Ridin’ Dirty? 5 Steps to a Clean, Fast Bike

By Jeremiah “Scratch” Stone

There’s something disheartening about a dirty bike. You cringe at the creaks and grinds, avert your eyes from the grime, and roll out for a ride with shame that you haven’t maintained the machine that brings you so much joy. Good news: you’re just 5 steps away from breathing new life into your bike and riding with pride again!

1. Prewash

Set the stage before you begin. Make sure your bike is stable, the hose is ready, and all your cleaning supplies are close by. You can use a clean, soft rag to wrap your seat post in if you’re putting it in a work stand – it minimizes the risk of scratching your dropper post.

Never use high pressure! A backyard water hose is best and you definitely want to steer clear of the car wash. That high pressure forces water into your seals and bearings where it will wreak havoc and cost you money later. While it may be satisfying to erase dirt with that strong blaster, it’s much better for your components to take it easy. Use your thumb to flick the bigger chunks of mud off, you don’t want that grit and gravel in your brushes where it can scratch something later.

2. Degrease

Use a quality bike-specific degreaser to clean your drivetrain. Dedicate a brush to this part of the bike and make sure you get all that grime off your derailleur’s pulley wheels and the cassette. Don’t forget to clean around your chainring, cranks, and suspension linkage, too. I’m a big fan of the chain scrubbers – they help prolong the life of your chain and drivetrain components.

3. Cleaning Time

Before you ever touch the bike with a brush, rinse it out thoroughly. Particles can get in those bristles and really scratch things up. Use a quality soap and clean brush to scrub the bike down. I start with my suspension components and controls, then move on to my frame, saving the wheels for last. Rinse your brush out often because the dirt you’re scrubbing off the bike is going into that brush, so clean it out! Try using a smaller detailing brush to get into those hard to reach spots.

4. Rinse & Inspect

Rinse everything thoroughly and check for any missed spots or stubborn dirt. Check for frayed cables, bent pedal pins, loose bolts, and make sure everything looks to be in good working order. Inspect your bike often to make the necessary repairs – it may save your next ride from being a dud! 

5. The Finishing Touches

Use a clean, soft towel to dry everything off. Water is the enemy, so take your time, dry around all the seals and bounce the bike a few times to shake out any lingering drops. 

For an added bonus, try some of the great bike detailing supplies that are available. It is absolutely crucial that you keep your brake rotors covered if you use any sprays or waxes – any contamination of those brake parts will cause major issues.

My favorite detailing sprays are a water dispersing lubricant that I use for the drivetrain and a silicone-based spray that really makes the bike shine. Not only does it bring out the bling, it protects the finishes of the frame and suspension helping everything operate smoothly and repels dirt or mud on future rides. Finally, lube your chain and wipe away the excess. 

Now… enjoy!

Congratulations, your bike looks as close to new as it ever will! A clean bike feels fantastic with everything moving freely and silently (like a ninja!). Now that your bike is looking fresh, it’s time to gear up in your favorite kit, hit the trails, and ride it with pride.

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5 Thoughts on “Ridin’ Dirty? 5 Steps to a Clean, Fast Bike

  1. Avatar CColesJr on August 20, 2019 at 3:14 pm said:

    Good article. I used to wash my bike after very ride. Now I only wash it every 3-4 weeks. For the frame, I use Muc-Off. It works great and gives my bike a showroom shine. For the drivetrain, I use Simple Green. It’s environmentally friendly and is citrus based. To dry off my bike, I use a soft chamois. Nice to know I’m not the only person bouncing their bike to get the extra water out!

  2. Avatar james jones on August 27, 2019 at 10:03 am said:

    use leaf blower to get rid of water. easier and no knuckle scuffs

  3. What’s the product in the photo where the fork is being sprayed? All I see in the text is “silicone-based spray.”

  4. Wow, this sounds like a lot of work. Here’s my routine:
    Bounce bike a few times to remove loose mud or dirt.
    Wipe off seat post and fork stanchions.
    Wipe chain thoroughly.
    Lube chain (I recommend chain lube).
    Wipe chain thoroughly.

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