Being a biker is exhilarating. So why worry about how to clean a bike?
Because whether you ride a bike to get to work or stay fit, you need to keep it sparkly clean to increase its lifespan and enhance its performance.
Nothing beats the rush one feels when pedaling through the highs and lows of the road. And if the clouds start pouring and the track gets all muddy, the thrill of riding a bike intensifies exponentially. But all the excitement that comes from biking is not totally free.
And no, we don’t mean the price you pay to purchase a cycle and its gear. There is also another price that sneaks up on bike owners if they aren’t careful enough to take care of their baby.
And that is unsightly appearance due to all the skidding on muddy roads, which ultimately leads to wear and tear. A dirty bike is the preparatory sketch of a damaged bike.
And we completely understand the urge to stall scrubbing your cycle after coming back from a vigorous bike journey; that’s the time when all you want to do is crack open a can of chilled beer, put your feet up on the coffee table and slump on the couch in front of your television.
But doing so will only recuperate you, and your bike will wear out gradually right in front of your eyes. We might sound a bit too dramatic, but you should know the importance of having an effective bike cleaning regime in place.
If you are still not convinced that your bike needs to be regularly washed and serviced, we’ll paint a vivid picture for you to educate you on the consequences of poor bike maintenance.
A Dirty Bike is a Damaged Bike in the making
Imagine your bike all clean and shiny parked in your garage. The sky rumbles and begins pouring down relentlessly, and you decide you want to take your bike out. While it’s an excellent idea to recharge your energy, but it can take a toll on your bike’s health.
The muddy roads will lead to dirt and grime bouncing off the pavement with the force of wheels and end up sticking on to your cycle. You might argue that what if you live in a dry region where you only get to experience an arid climate and harsh winds?
Well, yes, your bike will not accumulate dirt and grime all over it but, it could gather dust from the wind and the sweat from your body. Where do you think all the sweat that comes from your body when you’re riding the bike disappears?
It doesn’t! The sweat from your body eventually lands on the various components of your bike, damaging the steel or aluminum. Damaging how you ask?
The salts in your sweat and the moisture in the mud sticking on your bike provide ideal breeding conditions for corrosion to take over. Aside from the increased probability of rust mottling, your cycle, dirt, and grime can dry over time and taper your bike’s performance.
When the dried gunk attaches to different parts on your bike, you will feel higher resistance while pedaling.
The chain on your bike needs to go around its course in order for the pedals and wheels to move. If dirt begins to reside over the tiny crevices on your bike chain, it will not move as effortlessly as you’d like.
All of this wear tear that you can bring upon your cycle can be avoided if you maintain your bike diligently and scrub it regularly. Now, before we move on to the etiquette of cleaning a bike, let’s have a look at the not-so-obvious damaging agents that can be detrimental to a cycle.
You might think that water, a universal cleaning supply, wouldn’t damage your bike. But that’s not true.
Although water washes away dirt and makes things clean, it also invites rust on items susceptible to corrosion. And a cycle is nothing but a contraption of metallic components that are prone to developing rust at the drop of a hat.
How can your bike encounter water?
The most obvious answer is through the rain. Riding your bike in the seasonal shower or leaving it parked under the open sky, both will deteriorate it’s functionally significantly.
If you take your cycle out, grime and mud will stick to its underside, especially over the braking surface. And if you leave it under the downpour, the water will accelerate rusting if you do not dry your bike right away.
Dust and Dirt
Riding a bike in the dusty weather is pretty challenging and annoying. Firstly, the particles get into your eyes and interfere with your vision. Next, they blanket your bike and then stick to your body.
While dust may not seriously damage your cycle, it can spoil your biking experience. Plus, it will render your bike unsightly. Therefore, don’t let dust gather over your pretty little ride with regular wiping and washing.
Although oil is essential for a bike’s effective upkeep, its excess can be detrimental for a bicycle. If you lubricate your bike chain with a lot of oil, it will drip down to other parts and attract dirt, which will eventually lead to crimson patches taking over the bike.
The best way to keep a cycle safe from the aftermath of excessive oil is using minimal oil, and if you do use the oil abundantly, be sure to wipe off the excess to keep dust and dirt off.
Road salt is essential to provide vehicles traction during the winter season.
When the roads are covered in white powdery snow, they become super slippery, increasing the chances of road accidents and salts help with that. Now while road salt provides stability to drivers, it can damage bikes and lead to the need for expensive repairs.
Road salt is highly corrosive, which means if it stays on a bike, rusty patches will show up, eventually seizing the brakes and affecting the overall functionality.
If you can avoid taking your ride out on salty roads, do that, and if not, then don’t forget to give your bike a good spray down to get rid of all the accumulated salt. If you don’t immediately clean your bike after exposing it to road salt, you will increase the chances of rusting considerably.
If salt isn’t wiped from a cycle, it gets into crevices and other hard-to-reach places, which means you will not be able to clean it thoroughly later. Therefore, try to run your bike through a spray of water right after coming back from a salty ride.
Now that you’re aware of all the agents that could damage your bike let’s go over an in-depth cleaning process.
How do I clean my Bike?
Whether you came back from a thrilling trip on muddy trails or just want to sprinkle some tender love and care on your bike, this comprehensive bike cleaning guide will allow you to doll up your sweet ride perfectly.
Here’s what you’ll need to give your bike a good scrub.
- A bucket
- Warm water
- Mild dish soap
- Bottle brushes
- Scrub brushes
- Store-bought rags or old tees
- A sponge
- A square head brush for the wheels
- Garden hose with a trigger-style spray head.
- A degreaser
How to clean your bike?
- The first thing you need to do when cleaning your cycle is wiping off all the visible dirt and grime on it. Take a rag; you can damp it if you wish to, and rub it over all the dirty parts on your bike.
- Next, apply degreaser over the chain and all other metallic parts that can become the resting place of rust.
- Once you have done that, mix some water and mild soap. But do not add a lot of soap because doing that would concentrate the solution, which could damage your bike.
- After the solution is ready, soak the sponge (try to use a big sponge to cover a substantial area at once) in it and lather you’re bike.
- Be sure to exert a good amount of pressure when applying the cleaner to clean every part of your bike thoroughly.
- The sponge will only get the cleaning solution on the open spaces, for the hard-to-reach areas and crevices, you will have to use the bottle brush. Dip the brush in the soap-water solution and scrub the braking plane, rings, teeth of the chain, and all other openings that you couldn’t reach with the sponge.
- Once you have covered your bike in the cleaning solution, take the scrubbing brush and scrub every component vigorously to ensure every muck particle gets off.
- Now move on to the tires. For the wheels, you’ll use the square head brush. Dip it into the cleaning solution and rub it all over the wheels multiple times to clean them thoroughly. After you have copiously applied the cleaner on the tires and given them a good scrub, turn on the garden hose.
- Wash away all the lather on your bike with the hose water. Spray water multiple times on your bike until you’re sure all the foam has drained.
- Then take a new rag and dry your cycle. Don’t leave any spot wet because that could lead to corrosion.
- For extra shine and luster, apply some bike polish. You can easily get high-quality cycle polish from any hardware store. Spread it over your cycle and let it set. Be sure not to drench your bike in the polish because that will attract dust and grime, atrophying your efforts.
- Lastly, lubricate your bike chain with a high-quality lube such as WB-40.
And there you have it, a comprehensive bike cleaning guide.
Bonus tip 1: Try to take your cycle to a motor workshop once in a while to get it professionally cleaned. Experts at a motor workshop will de-assemble your bike and clean every component individually, which you cannot do at home.
Bonus Tip 2: Put on rubber gloves to keep your hands safe from pruning later. And if you forget to wear gloves, be sure to moisturize your hands immediately after cleaning your bike.
Things to watch out when cleaning your Bike
Although cleaning a bike is pretty straightforward and you don’t need to be extra cautious about most things, you need to make sure that the gunk over your bike doesn’t get into the bearings.
If the gunk covering your cycle’s exterior components enters the bearings, it will degrade them and seize them up, deteriorating your bike’s functionality.
Therefore, be careful with how you slather the cleaner; put some force into it, but do not overdo it. And when washing out the foam, use a moderate pressure hose to avoid pushing dirt into crevices and bearings.
When applying chain lube, you need to pay attention to the amount. Don’t cover the chain in the lubricant; otherwise, you’ll need to wipe off the excess.
Also, don’t spray water with too much pressure because that will take away the degreaser, baring your bike components and making them vulnerable to oxidation.
Although we have already touched upon the effects of using a high-pressure hose, let’s look at it in depth. A pressure washer may seem like the perfect tool to spray your bike with, but it can damage your bike without you realizing until it’s too late.
Therefore, use a light pressure hose with a befitting spray head. Using a trigger-style spray head to wash your bike will allow you to gently slough off all the lather without forcing any residual soap or gunk into the bearings.
Always remember a clean bike is a working bike that will last longer and perform exceptionally well. If you want to experience the genuine joy of biking, you need to take care of your bike.
Your cycle is like any other machine, it may not be automatic, but it’s a contraption nonetheless, which is why it needs tender love and care frequently. Pamper your bike and live your best biker’s life!
Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter