How To Wash Your Bike (Really Well)

One of the best ways to take care of your bike is to wash it. Regular washing not only keeps it shiny and impressive, but it’s also a great way to slow down and really look things over. Here are a few tips on washing down your rig.

Taking care of your bike gives it a lot longer life and a higher quality of life, too. Shiny bikes are fast bikes, and it does take regular washing to get the most of your components as well. We’ve put together a quick checklist for washing your bike efficiently and safely, plus a few things to do while you’re scrubbing, too.

The Goods. It doesn’t take much to get your bike really, really clean. We’re obviously big fans of getting your bike in a sturdy stand; that’s why we designed the Bike Wash Station. If you don’t have a stand, find a wall and lean it, but be careful not to knock it over and, if you have them, tag in an extra pair of hands to keep it steady (we recommend your kids). A bucket and two rags are really all you need. We’ve also used a relatively soft-bristled brush, sponges that have served a tour in the kitchen sink, and t-shirts. Whatever your weapon of choice, you’ll need at least two, with one dedicated to the drivetrain and one dedicated to your frame and wheels.

The Process. First, get everything a bit wet. This only takes a second and helps you look over the frame as you get started; look at where things are dirtiest and spray down to use gravity to your advantage. If you have a stand, consider getting your wheels off and spraying them separately so you can get inside the forks and stays. Then, with the rear wheel on, get after the drivetrain first. Remember, you’ll keep this rag separate to make sure no chemicals get on the frame.

Many folks will tell you to use a degreaser to really get your chain clean, but we’re of the opinion that, if you need a degreaser, you’ve used too much lube or waited too long to clean your bike. If you do need to use a degreaser, keep it light and sparing. This is a great time to whip out a bottle brush to get in between your front chainrings and each cog of your cassette. Remember to rinse down when you’re ready to rinse to avoid splattering that degreaser all over your frame, too.

The Rest of It. Again, start at the top and scrub down. This is another good chance to get both wheels off and scrub the stays and tight spaces. As you’re scrubbing, look closely at your frame for cracks or signs of wear. It’s a great chance to do a little pushing and pulling; give brake levers, bottle cages, your seat, brake calipers, and other parts a little tug to make sure they’re tight. Even little things like this can help prevent mechanical issues out on the road or trail.

One note on power washers. Don’t. Cracking up your water pressure to 11 can get moisture in places it doesn’t need to be and can also push grease and lube out of places that it does need to be, especially the bottom bracket and hubs.

Most experts recommend washing your bike at least once a month, but if you’re an avid rider, it may be better to make time every weekend for a thorough wash. We also like to keep a bottle of Bike Wash in the garage with a dedicated old t-shirt on hand for a quick wipedown.

What is your bike washing ritual? Share your tips with us!