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ASK Boris: How to wash your bike like a pro

ask boris June

Whether it’s after a drenched road ride, or muddy mountain excursion getting your bike cleaned up is important and actually a LOT easier than you may think. A clean bike is a happy bike. A clean bike runs better, looks better, and is the single most effective way to reduce unnecessary/accelerated component wear. Cleaning is so important that we’ve made it one of the first things on every velofix tune up checklist and here’s what you’ll need to do the job right at home:

What you need:

  • A bike stand (this is a nice to have, if you don’t have one just stand the bike up against wall, or hang it by the seat off of something)
  • Some clean rags. Rags, not paper towels; you want something that will absorb moisture/dirt BUT not leave lint or any pieces of itself behind as you work. Cloth rags work great, or better yet use a microfiber cloth
  • A couple brushes, one with very soft non-abrasive bristles, and one with firm bristles
  • A small bucket with warm soapy water. Use a soap that had a little “de-greasing” power to it, but that is not too harsh. Dish soap actually works quite well as it is meant to cut grease, other detergents like SimpleGreen etc. also work well
  • Hose or second bucket with clean, soap-free water
  • Lubricant and Polish

What to do:

1. Setup your bike in the stand or against a wall

2. Get Sudsy    

Saturate the soft bristled brush with the warm soapy water. Starting with the top of the bike (the saddle and handlebars) liberally brush on the soapy water, and start to move your way down. Hit all the “static” areas of the frame and bike such as the seatpost/saddle, cockpit, all frame tubes and fork. Make sure to get at the inside of the fork legs, bottom of the downtube, inside of the chain stays etc…dirt likes to hide!


Move onto the wheels. You can leave them on the bike OR for a deeper clean, feel free to remove them. Scrub the tires, rims and hubs. Lots of dirt builds up here and can become very hard to clean if left for a long time. If you’ve taken the wheels off, now is a great time to scrub up that cassette (as per step 4. Below)

4. Drivetrain

Show that drivetrain who’s boss, this is the most critical part of the bike clean! Using the hard bristled brush and the soapy water, move onto the drivetrain. You will want to scrub and brush all the moving components. Key areas to focus on are: brakes (though limit soap on disc brake calipers/rotors if possible), cassette, chain, crankset, and front and rear derailleurs. The goal is to try to “lift” the dirt and grime to the surface of the components so that it can be washed away. Removing this grime/abrasives will keep the bike running much smoother and GREATLY increase the life of these parts

5. Clean Wash

Now that the whole bike has been “soaped up” and the degreaser has had a little time to eat away at the grime, it’s time to wash your bike down. Using a hose or the bucket of clean water, re-trace your steps. Go over all the same areas until all the soapy residue and dirt is off.

6. Towel off

Using the cloth rags or microfiber cloth, wipe down the frame, wheels and drivetrain as best as possible. Fold the cloth(s) over often, and ensure that you are wiping with a clean, dry portion of the rag. Do the drivetrain last OR dedicate one rag for that area. It’s particularly important to get the chain clean and dry – this is because oil is lighter than water. If you apply lube on a wet chain, the bulk of it will just float on the water and will not penetrate and lube as it should (see step 7).

7. Re-lube and Polish

Very important last step. Don’t forget to re-lube your bike. Your bike may look clean and finished, but if you forget to do this step you’re in for a very squeaky next ride. Lubricate the chain liberally and the derailleurs/brakes on all pivot points. Wipe off the excess lube from the chain by running it through a cloth. If you have any cables exposed, drop a little lube on all of those as well (use a “wet lube” for this versus a dry one).

There are also some great products on the market for polishing your bike and “sealing” the clean a little bit. Hitting the frame with a bike polish is a great way to add a little shine and can help to repel some future dirt and water (polish helps to help by repelling grime by “beading” it off).

Voila, you’re all done! Once you assemble your little cleaning kit, you’ll be able to blast through a clean in 10 minutes or less.

Couple common questions:

Q: I have Di2/EPS, is it OK to wash my bike?

A: Yes, 100%. These systems are fully sealed and water proof. There is not harm you will cause by following the above procedure to clean your bike

Q: Is power washing my bike OK?

A: Power washing your bike is not the best idea and here’s why: the high air/water pressure of power washing can push past water past some bearing seals such as in the hubs, bottom bracket and headset. You can accelerate the bearing wear greatly if this occurs. Also if a frames clear coat is chipped, a power washer can begin to lift more of the clear coat off the frame. This is why I recommend using a standard hose or clean bucket of water. If you’re argument is that “Boris, pro teams do this all the time” my rebuttal would be “Yes they do; those bikes also need to last 6 months and get fully rebuilt twice a day”