Turns out, the romantic cycle your partner begged you to go on for weeks wasn’t as bad as you thought, after all. Okay, except that one hill. But look how happy they were that you went! That in itself was worth the mud, sweat and very almost, tears. But the bikes? Much like the backs of your legs spattered with flecks of hardened mud, they’ve seen better days.
Knowing how to clean a bike properly means they can get out there and be as muddy as they like, and if it saves them from flinging mud around the walls when they get home? Result.
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 any bike back to its 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. But probably avoid hosing it down in front of your neighbour's care...
- Stand the bike upright
- Use a piece of strong kitchen paper to brush off any large chunks of dry mud
- Then rinse away any areas of crusty mud and grime. If there are kids around, put them in charge of this bit (just make sure you stand well clear!).
2. Clean a bike chain and drivetrain components first
It’s a good idea to clean a bike chain and other parts of the drivetrain first when you are cleaning your bike, 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!
For anyone who isn’t a bike whizz-kid: the drivetrain is basically all the parts of the bike that make the back wheel turn — it starts with the part the pedals are attached to (the chainset), and includes the chain, where the chain is coiled on the back wheel (the cassette), and the part of the back wheel that the chain feeds through (the derailleurs).
Here’s how to clean it up:
- 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.
Keep a pack of Plenty Towels nearby. 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. This is the fun stuff: the frame, saddle, seat post, handlebars, wheels etc.
- Take a bucket of warm water and add some bike cleaner (or washing up liquid will work fine). Then use a soft bristled brush to work away at each part of the bike. Make sure you get the underside of the frame (that’s where those chunks of mud will drop off into the hallway whilst you’re not looking)
- Remove the wheels as you can, as it will make them easier to clean, but no worries if not. Just make sure you 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 towel is ideal for both jobs. Take your time with this part, making sure you cover all the links.
- If you fancy giving it an extra shine, you can finish up with some bike polish.
And that's all there is to it. And remember, love makes the world go round — and it stops muddy bike wheels going round your hallway too!
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