BIKE CLEANING (EQUIPMENT GUIDE)

Shaun George Bike Skills, BOTS Guides, D.I.Y, Tips & Tricks

Riding your bike whenever you get a chance is always an enjoyable experience. But you know what’s even better? Riding a nice, clean and shiny bike. Cleaning your bike on a regular basis will keep it performing well and is an effective way of ensuring it works safely and looks good. It’s a well known fact that clean components wear out less quickly than dirty ones – so a well-kept bike will also perform better than a grubby one. As a bonus, you’ll also save a lot of money keeping it nice and clean.

There’s a plethora of grime fighting weaponry out in the market that can lead to a lot of confusion. Choosing the right kind can be quite cumbersome and time-consuming. We’ve done the hard work and have professionally tested some of this equipment. We’ve put together this guide to help to choose what you will need the most and how you can use them.

Go through our other bike maintenance related posts: DIY HOME MECHANIC SERIES – BRAKE MAINTENANCE; ON A SHOESTRING SERIES: BIKE WASH AT HOME

BIKE CLEANING ESSENTIALS

BUCKET, SPONGES AND MICROFIBER CLOTH

Some of the cheapest and easiest to access items on our list – simple products that make a huge difference and can be super beneficial if used correctly. Before getting into any kind of proper cleaning you’re first going to have to douse the bike with clean, soapy water. A garden hosepipe should be fine too but refrain from high-pressure washers for the betterment of your bearings. Invest in a microfiber cloth or a sponge to help break down the dirt with the help of a cleaning liquid. This will ensure that your precious paintwork is unharmed.

Give the bike a good soaking to help loosen any dirt, then rinse again with fresh, clean water near the end of the process to wash off any residue from the cleaning products you use.

BRUSHES

For a thorough wash, especially if the bike is caked in mud, brushes are an absolute necessity. Brushes themselves are of multiple kinds and each has its own purpose.

Soft-bristled brushes are useful for removing softened mud and road grime, while ones with stiffer bristles should make easier work of lifting stubborn dirt off areas like the drivetrain and the wheels. We’d recommend getting a brush kit that contains multiple different styles and sizes of brushes to cater to all your cleaning requirements.

For your drivetrain, you may want an all-in-one chain cleaner or some compact brushes that can help you get into nooks and crannies to get all the gunk out.

CLEANING SOLUTIONS

Bike cleaning liquids aim at breaking down the dirt, grime, and grease without damaging the paintwork or material your bike is constructed from. Make sure the cleaner you choose is safe for use on both metal and carbon.

Many cleaners are concentrated, so they need to be diluted before use. A tried-and-tested method to a thorough clean is often a bucket of water and washing up liquid.

cleaning spray can be sprayed on and left to work for a few minutes, before being rinsed or wiped off. Most mud and grime should lift off with a good cleaning spray, and brushes can be used to tackle the worst areas.

There are lots of cleaning sprays available, and they should speed up the process by eating into whatever grime is on your bike. They’re useful for lifting any dirt that refuses to let go, and are an effective way of washing your bike if there’s not enough time available for a more comprehensive washdown.

If you’ve got a bike with disc brakes, we’d recommend investing in a disc-specific cleaner that will remove all oil, grit, grease and brake fluid, without affecting brake performance. Muc-Off’s disc brake cleaner is a favorite even in our workshop!

DEGREASERS AND LUBES

Taking care of the heart and soul of your bike (drivetrain) is probably the most important to ensure smooth functioning. Always degrease your drivetrain before applying fresh lube to it.

Degreasers break down grease and grime without brute force, and are ideal for getting the built up greasy crud off your drivetrain and cassette. There are eco-friendly options available too, such as the Muc-Off biodegradable degreaser. Simply spray the degreaser on the drivetrain and wait for it to do its job. Use the small brushes we mentioned above to help agitate the grime if there’s a lot of it stuck on.

Now after this process and when you’ve let the drivetrain dry, apply some chain lube. Refrain from using motorcycle chain lube or any other types of lubricants – bicycle chain lube is very specially made for bicycles only.

  • Apply the lube link by link
  • Cycle the chain around the cogs a few times
  • Use a dry rag and dry off any excess chain lube

BIKE POLISH

After you’ve cleaned the frame, drivetrain and re-lubed it, you’re ready for the final step. Polishing the bike – again, there’s an unending list of products you could use to bring back some shine to your paintwork after a wash. We have a list of tried and tested products for you.

It’s essential to add a protective polish to the frame and components. Sprays that contain a moisture dispersal formula and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, which is what Teflon is) are good choices.The PTFE expels water from the bike, protecting it against corrosion, and creates a shiny finish where applied. The advantage of using a product such as Muc-Offs Bike Protect is that dirt finds it harder to stick to the PTFE, making your bike easier to clean next time around. Spary some of the liquid onto a microfiber cloth and rub all over the frame in circular motions – you can also directly spray it onto the frame.

NOTE: Remove your wheels to prevent overspray onto your braking surfaces or the tire itself.


Having a nice, clean bike is not only visually satisfying but also mechanically good for the bike. Everything runs smooth – as it should. Take the time out and give your pride and joy a thorough washing every now and then.

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