In short, failing to wash your bike (particularly after riding in wet conditions) allows the dirt and grime to build up. As your bike trundles along, that grime and grit rubs against your components, wearing them out unnecessarily. Instead of a brake pad hitting a clean shiny rim, it’s being exfoliated by small pieces of grime. And unlike the Champneys spa, exfoliation is never a phrase you want to associate with bicycles.
Adjusted your brakes but still can’t get rid of that squeak? Dirty rims could well be the guilty culprit. Grab a couple of rags and some degreaser or rubbing alcohol and remove your wheels. Either spray degreaser on both sides of the rims, or dab the rag in some alcohol and get cleaning. Even with rims that appear clean, you’ll be surprised by just how black your rag will become.
As soon as your shifting feels less precise, or you’re hearing a slightly grainy noise when turning your cranks, it’s time to clean that drivetrain. You’ve got a couple of options here. You can either - option A - grab a couple of old toothbrushes, some degreaser and clean your drivetrain whilst it’s still on your bike. Or, option B, completely remove it, giving it a long old soak.
Option A: If you want to save those aforementioned pennies, white spirit can work, but we reckon it’s worth investing in a drivetrain cleaner. Muc-off do some great degreasers which also happen to be biodegradable - a gold star for you muc-off.
All you need to do is spray your degreaser over your cassette, chain and inside of the chain rings, trying to remove as much muck as you can with the brush. Make sure to pull your chain away from the jockey wheels too, giving them a good scrub. Dry everything off with a rag and remember to relube your chain.
If you don’t want to remove your drivetrain, you could purchase a chain cleaner to help you out.
Option B: You’ll need a chain whip, cassette removal tool and crank puller (or preload tool depending on your cranks). You’ll first need to remove your drivetrain. This is a whole other blog post in itself, so why not hop onto GCN's YouTube channel. They do a series of tutorials on removing each components of your drivetrain. For any budding mechanics out there, GCN’s are some of the best tutorials on YouTube.
Grab an old kitchen bowl or bucket and pop all your components in, pouring in just enough degreaser until they’re nearly covered (you can buy several litres of degreaser off of amazon for £10). We’d leave them to soak overnight, coming back in the morning to scrub off the remaining grime. Make sure to dispose of the degreaser sensibly, rather than just pouring it down the sink where it will cause blockages - we’re here to save your bike and your marriage.
Dry off your components with an old rag or kitchen towel and pop them back onto the bike, making sure to relube your chain. On a side note, they say the best way to protect your drivetrain is wipe down your chain after every ride. We’re also supposed to eat 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day and consume less coffee, so let’s be realistic here. However it is a good point to clean it up fairly regularly and prevent it clogging.
Easily forgotten are the ol’ disc rotors. Just as with rim brakes, it may be time to give them a clean when you notice your braking power is reduced, or you just can’t get rid of those squeaks.
For this, you will need a specialist product that doesn’t leave residue on the rotors - a brake cleaner will do the trick just nicely. Take the wheel out, removing the calipers and pads before giving them a spritz with the cleaner. Wipe off any dirt from the rotors. You don’t need to worry too much about making sure everything is dry, as the brake cleaner will disappear.
Unless you’ve been riding in particularly muddy conditions, cleaning your frame about once every six weeks will be just fine. Keep your old washing up sponges if you’ve got any - they’re about to be relegated to bike cleaning duty. Although make sure not to use the abrasive side…
All you need is a bit of fairy liquid and a bucket of warm water. Soak your steed with suds, using any old brushes to get into the nooks and crannies, before rinsing everything off with a bucket of clean water. Again, make sure to dry everything thoroughly or you’ll end up with water streaks all over the frame.
There are various schools of thoughts when it comes to water pressure and power hoses. You can indeed use a pressure washer on a bike, but do so gently, making sure to avoid forcing water into components, unless you want your bearings to completely seize.
And there we have it folks. Just a few simple cleaning tips that anyone can do at home. These really are the easiest way to keep your bike running smoothly for very little money.