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Bike Washing Guide


Washing your bike and keeping it clean will prolong the life of the components and give you a more reliable ride. Bike cleaning is not just confined to the winter months, summer dust and grime can be just as damaging as winter mud.

Before you start...

If you wash your bike as soon as you get back from your ride it will be easier to clean because the muck will be fairly wet already. Find somewhere you can stand your bike either lean against fence/wall or get a bike stand. Remove items such as under saddle stuff pack, pumps and lights. Get all your kit ready. If you have cantelever brakes, undo these as it makes it easier to clean.

You will need:

  • Hose pipe – connected to water of course
  • Bucket of soapy water – ideally use car shampoo but washing up liquid will do (some say you shouldn’t but I’ve never had a problem). Either way make sure the water is warm and soapy.
  • brushes – for the wheel rims, tyres and cassette, you need a large size scrubbing brush with short bristles preferably with the handle on the top. The bristles need to be medium soft, plastic nylon material. If the britsles are too soft they are not strong enough to do the job, too stiff and they don’t clean properly. Old toothbrushes are great for the jockey wheels and chain rings. A “dustpan” like brush is useful for washing your hubs as the hand helps to get down between the spokes and other hard to reach places.
  • Sponge – cheap synthetic sponges which you can cut into smaller pieces if necessary.
  • Degreasers – there are quite a few on the market at the moment, but I have found Hopes’ Sh#tShifter really good. Make sure you read the instructions before using any degreasant. Always rinse with plenty of the soapy water after using the degreasant.
  • Lubrication – WD40 or GT85 and wet or dry lube for your chain.

Rinse Down

Using the hose, rinse as much muck off the bike as you can. Work from the top down. Pay attention to clearing mud from tyres. If you have mudguards, try and rinse the muck from underneath these. Remember you need to turn the bike round and rinse the other side!


WARNING – when using a hose pipe do not hose too close to areas such as rear cassette, wheel hubs, bottom bracket, headsets and forks (mainly suspension). Water under pressure has a knack of getting into places you don’t want it to.

Give her a good scrub

Using the scrubbing brush, wash the rims and tyres. Using your sponge give the bike a general wash mainly the sadde, frame and handle bars.

Degrease the chain

Spray some degreasant on the chain whilst turning the pedals backwards until the whole chain has been sprayed.

Scrub the cassette

Use the scrubbing brush to scrub the cassette and chain. Keep turning the pedals backwards. You may have to repeat this if the chain is particularly oily. Use plenty of soapy water on the brush to rinse off the degreasant.

Clean the chain rings

Now spray the solution on the chain rings, then lean over the bike and scrub the chain rings on the inside whilst turning the pedals backwards. Now drop the chain to the smallest ring and repeat the scrubbing. Scrub the other side of the chainrings too.

Clean the chain

Put the chain on the middle ring. Hold a sponge in the palm of your hand and wrap around the chain and turn the pedals backwards. If a lot of oil comes off onto the sponge, spray some degreasant onto the sponge and repeat. Once the chain is fairly clean, repeat process with just plenty of soapy water on the sponge afterwards.
Using the toothbrush, clean the jockey wheels. If they are full of muck and grease, spray some degreasant on them and the toothbrush. Make sure you rinse with soapy water afterwards. Tip – Use the toothbrush to clean the front chainrings too.

Finish washing the rest of the bike

Generally finish washing the rest of the bike with sponge and brush. Clean the muck off brake blocks and scrub your pedals (if you have SPDs) with a brush.

Lube her up!

Once you have completed washing your bike, do not rinse. If you have time allow the bike to dry off for about 10 minutes. Using the WD40 or GT85, spray a small amount on joints that may have water in them such as jockey wheel bolts, brake calipers, brake levers and cable ends.To lube your chain, apply by moving the pedals backwards whilst squeezing a small amount firstly along the links on the one side and then the other as shown in the picture (left). This is the side of the chain that moves around the chain rings.

Dont forget!!!

  • Do your brakes up!!!
    or for those with discs…
  • Keep lube off your rotors

This bike wash guide was written by Carla Bennett, she’s washed bikes for pro’ teams in MTB Cyclo-cross and road.

You’ll find a lot of the products used in this guide in our
Maintenance Section