4 Bike Wash Mistakes to Avoid

While there are some overzealous oddballs out there who meticulously polish their headset spacers with Q-tips, most of us treat bike cleaning as a quick chore—if we do it at all. But in your rush to get the job done, you can make mistakes that could hurt everything from your ego to the life span of your components. Here are four bike-wash bummers to avoid—and three tips to make tidying up a cleaner experience.

Too-Quick at the Start

Don't skip the initial rinse. Otherwise, you'll end up swirling around every bit of gritty debris and scratching your frame's glossy finish. Using the light-shower setting on your garden hose, spray off your entire bike top to bottom before you go near it with a soapy sponge.

Bicycling Bike Maintenance Checklist

High-Pressure Hazard

Go full-throttle with a hose and you could force water (soapy, potentially degreaser-laden water) into bearings. The degraded grease will then give out before its time.

A Goldilocks Finish

The last step in any bike wash is to relube the chain. Stop short of this step and your unprotected chain will quickly rust. But go too heavy on the lube and the chain will attract grime like a magnet. Give the chain a just-right light coating, then wipe off the excess with a clean rag.

Skip the Shine

Polishing products like Armor All aren't for your bike. Shine up your saddle and you'll have a hard time staying seated. Go glossy on your tires, and rim residue will reduce braking power. Skip it.

3 Tips to Keep Your Bike Wash Simple

  1. Clean the drivetrain first. If you use degreaser, remove the rear wheel and angle it cassette-side down so the degreaser runs off. Use a mess-containing chain-cleaning system like Park Tool's Chain Scrubber.
  2. Work from top to bottom, front to back. Use a bucket of warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled handheld brush (usually sold with a dustpan).
  3. Rinse, wash, rinse. Dry with a clean cloth. Re-lube chain.

Learn the Proper Way to Care for Your Gear


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