Spring Bike Cleaning Strategy

March 11, 2016

Maintaining a clean bike is important for plenty of reasons. It extends the life of your drivetrain, reduces the risk of corrosion or rust, and makes it easier to convince your living partners that the bike can reside indoors.

During spring weather, though, cleaning a bike can be a huge pain. It’s often too cold to turn on the outside faucet and with commonly occurring rainy days, road grime and dirt can build up on any given ride, making you wonder why you should waste the time cleaning your bike when it will just get dirty again tomorrow.

With this in mind, a pre-planned bike cleaning strategy can come in handy. Here’s how I approach the issue: Knowing full well that Montana road riding means a few sections of gravel sprinkled here and there, a full top to bottom bike cleanse only happens when:

  1. I can be reasonably sure we’ll have dry conditions over the stretch of a full week, or ...
  2. I can’t see my bottom bracket.

These situations occur maybe two or three times a month, so in the meantime, I like to focus on maintaining a clean drivetrain, and braking system.

Wipe down the derailleurs and pulleys too.

As far as the drivetrain is concerned, if you’re coming in from a wet ride, it’s important to address this quickly. I always have a rag and some chain lube at the ready when I roll into the garage. Before lubing up your chain, wipe it down to dry it off, and remove all the grit and grime that has accumulated.

When lubing the chain, often less is more.

When lubing the chain, often less is more. If you douse your chain in oil, it will likely attract more dirt on your next ride. While your dripping oil on your chain, be sure to give your derailleur pivots a drop as well to keep them moving smoothly. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and once you’re done taking care of your drivetrain, it’s time to move onto your brakes.

Often neglected, keeping a clean braking system can go a long ways. First bit of advice here: Don’t use the same rag that you used for your drivetrain. You want something clean and clear of grease and oils. With your clean rag, go ahead and wipe down the braking surface on your rim, then give your brake pads a quick wipe. Your aim is to remove any grit that can build up in your brake pads, as well as the film of grime on your braking surface.


This will extend the life your brakes pads, and greatly improve your braking performance on your next ride. If you have disc brakes, use a clean rag to wipe off any moisture or grit. 

With that work done, it’s time to go wash off and grab some food. The rest of your bike may still look like crap, but the pieces that matter most are good to go.



Photos by Josh Tack


TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling’s member services department. It appears every other week, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh’s “Fine Tuned” column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.


Dana March 12, 2016, 12:22 AM

All great tips. Biggest one is lubing all moving parts on a regular basis and wiping the chain clean of excess oil. I'm lucky enough at work to have not only a covered bike storage year round but I can hose off my bike after a nasty ride and let it drip dry in our heated warehouse. I'm kind of spoiled.

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