If you want your bike to last and provide you with years of fun rides it is essential that you take proper care of it. Simply dusting it off on occasion and keeping it out of the rain just won’t cut it. You need to properly clean your bike after every long ride, being sure to remove any dirt and grime, then leaving it perfectly dry. Failure to follow through on this could risk damaged parts, chain wear and shortened lifespan of your favorite metal pet. Devoting a couple hours every 2-3 months for a thorough cleaning and lube of your bike will keep it operating at the top.
The first thing you want to do when you start cleaning your road bike is to wash it down with hot water and mild detergent. Grab a rag and get the worst of the dirt off. Start with the handlebars, then seat and work your way down to the tires from there. Tires are usually the dirtiest so you might want to spend a bit more time on them. Avoid getting water on the brakes or chain – they’ll be cleaned later. When the bike is squeaky clean (well, at least the frame, the rims, and the tires) move on to small parts and get ready for some delicate cleaning work.
To clean the chain, prop up the bike to get better access to the chain and chain cassette. For this part, it would be best if you had some basic bike cleaning equipment such as a chain cleaner and a cassette brush/rack. Pop the chain cleaner over your chain (it’s a piece of plastic with a lot of brushes on the inside) and turn the pedals backward so the chain slides through the cleaner. The brushes on the inside will remove the dirt and grime from the chain. If you cannot get your hands on a store-bought chain cleaner, you might have to improvise with the following simple manual method: mix some water-based degreaser with water and apply it generously to your chain. Leave it there for a minute or two then take a brush and clean the chain. After that part is done take a piece of cloth and hold it over the chain while turning the pedals. The goal is to run the chain through the cloth to make sure you get all of the dirt and water out.
Now move on to the cassette and the chainrings. This is where most of the dirt will be. Again, apply a bit of degreaser on the cassette and the chainring and brush it out vigorously, removing caked dirt from it completely. Use a raked end of a brush (specialized bike brushes have raked ends for this purpose) to clean between the cassette cogs and remove anything that might be stuck there. Rinse the cassette and the chainring with water and dry thoroughly.
Clean the tires with a sponge and devote special attention to cleaning the rims. Sometimes the upper part of the rim will have little specks of dirt on it from where the brakes make contact. Clean that especially well since it can interfere with braking.
Now that the bike is completely clean, it’s time to grease it up and make it shine! Be sure to grease the chain and radials to protect them and ensure top performance out of your bike. Use race oil or dry lube and apply it to the inside of the chain and the cogs. Finally, use specialized bike polish or car wax on the body of the bike. This will give it a bit more shine and protect the coating from damage and rust. Follow any included instructions, or just apply a bit on a piece of cloth and rub it in, making sure not to get any of the polish on the brakes or chain.
Congratulations – you’re done! Do this every 2-3 months to make sure your bike stays in top shape. Taking proper care of your bike can add many serviceable years to your riding enjoyment while not taking too much time. Now go for a ride!