20-minute bike clean
Iain Treloar runs you through some quick steps to keep your bike sparkling.
When bad weather creates mucky riding conditions, your chain and cassette are more susceptible to rust and wear, the underside of your frame can become caked with horrible gunk and your brakes are likely to leave ghostly grey residue all over your rims. For the best clean—assuming you don’t have a full line-up of tools—it’s worth taking your bike to a bike shop for a really thorough job. They’ll be able to take the chain off, remove the cassette and clean everything in a way that can’t be done with all the bits still on the bike. But there are some simple, speedy and affordable steps you can take to keep your bike looking good and riding well.
What you’ll need
- Chain cleaning brush
- Wrap a rag around the chain stay, and then spray your chain and cassette liberally with degreaser, slowly turning the pedals backwards to circulate through the length of the chain.
- Grab your chain cleaning brush—a good example is the BBB Toothbrush—and, while still turning the pedals backwards, run the pointy end between the cogs on your cassette, to dislodge any accumulated grit. Run the chain against the tough bristles on the other end of the brush.
- More degreaser.
- Spin the chain backwards through a clean rag, to remove the grease and dirty degreaser from the chain. Move onto a fresh section of the rag, and continue until the chain is running through dry and clean.
- Although it is great at removing the grime from your chain, degreaser will also strip the grease from the rollers of the chain, making for a clunky ride. For this reason, it’s really important to reapply lubricant. If you’re mostly riding in good weather, a dry lubricant (usually wax or Teflon-based) is a good choice. If it’s off-road or all-weather riding that you’re into, a wet lube will adhere better in bad conditions. Apply whilst spinning the pedals backwards – you won’t need much, but it needs to circulate through all the links of the chain.
- Wait a few minutes for the lubricant to penetrate, and then wipe off any excess, especially on the side plates of the chain, as excessive lube attracts dirt.
What you’ll need
- Hose with trigger
- A bucket of soapy water
- Spray the bike down. Don’t blast it—if using a high-pressure hose, you risk pushing the muck into the inner workings and bearings of your bike. A light-shower is ample.
- Using the sponge and warm soapy water, thoroughly go over the bike. Don’t concentrate too much on the chain, as you risk washing off the lube that you just applied so lovingly.
- Rinse the bike again to get rid of the suds and prevent soapy marks when it dries, and pat down with a clean rag to dry it off.
- If you’re feeling extra-tender, use a bike polish to give the frame some extra sparkle. Something like Pedros Bike Lust should do the trick, but avoid the temptation to apply to contact points like your seat and bar-tape, as a squeaky, slippery ride will be the inevitable irritating result.
What you’ll need
- A rag
- Emery paper
- Flat file
The abrasion of wet brake pads on your rim, especially if those brake pads are dirty, will accelerate wear, but it’s relatively easy to keep them clean and improve your braking performance.
- Remove your wheels from the bike.
- Lightly work your way around the braking surface—but just the braking surface—with fine emery paper, which will clean the rim.
- While the wheels are out, if you’ve got the time and are struggling with gritty braking, check the pads for small pieces of embedded metal, pick these out and lightly file the flat surface of brake pads.
- With a dry rag, work your way around the rim, cleaning both the braking surface and the rest of the rim. The grey brake pad residue should come off easily.
- Reinstall the wheels.
Stand back and admire your newly sparkling bike.
Other helpful tips
- If you have disc brakes, when cleaning your drivetrain, spray degreaser away from the rotors. Disc brake pads are susceptible to contamination, and a bit of care can avoid a ride punctuated with sharp squeals from your brakes.
- Don’t apply any lubricant or grease onto the braking surface or pads of any brake systems. Ever.
- It’s smart to wear a pair of disposable rubber gloves when working on your drivetrain, and remove them when cleaning the rest of the bike. This will save your seat and bar-tape or grips from unnecessary soiling later on in the cleaning process.
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