How can I keep my bike clean?

Clean and care for your bike

Bicycles are first and foremost everyday objects. Daily use confronts the bike with dusty paths, oily roads and muddy paths. During a tour or even just on the way to work, you may collect more dirt with your bike than you and your mobile device can be comfortable with.

In this guide you will find out how you can best clean your bike, which care measures are sustainable and what you should avoid when cleaning your bike.

Table of Contents

Why you should clean your bike regularly

When cleaning your bike, it's not primarily about the look. Of course, a clean bike also looks nicer, but the care and conservation aspects of bike cleaning should be clearly in the foreground. Here are the top reasons for cleaning.

    • Dirt and rust mean that the cables get stuck in their covers or only work with difficulty. Of course, this primarily applies to gears and brakes, and thus elementary components of the bicycle.
    • A dirty bicycle chain leads to the fact that it is gradually sanded off. In other words: the service life is reduced.
    • A dirty bike frame means that serious damage (such as cracks in the frame) is not recognized.
    • The general wear and tear of individual parts is prevented or slowed down by regular greasing / lubrication.

Basic cleaning: just a few steps to a clean bike

Depending on how long you haven't cleaned your bike, a proper cleaning will take more or less time. If you come from a longer tour or a race, it is of course a good idea to clean the bike directly. This is especially true for mountain bikes and racing bikes. But even as a regular “city driver” you should go through the following steps from time to time, depending on the degree of pollution.

Equipment: What you need for basic cleaning

Proper preparation for cleaning your bike is essential. Most of the things you need can be obtained for relatively little money. However, you invest a little more in good special cleaners or care products. The following things should be ready for an extensive bike cleaning.

  • sponge
  • Long bristle brush
  • Toothbrushes
  • bucket
  • All-purpose cleaner / dishwasher (100% biodegradable)
  • water
  • Glass cleaner
  • Cloths
  • Maintenance oil / all-round oil
  • polish
  • Garden hose / watering can

Step-by-step instructions: cleaning the bike

    • The first thing to do is the frame. You should "soak" this completely with rinse water. Depending on the intensity and stubbornness of the soiling, the soaking process should be allowed to take some time before encrustations and dirt are removed with a sponge, brushes and toothbrushes. Finally, the frame is rinsed thoroughly with a garden hose, watering can or by hand. Rinsing with a high-pressure cleaner is not recommended. Water that is applied to the wheel with excessive pressure can get into the sealed bearings of the wheel and cause rust damage.
    • Next we'll turn to that Impellers Here you should work from the inside out and first clean the hubs and spokes (a sponge and brush are also recommended here). Then the rims come on. Use the cleaning procedure to examine rims and tires for damage (which may be hazardous to safety).
  • For the Cassette, chainrings and derailleur you should also take separate time. First treat the individual parts with a (biological) degreaser. After a short exposure time, the coarse dirt is removed by brushing. Then you can wash the parts with soapy water and possibly using the toothbrushes.
  • Brake pads and rim flanks you should, depending on the degree of soiling, carefully sand down with fine sandpaper. Make sure that no dirt particles or bumps are left behind.
  • The bicycle chain should be cleaned every 250-300 kilometers if you mainly drive on paved roads. If you tend to drive off-road, cleaning is advisable every 120-150 kilometers. Real bike lovers also clean their chain after every ride through dust, dirt or rain.
    For the cleaning itself, aggressive (acidic) cleaners, rust removers or degreasers should be avoided. To remove coarse dirt, it is sufficient to slightly moisten a brush with washing-up water and brush off both sides of the chain. Then you take a rag, moisten it with soapy water and place it on the chain. Hold it in place with light pressure while you let the chain run slowly through the rag by turning the rear wheel. If the chain is very dirty, it can be cleaned with WD40. However, it is not suitable for greasing the chain (see also below). You should also avoid the use of chain cleaning devices or chain baths. These wash the chain fat out of the joints and thus do more damage than they do good.

Cleaning of gear and brake cables

The importance of the smooth functioning of these parts has already been pointed out above. To clean them, you should first unhook the brake and shift down to the smallest sprocket. Then the inner cables in the clamping area can be loosened before the complete cable can be removed from the stop. The outer shell can be moved; do accordingly and clean the inner cables. The steel cables can also be greased (use sparingly). Teflon-coated outer sleeves or inner cables should Not be greased.

Remove rust on the bike: This is how it's done

Better not let it get that far in the first place. But if you do get rust on your bike, you should take countermeasures. Rust not only looks ugly - it also becomes a safety risk in the long run. Assuming that the rust has so far only appeared superficially, i.e. has not yet completely eaten into the frame, the following steps can be taken to remove it.

Rust film The handlebars and other places should first be sprayed with a spray oil (for example WD40). This oil has a rust dissolving effect. After an exposure time of about 24 hours, you can therefore try to simply remove the rust with a cloth. Special polishes or spray wax can be used to prevent the rust from returning. These agents prevent the water from easily entering the pores of the paint.

Stubborn rust can be eliminated with a wire head attachment for the drill. After the solution with the drill, you have to generously apply rust converter to the areas to be treated and let it work for about 8 hours. After this phase, it is advisable to apply a rust protection primer to prevent renewed rust formation. Here, two layers are to be applied every 10 minutes, which you should sand down at the end. Only then is the new paint applied to the treated areas or the entire frame.

Bike care: Instructions for the time after cleaning

Cleaning the bike was the first step. The second part now deals with sensible maintenance and control measures that are intended to ensure the longevity and road safety of the bicycle.

  • After the wash, you should frame Dry off and spray it evenly with a care oil. After a short exposure time (3-5 minutes) you can wipe off the care oil again.
  • If you have a bike with Suspension fork you should also be particularly vigilant here. This includes cleaning the standpipes and the dust seals alike. After long journeys that are particularly dirty, you can also use a suspension fork oil to maintain the dust seals. You should also check the air pressure of the suspension fork and adjust it if necessary.
  • The Joints of the brakes (including cable guide) should be treated with spray oil. Then you should thoroughly remove the oil again. In any case, the brakes must be checked before driving to make sure that there is no oil on the brake discs.
  • The Bicycle chain should be thoroughly greased after cleaning. You can find out more about this in the section “Care products for the bicycle chain”.
  • At Rear derailleur and front derailleur PTO shafts and shifting pulleys should be treated with Teflon spray.
  • The Pedals should be cleaned and treated with spray oil after driving through dirt and rain.
  • Control the Air pressure on your tires. If this does not have the minimum pressure that is printed on the tire, you should readjust.
  • You should also check whether the Handlebar grips still sit tight. Cleaning agents sometimes cause them to come off. If in doubt, they should be reattached.

Detergents for bicycles

In addition to cleaning agents that were not specially developed for bicycles and have already been mentioned here (especially water with detergent), there are of course also manufacturers who offer cleaning agents for bicycles. The following overview is not intended as a catalog of recommendations, but is only intended to give you an overview of the resources available.

What resources are there?

The crux in the development of special bicycle care products is that great attention must be paid to the composition. Aggressive ingredients are excellently suited to loosening stubborn dirt; At the same time, however, they attack the paintwork, tire rubber and seals on the bike. If this is the case, cleaning the bike can become an expensive pleasure, as you then have to invest heavily in repairs. Another important aspect is the biodegradability of the cleaning agents, as they end up in the wastewater after cleaning the bike. Ultimately, not all detergents are created equal; Before buying and using it, you should find out which cleaner is suitable for which bicycle parts.

Atlantic Complete Cleaner: one product for the entire bike

The manufacturer Atlantic has launched a complete cleaner with which all components of the bicycle can be cleaned in a very short time. Complete spraying of the wheel, a waiting time of 2 minutes and subsequent rinsing of the wheel with a soft jet of water; supposedly nothing more is needed. With regard to the ingredients, Atlantic provides the following information:

  • Aqua (Water)
  • Nonionic Surfacant (nonionic surfactant. Even if some of them are considered to be readily degradable, these surfactants are ecologically questionable, as the degradation products are suspected of causing changes in the human endocrine system and thus being harmful to health).
  • Phoshat (Salt from orthophosphoric acid)
  • Tetrasodium glutamate diacetate (of vegetable origin, is also used for cosmetic products)
  • Propoxypropanol (Alcohol, flammable)
  • Polymer dispersants (Additives that act as binders).

Attention: Atlantic Complete Cleaner is NOT suitable for cleaning the bicycle chain.

F100 bicycle cleaner

This bicycle cleaning agent from Dr. Wack is sold under the label "Complete Cleaner". It is explicitly pointed out here that the cleaner is also suitable for the chain. The manufacturer insists that the cleaner is biodegradable. A look at the ingredients reveals a composition that differs greatly from the Atlantic Complete Cleaner:

  • Aqua (Water)
  • phosphate (Salt from orthophosphoric acid)
  • Sodium cumene sulfate
  • Alkyl ether sulfate (Sodium salt)
  • Alkoxypropanol (modified alcohol with good environmental compatibility and excellent cleaning effect)
  • Xanthan gum (long-chain sugar compound produced by bacteria; also approved for organic food, used as a stabilizer).

Dynamic bike cleaner

This cleaner operates on the basis of ammonia. The manufacturer explicitly advertises that paints, rubber and other plastics are not attacked. According to the manufacturer Bokhoven, the cleaner is biodegradable; However, he is silent about the ingredients on his own website.

Finish Line Super Bike Wash

This product is also promoted on the web as being harmless to the environment. Five biodegradable substances are said to be effective against contamination by dust, dirt / mud and grease. It also contains rust and corrosion protection agents. However, like most cleaners, it contains irritating ingredients, which is why contact with the skin and especially with the eyes should be avoided.

  • Dipropylene glycol monomethyl ether (solvent)
  • Aqua (water)
  • Methoxymethylethoxypropanol
  • Cocamide DEA (coconut fatty acid)
  • Alcohols (for example aminomathyl propamol,
  • Sodium salt

Care products for the bicycle chain

The chain is one of the most basic parts of the bicycle - at least when it comes to operating it. Because only a carefully cleaned and maintained chain guarantees smooth driving in the truest sense of the word. After the general or special chain cleaning, you should therefore take the time to care for the chain accordingly. Two options have proven themselves, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Oil the bicycle chain

The application of a synthetic chain oil theoretically guarantees a long-lasting care effect. The problem is that most of the time, this oil causes the chain to get dirty. As a result, the chain has to be cleaned more quickly, which means that the process starts all over again. New oil should be applied after 250 - 300 kilometers at the latest.

The consistency of the oil has an impact on the chain that should not be underestimated. For example, thin oil is not particularly sticky, which is a plus point in terms of the cleanability of the chain. At the same time, however, you run the risk of diluting and washing out the tough lubrication on your bicycle chain if you apply thin oil too often. Therefore, you should only use it sparingly. Thick oil, on the other hand, holds better than thin oil, especially when it rains. There is hardly any risk of thinning the lubrication; However, thick oil is also very sticky, which means that a lot of dirt accumulates quickly and the cleaning effort is particularly high.

You can find an oil with which we have had pretty good experiences here:

Grow bike chain

Chain wax doesn't last as long as chain oil. On the other hand, it makes the chain appear clean throughout and does not contaminate clothing. Wax has a dirt and water repellent effect. However, it must be reapplied every 80 to 120 km.
We can recommend the following wax.

Danger: Both oil and wax only hold up moderately well in the rain - no matter what the product advertising promises on this point.