GUIDE: Clean & care for your bike – Essential guide to cleaning and lubricating

Keeping your bike clean and well lubricated will ensure it runs smoothly, quietly and correctly and should save you money in the long run by lessening wear and tear on the drivetrain components in particular.

Never is caring for your bike more important than in poor weather and when you’ve ridden through rain or particularly dirty or dusty conditions, but it should become part of your routine all year round. If you leave dirt to build-up on your bike parts can wear out much quicker and other issues can go unnoticed.

If your bike is really dirty or muddy a water hose may help to clear the worst of it before you tackle the rest. For best results we recommend cleaning in a specific order.

Ribble tip from Head Mechanic Mark: “Be careful if you use a high pressure hose and don’t use it close up. Too much pressure can blast grease out of your bearings and push dirt deeper inside.”

1 Clean the drivetrain first with Chain Cleaners and Degreasers

Much stronger than all-purpose bike cleaners, specific chain cleaners and degreasers help shift oil and residue from your drivetrain (chain, chainset, cassette, jockey wheels). They are great for removing heavy build ups but it is best to avoid areas such as bearings and cables.

The chain can be a messy job, so there are self-contained chain cleaners available which you put degreaser in and then clamp onto your chain. Turning the cranks, as though you were pedalling, then passes the chain through the bath, cleaning it as it moves. A rag is then useful to remove the residue by running the chain through it.

Ribble tip from Head Mechanic Mark: “Make it easier to get in all those awkward places by taking out the wheels, washing them separately, and then ideally washing the rest of the bike in a workstand.”

SHOP WORKSTANDS HERE

2 Clean the rest with an All-Purpose Bike Cleaner

All-purpose bike cleaners can be used all over your bike but they are particularly recommended for the frame, wheels and tyres. The strength of these cleaning fluids is not particularly strong so they are not used on the drivetrain. Normal domestic detergents can contain abrasive salts so bike-specific cleaners and degreasers are guaranteed to be kinder and more effective on your bike. In the winter a regular clean will also help prevent corrosion from road salt. We prefer to work from the top of the bike downwards with a sponge or soft brush and then dry off with clean rags.

3 Re-apply Lubrication and Grease

Once the bike is dry, it will need lubricant reapplying to the chain and, over time, areas such as the headset may need re-greasing.
Lubricants
Chain lube is put directly onto the chain, and ensures a smooth and quiet running drivetrain. There are three different types of chain lube to consider:
Wet Lubes – these are a ‘stickier’ lubricant so that they remain on the chain if the weather is bad. Great for bad weather, but the chain will need cleaning more often as they attract dirt.
Dry Lubes – a much thinner lubricant, perfect for when the weather is good. They don’t attract dirt as much, but do get washed off easily if it rains.
All purpose – Can be used in all conditions, but do not particularly excel in any one, hence why there are dry and wet lubes.

Check your bike over after cleaning

When your bike is clean is also the ideal time to check it over for any signs of any significant wear and tear or potential issues.

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One thought on “GUIDE: Clean & care for your bike – Essential guide to cleaning and lubricating”

  1. Having ridden and maintained my bikes for many years, I would recommend removing the chain and cleaning it in a suitable container using a chain cleaner. I have a large glass container with a lid. I use KMG chains with removable links that can be used up to three times and spare links that come in a pack of two and are really cheap. Use a container that allows the whole of the chain to lie flat on the bottom, cover with cleaner, leave for half an hour, gently swirl the chain around in the container, pour the cleaner off and store, put more cleaner in the container and swirl again. Three times should do it. Keep the dirty fluid, store it in a glass jar and leave it to stand. The residue will sink to the bottom and you can use it for the first wash next time to clean your chain. Take the cleaned chain our of the container and hang it up, run a chain cleaning sponge down the chain a few times, then leave to dry. Meanwhile remove your derailleur and clean that separately – it’s just as important as the chain. Don’t use a ferrule for the gear cable. Solder the end and clean the burr off with a file. Then you can easily remove and refit without having to cut it. Refit both components and lubricate on the bike. Happy cleaning!

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