A clean bike will function better than a dirty one and is a pleasure to work on. Before you start any bike maintenance you have to clean your bike, that doesn’t mean a bit of wipe with a cloth, you have to clean it properly and there are a few things you need to do the job, you might have to buy some equipment, but most of it might be found around the house, try under the sink, but don’t let your wife/mother catch you.
First what equipment do you need
• A bike workstand or handy tree/washing line to hang your bike on.
• Old rear hub or old axle or stick.
• Degreaser or diesel fuel (careful diesel is not good for your hands).
• Hot water.
• Washing up liquid.
• 2 buckets (1 with soapy and 1 with clean water).
• Paint brush.
• Old water bottle.
• Soft scrubbing brush.
• 2 sponges.
• And for that extra shinny finish, spray polish.
The most important thing to remember when you are cleaning your bike is to keep your eyes open and look for anything that may need fixing later, this is how a mechanic on a professional team does it, but he might have 10 bikes to look after, so it’s a lot easier with only one.
The starting point
Start with the wheels, cut the top off the old water bottle and put some degreaser in it, you can use a spray degreaser, but you waste most of it. With the paintbrush work the degreaser into the sprockets being careful not to get too much into the bearings. Then with some hot water and washing up liquid scrub the sprockets clean, then scrub the rims clean of old brake block residue, you can use a little degreaser to help this, but don’t get it on your tires. Scrub the tires clean, with soft scrubbing brush, at this point look at the tires for any cut in the tread that could puncture later and inspect the rims for damage or if they are wearing thin. With a soapy sponge wash the spokes and then rinse them in clean water and put them to one side to dry, not in direct sunlight.
Now the rest of the bike put your bike on your bike workstand or other handy item you can hang it on. Put the old hub/axle/stick in the rear end of the frame so the chain can rest on it, then using the paintbrush and the old water bottle with the degreaser clean the chain, the front and rear derailleur, chain rings and cranks, brakes and any other metal parts, try not to get it on the saddle, handlebar tape and don’t get too much on the headset and bottom bracket bearings. Also use the degreaser and paintbrush to clean under the down tube, as you’ll find any spillage form your feeding bottle will make this a very sticky place and the degreaser should shift it.
Now take the bottlebrush or a sponge and a bucket of soapy water and clean under the saddle, under the bottom bracket, under the brakes and under the forks, use the scrubbing brush to shift any stubborn dirt, then take a soapy sponge and clean off all the degreaser and loosened dirt. Then with a clean soapy sponge clean every part of the bike, start with the handlebars and saddle and work your way down the bike making sure the whole bike is sparkling clean, then rinse with clean water. Remember keep your eyes open for things like worn brake blocks, gritty bearings, tight or frayed cables or any cracks or damage to the frame, if all is OK put the wheels back in.
Things to look for while you are cleaning your bike
• Worn brake blocks.
• Damaged or thin rim walls.
• Damaged or cut tires.
• Damaged chain.
• Damaged or bent handlebars and stem.
• Twisted or damaged saddle.
• Torn or worn handle bar tape.
• Damaged or worn chain rings and sprockets.
• Damaged or worn chain.
• Damage to cranks or pedals.
• Condition or gear and brake cables.
• Damage to frame tubes.
• Loose or broken spokes.
• Condition of brake calipers.
• All bearings should run smoothly.
So your bike is now clean, dry it with a clean cloth and if you want it to really shine, get the spray polish out, but don’t get any on the brake surface or you will not be able to stop the first time you go out. Next you have to oil the chain and all moving parts, brake pivot bolts, front and rear derailleur, pedal springs and the pivots on the brake levers, wipe away any spilt oil, check your gears and brakes work well, pump up your tires and away you go on your clean and sparkling bike. Oh! And remember to put back all that stuff from under the sink before you go on your bike ride or you’ll be making your own dinner when you get home.