How to clean a bike so it shines just like new

Father and son cleaning a bicycle

Going out on a bike ride is great fun, but often your two-wheeled pride and joy comes back looking a little worse for wear. That’s why knowing how to clean a bike properly is a must: it means you can get out there and be as muddy as you like, and deal with the carnage later.

Whether it’s a slick road-bike, a sport bike, or a vintage bicycle (complete with basket, handlebar-tassels optional), you’re going to need to add bike cleaning to your list of skills. This step-by-step bike cleaning guide will quickly bring all of your bikes back to their shiny best.

1. Hose down your bike

Before we move onto showing you how to clean bike parts, it’s important to mention the need to get as much of the chunky mud off first. The following steps will give you a head start:

  • It’s an obvious one, but first you’re going to want to make sure you’ve placed your bike outside in an area that won’t mind a bit of mud
  • Stand the bike upright
  • Use a piece of strong kitchen paper to brush off any large chunks of dry mud
  • Rinse away any areas of crusty mud and grime. If there are kids around, put them in charge of this bit

2. Clean a bike chain and drivetrain components first 

Before you get onto the frame, start with the drivetrain – the chain, derailleurs, chainset and cassette. It’s a good idea to clean a bike chain and other parts of the drivetrain first, as this area often gets clogged. When you scrub away it’ll likely spray dirt onto your frame, which isn’t what you’re looking for if you’ve just cleaned it up! Here’s what you need to do:

  • Spray degreaser onto the chain and cassette and give them a good scrub with a stiff brush
  • Scrub your chainset and derailleurs with degreaser a little more gently – if you can remove these parts it’ll be easier, but as long as you make sure you get into the little nooks you can still get the job done while they’re attached
  • Don’t forget: after cleaning and degreasing your bike chain, later you’ll need to oil it again with chain lubricant to keep it from rusting

Tip

Stash a pack of Plenty Handy Towels within reach. The easy-to-grab single sheets of absorbent kitchen paper are ideal for soaking up bike grease with one hand while you manoeuvre your bike with the other. The waterproof pack means you won’t have to worry about destroying the rest of the pack either!

3. Cleaning a bike frame and other remaining parts

Once you’ve got the drivetrain sorted you can move onto the rest of the bike – the frame, saddle, seat post, handlebars, wheels etc.

  • Take a bucket of warm water, washing up liquid or bike cleaner and a soft bristled brush and work away at each part of the bike – handlebars, saddle, forks, brackets and all parts of the frame, including the underside
  • If you can remove the wheels, it’ll make it easier to scrub them clean and give you better access to difficult to reach parts on the frame – pay close attention to the rims and wheel spokes as you go
  • Gently brush away grime to clean bike brake pads – if left on the surface they could potentially start to erode the pad
  • Refit any parts you’ve removed and give everything one last spray down
  • Dry thoroughly and then apply the chain lube – Plenty kitchen paper is ideal for both jobs. Be methodical, making sure you cover all links. Pat down to remove excess lubricant and give the pedals a turn to check that everything rotates smoothly
  • Add an extra special shine with a finishing application of bike polish

After your ride you can enjoy a spot of bike cleaning with our simple guide to hand. Not only will it leave your bike looking brand new, it’ll give you a finer appreciation of the engineering and craft that’s gone into your machine. That’s a win-win all round.


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