A Clean Bike is a Happy Bike

December 17, 2015

A clean bike is happy bike. It also performs better, saves you money, and makes you feel good every time you climb aboard.

Brandon from De Grandi Cycle & Sport takes us through a comprehensive guide of how to get a bike store clean at home.

Clean the frame

Cleaning the frame is the first step in cleaning your bike. To do this you need to take off both wheels and remove any lights, computers, tool bag, and any other attached components or equipment you have on your bike.

To make it easy to get the rear wheel off put the bike into the lowest gear possible, this will take the tension off the chain and give you some slack to play with.

Avoid the temptation to get out the hose or pressure washer for this part. It is best to use a spray on cleaner, as pressure washers or hoses can get water into bearing surfaces and present problems down the track.

A diluted car wash solution or diluted general cleaner is the best option for washing your frame. Avoid using any petrochemicals, otherwise known as petroleum distillates, because they are too harsh and will strip the bike. Spray the solution onto your frame and use a flannelette rag to thoroughly clean all the surfaces. Pay close attention to hard to reach areas around the fork, rear triangle, bottom bracket, bottle cages and brakes.

If you have an electronic groupset be careful around any junction boxes, batteries and cables.

Cleaning your wheels

Now that your frame is sparkling it's time to move onto your wheels. Whether you have carbon or alloy wheelsets the process is much the same, although it's best to make sure your carbon braking surface is totally dry before putting them back on the bike, otherwise you will have that all too familiar carbon squeal.

Use the same solution you did for your frame, wiping down the braking surface, spokes, and hubs.

Cleaning the cassette

While you have the wheels out of the bike, it's a good time to clean the cassette. Depending on how dirty your cassette is, it may need to be pulled off and cleaned separately, although if you apply this 'how to clean you bike' guide frequently, you won't need to worry about that.

Brandon uses Orontas degreaser, a plant-based degreaser in favour of a kerosene-based degreaser. The team at De Grandi Cycle and Sport found the kerosene-based degreaser too harsh on components and created problems when trying to re-apply lubricant. If you have any petroleum distillates left on a bearing surface, it will drive away any lubricant you try to apply. This will obviously cause issues with premature wear and tear on your components.

Spray the Orontas degreaser onto your cassette and flannelette rag. Wedge the flannelette rag between the cassette sprockets, rotating the cassette around and cleaning each sprocket as you go. Depending on the amount of dirt on your cassette, you may have to change sections of the rag you are working on, and apply more Orontas degreaser to the rag.

Cleaning the chain

Once the frame, wheels and cassette are clean it's time for the chain. Now is a good time to check your chain to make sure it isn't worn out, there's not much point cleaning it if you need to replace it!

There's no need to take the chain off or get scrubbing with your toothbrush. As we discussed earlier, using kerosene-based cleaners or petroleum distillates is not advised. They are simply too harsh and will cause damage to your components. Most modern day drivetrains will be 11 speed, operating at a very fine tolerance, so you need to take great care when working with anything to do with your drivetrain.

Once again the flannelette rag is put to good use along with the Orontas degreaser. Spray the degreaser onto the rag, grab the bottom rung of the chain, and create a kink in the chain. Back pedal the chain through the rag and you will see the dirt and grime start to accumulate. Depending on how dirty your chain is, you may need to vary the section of rag you are using. Continue this process until you get a clean rag. This may take several passes.

Lubricating the chain

Depending on the lubricant you are using, you may need to do this more frequently than others. In this case, Brandon has used a lighter chain lubricant from Orontas which is designed for riding in good conditions. Some types of lubricant will be more heavy duty and suited to riding in average to poor conditions.

Regardless of the lubricant you are using, always apply to the bottom rung. Never spray up or down the cassette, or on the top rung. As you pedal the lubricant will be forced outwards, and into the chain. If it is anywhere but the bottom rung, you will end up with a mess all over the seat stays and chain stays.

Run the chain through a rag several times. This final process won't remove lubricant from the chain links where it is needed, it will simply remove excess lubricant from the outside of the chain that would otherwise fly off and end up making a mess of your rear wheel.

Handy Tips for cleaning your bike

  • Shift your bike into the small chainring and smallest cassette sprocket to make it easier to take off the rear wheel.

  • Inspect your bike as you go, looking out for cracks or any other damage, and any holes in your tyres.

  • Use flannelette rags.

  • If you have carbon wheels, make sure the breaking surface is totally dry before putting them back on your bike.

  • Manufacturers have different ways of measuring chain wear. Get your local bike shop to inspect yours with every service.

  • While you are cleaning the chain, vary your pressure by pressing on the sides and top of the chain.

  • Select the right chain lube for your riding and vary it depending on seasons and road conditions. Dry lubricant is primarily used for good riding conditions, while wet lubricant is better for harsh riding conditions.

  • Always lubricate the bottom rung of the chain, spraying away from the bike.

  • The more frequently you clean your bike, the better it will perform, and the less it will cost you on servicing and replacing components.

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