How to Clean Your Bike, According to an Experienced Cyclist

Muc-Off bike cleaning
Courtesy of Muc-Off

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Do you need advice on how to clean your bike correctly, be it a mountain bike, road bike, gravel bike, or commuter? While not all bikes are the same, most of their components are, and cleaning the drivetrain is the critical component that makes your bicycle run smoothly. In this guide, we’ll discuss the importance of cleaning your drivetrain and all the tiny bits and pieces that make up the essential parts of your bike.

Why Clean Your Bike?

  • A clean chain improves your overall performance.
  • You’ll shift between gears smoothly.
  • It’ll increase the longevity of the components such as the chain and derailleur.
  • It will save you money in the long run.
  

Top Tips for Bike Cleaning

  • Give yourself time.
  • Use hot water; it will help remove dirt and chunks of grease.
  • Wear gloves! Don’t wipe your hands on your clothes.
  • Keep rags and towels meant only for your bike separate from other fabrics.
  • Clean the floor after to remove any grease.
  

Step 1: Clean the Drivetrain 

how to clean a bike Camille Hove | SPY.com

First, if you want a complete wash — and have 30 minutes to do it — start by cleaning the chain using a high-quality degreaser. Spray liberally on the chain, the crank and the derailleur. Let this sit and do the hard work for you for five minutes before you begin scrubbing. Get ready with hot water and a sponge to wipe the grit from your frame as the degreaser settles and soaks on your chain.

Be sure to wear a pair of gloves as the grease likes to fall from your bike and spread around. Cleaning the area afterward is essential. Below, we’ll review the best products for cleaning and how to do it.

how to clean a bike Camille Hove | SPY.com

After you’ve let the degreaser sit for five minutes, grab a clean washcloth or strip of old towel and run it gently along your chain. You’ll quickly notice chunks of dirt and grease escaping. If you want to really get into the chain links, use a nylon bristle claw brush. Its small bristles get into the chain nooks and crannies and free it of any hard-to-get grit and gunk.

Additionally, you will want to get deep into the derailleur pulley wheel, the small wheel that sits at the narrow end of your chain. Most of the debris that gets caught here causes you to slow down when it’s raining and muddy, so you want to clean it thoroughly before your next ride.

bike cleaning picture 3 Camille Hove | SPY.com
  

Best Products For Cleaning Your Drive Train

Muc-Off Water Soluble Bike Degreaser

BEST OVERALL

The Muc-Off Degreaser works well on any drivetrain. It removes grit, dirt, and grease within a few minutes of soaking. While it has a strong odor that may be off-putting to some consumers, this water-soluble, biodegradable formula is one of our all-time favorite products. It will last you a long time, so you won’t need to replace it anytime soon.

Muc-Off Soluble Degreaser Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

WD-40 Bike Chain Degreaser

RUNNER-UP

WD-40 is another excellent product trusted by professional cyclists and industry experts. Spray the nozzle at your chain and watch as the foam coats your entire chain for a deep clean. Once it begins to sizzle, you’ll know the grease is going to fall off your chain fast. This product has a strong odor reminiscent of citrus, and if you aren’t familiar with WD-40 products, it may be hard to tolerate at first. It lacks any actual citrus acid, which means it wipes clean with no need to rinse.

WD-40 Bike Degreaser Courtesy of Amazon

  

Finish Line Citrus Bike Degreaser

BEST PETROLEUM-FREE

If you’re irritated by petroleum-based degreasers, then this is the one for you. Finish Line is used by industry experts and cyclists everywhere, and with its wonderful citrus smell, how could you not buy bottle after bottle? Finish Line’s cleaning products stand out for their quality ingredients and quick-acting formulas. If you clean your drivetrain and other components with these products, you’ll be more than pleased with the result. Made with plant-based products, this degreaser will strip your bike of stubborn dirt and grit while smelling nice at the same time.

Finish Line Citrus Bike Degreaser Courtesy of Amazon

  

Park Tool CB-4 Bio Chainbrite Cleaning Fluid

BEST NO-SPRAY LIQUID

Park Tool is another great product used by cyclists worldwide for any style of bike. It works wonders removing road grit, mountain bikes that have seen the roughest, muddiest trails, and touring bikes that have gone all over the map. Park Tool’s Cleaning Fluid is an efficient liquid cleanser that removes all grease, grit, and dirt from your chain, making it as good as new so you can keep riding and changing gears smoothly. This 100% biodegradable, plant-based degreaser is not only good for your bike but good for the planet.

Park Tool CB-4 Bio Chainbrite Cleaning Fluid Courtesy of Amazon

  

Muc-Off Claw Brush

Muc-Off Claw Brush

  

Clean & Lube Kit 

Clean & Lube Kit Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

Step 2: Wash Your Frame

Spray your bike with hot water (this is important because cold water won’t remove caked-on grease). Then spray a strong yet safe cleanser all over your bike. We used Muc-Off brand Nano Teach Bike Cleaner on everything: handlebars, seat post, front fork, pedals, drivetrain — you name it, we sprayed it. However, any of the products we list below also work wonders on dirt.

Next, grab a sponge, preferably a clean one. (The dirtier, greasier sponge is better saved for the chain). Scrub your bike, paying close attention to any spots of grease on the frame. Get the in-between places such as the inside of your front fork and the bottom of your frame. Don’t be afraid to get everything saturated; it won’t harm your bike.

clean bike pic 4 Camille Hove | SPY.com

Once you’ve scrubbed your entire frame, wheels, and brakes, rinse and repeat. (A second coating of cleaner never hurt anyone.) The best part about Muc-Off’s eco-friendly brand is the refill bags of the biodegradable formula you can buy instead of purchasing an entirely new bottle. You can also use regular dish soap, but the Nano cleaner is safe to use on all parts of your bike, while a regular soap may not be for your brakes and brake pads. As a biodegradable product, it’s friendly to you, your bike and the Earth.

Best Products for Cleaning your Bike Frame

Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Cleaner

BEST OVERALL

Our go-to pick is the Muc-Off Nano Tech bike cleaner. The fast-action bike cleaner works fast, works hard, and works well. This biodegradable formula is safe for matte and gloss finishes.

Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Cleaner Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

Weldtite Bike Cleaner Spray

RUNNER UP

If you’re looking for a cleaning kit that comes with all the basics, then the Weldtite package is a sure winner. The cleaning spray will work wonders on your frame, pedals, and handlebars to remove any dirt or grease caught in any nooks, like beneath the front fork or under your seat post. The Weldtite spray is easy to use; grab an old rag or kitchen towel you’re tired of and put it to good use. Your bike will be clean in no time, thanks to this superb cleaner.

Weldtite Bike Cleaner Spray Courtesy of Amazon

  

Finish Line Super Bike Wash

ALSO CONSIDER

The Super Bike Wash removes all dirt and grease from every inch of your bike with a good scrub. This spray works magic on the dirtiest of bikes with five unique cleaning agents that create a high-speed cleaning effect, while rust and oxidation inhibitors protect metal surfaces, such as disc brakes or pedals. If you’re looking for a high-performance product, Finish Line is the cleaner for you.

Finish Line Super Bike Wash Courtesy of Amazon

  

Step 3: Dry and Lube Your Chain

You can let your chain air dry or wipe it with a rag or paper towel. Once it’s dry, add a few small drops of the lube to your chain by gently backpedaling. Coat the entire chain until it’s wholly lubed, making sure you have one drop of lube on each chain link.

Next, wipe off the chain to remove any excess lube. Too much leftover lube will only attract more dirt onto the chain, undoing all of your hard work. After you’ve completed this step, you’re all done and ready for a fast, clean ride. See below for this and more products to help keep your bike clean and speeding smoothly.

how to clean your bike chain Camille Hove | SPY.com
  

Muc-Off Hydrodynamic Bike Lube

BEST OVERALL

The bottle design alone makes this an easy-to-use chain lubricant, but Muc-Off also mastered the formula, if you ask us. Made for use on all bike types, this durable, low-friction lube provides superior performance over long-distance in all weather conditions.

Muc-Off Hydrodynamic Chain Lube Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

mountainFLOW Bike Lube

RUNNER UP

This 100% biodegradable, plant-based lube is our eco-friendly favorite. This product will keep your bike properly lubed and running smoothly from the moment of application. Run your chain backward and apply one drop per chain link for accurate distribution. Keep your chain in proper working order with an eco-friendly brand that industry experts love.

mountainFLOW Bike Lube Courtesy of Amazon

  

Finish Line Dry Lube with Teflon

ALSO CONSIDER

The Finish Line dry lube goes on wet when applied and dries to a wax-like crust to seal your chain and protect it from any dirt or grease while you’re outside on a ride. The dry lube works just as well as a wet lube, and the synthetic oils with Teflon provide a super slick finish. This is an excellent choice for any off-road or on-road cyclist.

Finish Line Dry Lube with Teflon Courtesy of Amazon

  

White Lightning Wet Ride Lube

BEST FOR EXTREME WEATHER

If you’re going for a ride in extreme conditions, then you should consider a wet lube for extra protection. Keeping your chain clean in wet conditions isn’t easy, but luckily we have brands like White Lightning who have made grit-resistant lubes. Made from pure, premium synthetic oils and water-repelling polymers, this lube is waterproof and will protect your bike from a nasty rainstorm.

White Lightning Wet Ride Lube Courtesy of Amazon

  

Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant 

BEST PETROLEUM-BASED

Made with petroleum-based oils, Tri-Flow’s lube is an excellent option for any bike, whether it’s a mountain bike or a road bike. With special additives meant to displace moisture, prevent rust and corrosion, this high-grade petroleum oil is best used under extreme conditions and temperatures.

Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant  Courtesy of Amazon

  

More Products to Clean and Protect Your Bike

Muc-Off Nano Tech Bike Cleaner 5L

If you’re a biking big-timer, this 5-Liter Nano Tech Bike Cleaner is your best bet if you’re looking for a refill bottle. As a companion to the Nano Tech cleaner above, you’ll be set for the year ahead of bike cleaning.

Nano Tech Bike Cleaner 5L Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

X-3 Dirty Chain Machine

If you prefer a complete clean-up job and don’t want to hassle with a handheld brush, then the X-3 Dirty Chain Machine will be an excellent addition to your kit. Pour a small amount of drivetrain cleaner into the top portion of the container and then clamp both ends onto your chain and backpedal your bike, so the chain is cleaned thoroughly by the machine.

X-3 Dirty Chain Machine Courtesy of Muc-Off

  

Park Tool Drivetrain Cleaning Kit

Another excellent option to clean your drivetrain comes from Park Tool, known and used by industry professionals across the globe. With the drivetrain cleaning kit, you’ll be getting the best way to clean your chain possible. If you want to avoid using old rags and spreading grease everywhere, it’s a lot easier to clamp your chain into this small and handy machine, pour in the soap, and watch as your chain becomes cleaner than you ever imagined within seconds. The cleaning kit also comes with a scrubbing brush and a bottle of cleaner. This is an excellent deal for anyone who cleans their bike every time they ride outside in wet conditions.

Park Tool Drivetrain Cleaning Kit Courtesy of Amazon