How to keep your bike in tip-top condition
Wherever you ride regularly there’s no escaping a bit (or a lot) of mud, dirty water and general debris – and allowing grease, grime and rust to build up over time can take its toll on your bike. So let’s get back to basics with a simple bike cleaning regime to keep your cycle in optimum condition.
Bike cleaning kit
Assemble your bike cleaning basics:
- a sturdy bucket (to fill with warm, soapy water)
- assorted brushes (old toothbrushes are handy)
- a soft cloth (a cut-up old T-shirt is ideal – and you may want to wear some old clothes during the cleaning process too!)
- a non-abrasive sponge
You could also include some specialist bike-wash, degreaser, chain-cleaner and lubricant, all available from bicycle stores. You can use a hose to rinse off caked-on mud (hosepipe ban permitting!), but avoid pressure washers and spraying water in the mechanical parts of your bike, such as the wheel hubs, cranks and bottom brackets.
Another useful piece of kit is a bike stand to hold your bike steady at a good height, with the wheels off, so you can get into all those tricky nooks and crannies without having to bend over.
keep you kit in an easy-to-access place near where you store your bike – you’re more likely to wash your bike regularly if it’s easy to do so.
Cleaning your bike on the move
If you use your bike to commute, keep a cloth and a water displacer spray – containing lubricant and PTFE – at work (or carry them with you). Then after a wet ride you can dry the derailleurs, pedals, chain and cassette before giving them a quick spray – you can give your bike a more thorough clean when you get home.
Washing your bike when it’s wet
Leaving a bike wet and dirty overnight is a recipe for rust and other problems, so once home from a rainy ride, wash the saddle and seatpost, secure your bike in a stand or against a stable surface and remove the wheels ready for cleaning.
Use a brush and degreaser on the derailleurs, chain, chainrings and cassette first – it might be easier to decant your degreaser into an empty yoghurt pot or similar vessel when doing this. Then clean the whole bike and wheels from top to bottom with brushes, soapy water (or bike-wash) and sponge. Dry with a clean cloth, then relubricate immediately – paying particular attention to the chain.
Tip: try not to mix your cloths and brushes – keep some specifically for the oily areas of your bike so you don’t spread that grease around.
Your monthly bike cleaning routine
You can use your daily bike clean as an opportunity to look out for any problems with your ride, but you should also schedule in some monthly bike cleaning checks too.
These could include giving your tyres a thorough inspection by removing them and looking for cuts or any embedded sharp objects such as pieces of glass or metal. You could also remove your seatpost and clamp, pedal and brake callipers to give them a thorough clean and lubrication. If you use clipless pedals, you can clean and check your cleats too while you’re at it.
Then all you have to do is step back and admire your sparkling bike – and think about the fun you’ll have getting it all dirty again on your next training ride!
Tip: all that grease and grime can play havoc with your hands, so protect them by applying a little petroleum jelly to your nails and fingertips and wear disposable gloves (you can keep and reuse a pair specially for the task).