Clean affair: How to clean my bike properly

Rain, road salt, mud: a bike endures a lot. So you should treat it to a cleaning every now and then. Here's how to.

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Admittedly, cleaning your bike is not one of our favourite tasks, and that's probably the case for most people. But when your bike has survived the winter, you should give it a spring clean to make it fit for the warm season. Slush and road salt in particular can take their toll on your bike. And even if your bike has only been in the cellar during the cold months, it often accumulates a lot of dust. By cleaning your bike, you make your ride is more durable. Plus, you ensure that everything runs smoothly. This pays off again when you ride your bike. We'll tell you how to clean your bike with a few simple home remedies.

The right preparation

First you need a suitable place for cleaning. A garden, backyard, or garage are ideal because you'll have enough space to walk around your bike. In a pinch, you can also use the bathtub. Then gather all the utensils you need for cleaning. Of course, you can use special bike cleaners if you want to but home remedies are often enough for your cleaning action. This is cheaper and you likely have what you need already. You need:

  • a bucket with warm water
  • cleaning agent (e.g. washing-up liquid or all-purpose cleaner) - if you clean your bike outside, then choose biodegradable cleaning agent
  • hand brush or brush
  • old toothbrush
  • wet wipes or cotton cloth
  • sponge
  • lint-free cloth (e.g. microfibre)
  • chain oil or multi-purpose oil

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Step 1: Basic cleaning

First, use your brush to remove the coarse dirt from the frame and your bike tires. You can soak dried dirt with a sponge and rinse water to make it easier to remove. 

Step 2: Clean the bicycle chain

A clean and well-lubricated bicycle chain is the be-all and end-all for your drive. Turn your bike upside down and shift to the lowest gear. If your chain is only slightly dirty, you can simply wipe it with a cloth and let it run through slowly. For heavier dirt, use an old toothbrush and, if necessary, warm water. First, brush off the individual links. Then remove the loosened dirt particles and the old grease with a cloth. A special chain cleaner is suitable here, but alternatively a drop of detergent. Important: Use it very sparingly! Now run the chain through your old rag again until it no longer leaves black streaks. 

Step 3: Do not forget the cassette and sprocket

After you have cleaned your chain, clean the bicycle cassette and chainrings. The most convenient way to do this is with a small amount of bicycle cleaner and a special sprocket cleaner. Use a very narrow brush that fits between the chainrings. Here, too, you can simply resort to a rag that you pull through the sprockets instead. 

Step 4: Clean the circuit

Your gearshift is responsible for smooth gear changes. However, the upper and lower idler pulleys like to collect dirt, so you should also remove this. Again, wipe them clean with your rag. You can carefully remove debris from hard-to-reach places with a screwdriver, for example. 

Step 5: Make your bike shine

When the stubborn dirt is removed everywhere, the wet wipes come into play. With them you wipe over the frame, handlebars, and seat. You can also clean the rims and spokes easily with a wet wipe. If you don't want to use disposable wipes, you can use a damp cotton cloth with rinse water or old terry cloth socks that you can put over your hand. 

Tip: The best way to clean rims and spokes, like the chain, is to turn your bike upside down.

Step 6: Oil the chain

An intact bicycle drive requires that you grease your chain with chain oil after cleaning. Make sure that the chain is completely dry first. And don't let the chain oil drip onto brake discs, rims, or brake pads. It is best to apply a small amount of oil directly to the bicycle chain and keep it in constant motion by turning the crank backwards. Then leave the oil to act for a short time. Finally, wrap the chain again with a dry cloth, let it run through, and remove excess oil. 

A few tips in conclusion

1. A good rule to follow: you should clean your bike from top to bottom about every 300 kilometres. 

2. If you remove coarse dirt directly with a brush or rag after bad weather tours, you will save time later. You'll need to clean your bike less often.

3. If you notice that the braking performance decreases, you can remove brake abrasion with a rim rubber on the flank of your rims. Then the brakes will stick properly to your rims again. Here you can find more tips on how to repair small things on your bike yourself.