How to Wash Your Bike

Winter grime building up on your bike? Learn how to give your bike the bath it needs! We recommend Park tools to get in even the smallest places.

Equipment required:

  • 2 plastic buckets
  • Dawn dishsoap (great grease cutter)
  • 3 long-handled brushes with soft teeth that won’t scratch frame, marked frame , drivetrain , and water .
  • Scotch Brite pad(s)
  • Park Tool GSC-1 GearClean Brush, or similar toothbrush-like tool (Pedro’s, etc.)
  • Simple Green (ideally diluted 50/50 with water in a spray bottle)
  • Towel
  • Your favorite chain lube (for pullies, and brake and derailleur pivots)
  • Bike stand (optional)
  • Rubber gloves (optional but ideal – to protect manicures)

Park Tool

Ideally, you should wash and lube your bike once a week, at a minimum. To wash your bike:

  1. Fill the 2 buckets with water, one with water and Dawn, the other with just water.
  2. Remove the cyclometer, heartrate monitor, saddlebag, water bottles, and pump from your bike, and clamp the bike into the bike stand.
  3. While the bike is dry, squirt Simple Green copiously over the entire bike. (Don’t hose your bike down first. It’s best if you spray Simple Green on a dry bike, plus you could get water in the bottle bracket with the hose.)
  4. Squirt Simple Green on your gear brush (Park Tool or similar), and scrub your chain rings (inside and out, plus all the teeth). Be liberal with the Simple Green!
  5. Squirt Simple Green on your Scotch Brite pad. Wrap the pad around the chain, and hold the pad on the chain as you pedal backwards and clean the chain. Scrub liberally!
  6. If the chain is really bad, you can scrub it with the gear brush.
  7. Remove your wheels, and squirt Simple Green on your rear derailleur. Scrub the derailleur pulleys and wheels.
  8. You should now have a dirty, greasy, grimy mess! Take the brush you marked drivetrain , dip it in the soapy water bucket, and liberally apply soapy water to the entire drive train to clean up the mess easily.
  9. Squirt both rims with Simple Green.
  10. Scrub the rear cogs with your Park Tool, and again you will have a mess that you can clean with your drivetrain brush.
  11. Dip your frame brush in the soapy water, and wash the bike everywhere else: front wheel, brakes, under the down tube, under the bottom bracket, between the chain stays, the hubs, the spokes, the rims, under the saddle, your handlebar tape.
  12. Dip your water brush in the plain water, and rinse your bike. Rinsing your bike with a brush and water is better than spraying it with a hose, because the pressure of the spray can cause water to permeate the bottom bracket.
  13. Towel your bike dry.
  14. Lubricate chain, rear derailleur, front derailleur, rear derailleur pullies, brake pivots, barrel adjusters, and cables.

Now is a great time to troubleshoot your bike. Is anything loose? Check the chain for wear with a chain wear tool, like this chain wear indicator from Park Tool (#CC-3):

Park Tool

Check all the chainring bolts, headset, pedals, bottom bracket, handlebars. Do the brakepads need replacing? Any cracks or dents in the frame? Are the chainrings or derailleur hanger bent? How about the saddle rails? Are the wheels true? Are the hubs adjusted and spinning smoothly? How about your tires, especially any cuts or embedded debris, such as thorns or glass? Are your tires excessively worn?

February 1, 2007 | Posted in: Wrench Tips |