Bike cleaning is a quick and dirty, but necessary chore. It's not exactly rocket science, but there are a few mistakes that could reduce the lifespan of your bike's components or, worse, get you into an accident. Do it right, though, and those same components will perform better and resist wear longer.
If you just want to keep your bike running smoothly and get major grime off following a muddy trail ride or rainy commute, give it a five-minute hosedown and apply chain lube as soon as it's dry. It won't be showroom shiny, but it'll help with maintenance.
For a deeper clean, here's the what you'll need:
• Bucket of hot water
• Dish soap
• Soft-bristle brush
• Hard-bristle brush
• Old toothbrush
• Small Flathead Screwdriver
• Chain Lube
• Polish (optional)
1. Rinse Your Rig
Hose the dirt and grime off with the "shower" setting. You don't need to go nuts; just wash away some of the grit that might otherwise scratch up your frame when you get to scrubbing. If you use too much pressure during the wash, you risk forcing water into the various bearings that keep your bike rolling smoothly.
2. Clean the Chain
Still don't know how to do this? Check it out here. Oh, and save the lube until the end of the job.
3. Clean the Rest of the Drivetrain
Scrub the rest of your drivetrain—front and rear derailleurs, cranks and sprockets—starting off with the hard-bristle brush and soapy hot water. For hard-to-reach spots, particularly the rear casette between sprockets and rear chain pulleys, use the flathead screwdriver to scrape grease from its final strongholds. Hit it with degreaser, too, wherever necessary (if you do use degreaser on the cassette, remove the back wheel and angle it cassette-side down, so it runs off). If you don't have a good mess-making space, use a self-contained chain-cleaning system like Park Tool's Cyclone Chain Scrubber. Use smaller scraps of rag to "floss" between the sprockets and cranks. This dries them, and removes any bits of grime that are still holding out.
4. Clean the Rest
Keep the rest simple—hot, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush. Work from top to bottom. Don't bother with polish. Rinse. If you're feeling it, wash and rinse again. Dry with a spare towel or clean cloth.
• Keep degreaser far away from bearings. If it gets in there, it could destroy them.
• If you use a spray lubricant on your chain, be very careful not to spray it on your aluminum rims, or your brakes may well fail when you need them.
• Wipe down your rims with a dry cloth every 100 miles or so, plus after every rainy-day ride. The act of braking makes aluminum rims oxidize, leaving a layer of grit behind that reduces your brakes' stopping power.