Whether you’ve cycled through driving rain and an eternal headwind (or, at least that’s what you’ll claim on Strava), or enjoyed an energy sapping five hours under glorious sunlight, often the last think you want to do when you arrive home is clean your bike.

However, doing so will mean that your bike is ready to carry you out on another ride as soon as your legs are willing. Failing to clean the bike after your ride on a regular basis can result in gradual wear and tear that will shorten the life of important components – particularly the drivetrain elements of the groupset.

So – you know it’s important to clean your bike – but how do you go about it?

You don't need all the gear to clean your bike like a pro

You don’t need all the gear to clean your bike like a pro

1. Rinse the frame down

Start by giving the frame a basic wipe. Use a sponge and a bucket of water – don’t be tempted to blast it with a hose as this will force water into the bearings.

Spray the bike with a bike cleaning product, and leave it for a couple of minutes – see the back of the bottle for the optimum length of time.

Then, with more clean water, use a soft bristled brush to give the bike a scrub.

Don’t ever be tempted to substitute the bike cleaning product and soft brush with washing up liquid and a kitchen sponge – this can result in a scratched or even colour faded frame.

2. Clean the rims and brake pads

Give the rims on your wheels a good wash and wipe, and (if you’re using rim, not disc, brakes) wipe the pads to make sure there’s no crud on there that could erode the braking surface.

3. Use degreaser on the derailleurs and chainset

Next, spray the deraillieurs and chainset with a degreasing agent and give them a good (but gentle) scrub. It may be easier to take the chain off the chainring to do this.

4. Use degreaser on the cassette and chain

Spray more degreaser over the chain and cassette – and give them a scrub. Using a gear brush really helps you to get into the cassette cogs.

If the chain still looks grimy, use a chain cleaner – simply fill the unit with a degreaser, snap it on and rotate the pedal backwards to feed the chain through. Dispose of the degreaser safely when you’re done.

5. Rinse the frame, dry and lube the chain

Rinse the soap suds off the bike, dry the chain with an old rag and apply chain lube to the chain and the pivot points on the derailleurs

Bike cleaning FAQ:

What products do I need to clean my bike?

Use a bucket with water to clean your bike, not a hose

Use a bucket with water to clean your bike, not a hose

  • Bucket – avoid a hose or jet wash
  • Sponge or soft bristled brush (no kitchen scourers!)
  • Gear brush: this has bristles on one end and a serrated plastic on the other, for reaching between the cogs
  • Chain cleaning tool if the chain is very dirty
  • Bike cleaner, degreaser and chain lube

How do I clean the chain on my bike?

As outlined in the ten steps above, the chain needs to be cleaned with a good degreaser. Spray or wipe it on, leave it to soak in, and then wipe off with a rag. Once you’re happy that the chain is clean you can dry it with a clean rag and apply a thin layer of chain lube. Don’t forget to give the same treatment to the chainrings and cassette!

How do I prevent the chain on my bike from rusting?

The answer to this is simple: dry it down properly after its wash, and apply chain lube. This will prevent rust from building up and will also keep the chain running smoothly.

Can I use WD40 to clean my bike?

WD40 is a degreaser – it will dislodge thick muck, grime and dirt – so it’s good to use when you’ve got a lot of built up grease on your chain and gears, or a stuck part that’s become rusted. It will get everything looking very shiny. It isn’t a lubricant – so you do need to use a chain lube after use.

For more information on chain lube check out ‘wet or dry: which chain lube should I use?’

Can I use a pressure washer or hose to clean my bike?

You can – but it’s really not a good idea. The jet will get dirt off the bike, but it’ll also push water into the bearings and cause them to age more quickly.

Why should I clean my bike?

Cleaning your bike regularly will help keep it running smoothly, and it also gives you a chance to give the frame and components a quick once over, giving you a much greater chance of spotting potential problems (such as a crack in the frame) before they develop.

Plus, as the video proves, it takes less than seven minutes (even if you stop to explain every step!)

  • that bike wasn’t even dirty!

  • Teresa Young

    Nice rag to wipe your bike with, he he he.

  • dourscot

    “Dispose of the chain cleaner in a responsible manner. Don’t just chuck it down the drain”

    Precisely how then?