheless, I do appreciate the benefit of removing the worst dirt first.
Start by holding a cloth loosely around your chain and turning your cranks backwards. As the chain runs through the cloth, it should get rid of the worst offenders. (Obviously this should be done before removing your rear wheel.) You can also use a cloth to remove the surface dirt from your jockey wheels and cassette.
The process only begins in earnest when the degreaser comes out. The spray and scrub approach is always a good one, but one tip for degreasing your chain is to put it in a wide-necked plastic bottle with some water-soluble degreaser. Alternatively, you could attach a chain cleaner to avoid having to remove the chain from your bike. (Note that some degreasers can damage your frame, so be careful if you are not removing components from your bike.)
After using the degreaser, many of the components will need rinsing with warm water. I find this can be done most easily by reusing an old cleaning bottle with a spray nozzle. At this point, you can also use a cleaning fluid to remove the remaining dirt from the (now degreased) surfaces of your components.
4. Displace the water
All of that cleaning and rinsing is good for appearances, but it’s also good for rust. To prevent your chainset from turning an attractive shade of amber, you will want to use a water displacer, such as GT85. Water displacers can also be slight lubricants, but their main purpose is to expel any water droplets and so prevent corrosion.
Finally, you need to lubricate your chain to ensure that all the links slide smoothly around one another. There are as many different views on the best type of lubricant as there are cyclists. The key things to remember are what to use, how much, and where to use it.
Many chain lubricators are too thick and dirt sticks to them like glue. Aim for a light lubricator and apply it frugally. Afterwards, the chain should still look the same; check the amount of lubricant by using a cloth rather than by eye. Another tip is to apply lubricant to only the inside of your chain, as this is where the lubrication is needed.
And there you have it, a step-by-step guide to cleaning your bike.