You love your bike, and you want to take care of it the right way. But while many people skip basic bicycle maintenance until a problem arises or heavy buildup occurs, proactive care is an important step of bike ownership. Cleaning a road bike monthly is advised, while a mountain bike will require more frequent upkeep. Cleaning is also advised any time you ride in muddy or wet conditions to help prevent accelerated damage or corrosion from dirt and grease build-up that can chew into your drivetrain and other mechanical parts. Regular care and cleaning can also help you find wear and tear at the start, potentially preventing costly repairs.
For newcomers, sticking to a bike cleaning schedule can seem complicated or overwhelming, but as they say, practice makes perfect. If you have a bike stand, this is helpful as you'll need to access the entirety of your bike, including pedal motion, for cleaning. Otherwise, you can lay down a towel to protect your seat and handlebars, and turn your bike upside-down.
However, there are plenty of wrong ways to get the job done, which can actually diminish your bike's performance – or even worse, damage the bicycle itself. The last thing you want is a bike plagued by constant mechanical issues, especially due to a neglect of maintenance.
Here are the 5 most common mistakes bike owners make when cleaning their ride:
Don't skip that initial rinse of your bike before really getting into the nitty-gritty of cleaning. Doing so sharply increases the likelihood of gritty debris scratching and marking your bike frame's finish. Before grabbing the cleaning product and scrubbing away, use a garden hose to spray down your entire bike from top to bottom. Here's where you can get rid of those larger chunks of mud caked into your wheels without spreading it all over your bike. A pre-wash rinse will also help the cleaner penetrate soils more deeply, for a better all around cleaning.
Be careful in your choice of cleaning product to avoid seriously damaging your bike. Various metals and rubber materials on your bike have different sensitivities and cleaning requirements. High alkaline cleaners and solvent-based cleaners can cause rubber seals to dry out and crack, and cause damage to painted and plastic surfaces. Detergent-based soaps can have an adverse reaction on aluminum, causing damage to parts over time. Titanium, aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber are susceptible to etching and corrosion, so it's best to use a cleaner that's safe for all the metals, rubber and plastics on today's bikes.
Simple Green Bike Cleaner & Degreaseris a non-corrosive formula that cuts through caked-on mud, dirt, grease, grime, and other road and trail soils. It's safe for use on all bike parts including metal, rubber, carbon fiber, plastic, painted surfaces, chains and derailleurs.
Keeping your chain, derailleurs and cassette clean is particularly important, as any buildup and debris in these areas can spell serious trouble for your bike's functionality. Spray Simple Green Bike Cleaner & Degreaser directly into your drivetrain, use a toothbrush to work into smaller areas and penetrate tough grime, dirt & grease. Then thoroughly rinse the drivetrain.
Chain cleaning is important, and re-lubricating the chain before putting it back on your bike is just as critical. But be careful if you haven't cleaned the chain – applying new lubrication on top of dirty lube will shorten your bike chain's lifespan. If any lubrication exists outside the rollers and links will amass dirt and grit. As time goes by, this will wear out the chain. So after lubing your chain, give some time for the fluid to settle in, and then wipe off the excess with a dry cloth.
Using a pressure washer to deep clean your bike can be problematic, forcing water into bearings and compromising the grease (especially if you've applied a degreasing cleaner) as well as any existing bar tape. If you're using high pressure, keep the nozzle at least 2-3 feet from the bike and be sure to avoid the bearings if possible, to avoid breaking the bearing seals and putting them at risk of drying out.
Need to clean your bike? Here's a great how-to.
Bonus tip: Use Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner as a laundry pre-treat to remove grime and grease from your cleaning cloths. Dampen the cloths with water, apply full-strength Simple Green and rub in gently. Wash as usual.