How to Clean Your Bike
By Jimmy Williams, PT, DPT
Hello there, it’s me, your bike. Maybe I’ve been sitting in the corner of your room or perhaps you used me quite frequently to hit the roads during the summer & fall months. Either way, one thing is certain, I NEED TO BE CLEANED.
It is easy to put off cleaning your bike. You can think, “Well it’s just going to get dirty again the next time I ride it” or “It’s just a bike”. But putting off your bike can have severe consequences, both aesthetically and financially. First of all, don’t be that guy riding a dirty bike. It looks gross and no one wants to be behind you in a group ride with dirt/mud flying off the back. Secondly, not regularly washing your bike can lead to replacing very expensive parts earlier or more frequently than usual due to corrosion from excessive sweat/mud. This accumulation can lead to sweat on your bike eroding the coat, grime causing your chain/cassette to erode faster than normal, and cause your brakes to wear faster over time (which would be a big issue on your next rainy/hilly ride).
Good news! You don’t have to do this every day or after every ride. My recommendation would be to clean your bike after every 2-3 rides, especially making sure to do it after a hard workout in which you had a lot of sweat dripping down or after a rainy ride as a lot more debris will stick to your bike in those conditions.
It’s as simple as getting back from your ride, hosing (keep reading for down your bike, scrubbing it with soapy water (Dove is a personal favorite of mine), taking a hard scrubber to the chain & gears to get that tough stuff out and then hose it off again. Once your chain is dry, apply lubricant so that it will run smoothly during your next ride. Apply along the length of the entire chain and make sure to remove excess lubricant on the chain as lubricant on the exterior will simply serve to pick up more dirt. Back in FL we used to have bike cleaning parties where we would clean our bikes like this, hangout, talk about races/training, have some beer & tacos and make a day out of it.
Now in the city life, most of us don’t have hoses or yards to clean our bikes so easily. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t washed my bike in the shower, it’s the best option if you wanted a quick wash down & you had a lightweight carbon frame. However, there are alternatives such as purchasing foaming bike wash and using the same brushing techniques as mentioned above with using a handful of rags/towels to wipe/dry your bike down.
Now servicing your bike is a different story. I like to think that taking care of your bike is like taking care of your teeth, if you brush/floss regularly then you don’t have to go to the hygienist that frequently. However, if you never floss or brush then you’re going to have to go back much sooner. This analogy translates where if you’re riding your bike frequently and washing it then probably after 2-3,000 miles of riding, you should get a tune up. However if you’re riding that often without taking care of your bike, then you’ll have to probably have your parts serviced closer to 1,000 miles of riding. And if your bike has been in the corner of the room for the past year, dust it off & take it to your local bike shop to see if your parts are rusted through before taking that sucker out for a spin.