As a biking enthusiast and avid rider, I have learned first-hand the importance of cleaning my bike regularly. But I know that not all cyclists are like that, so they often delay cleaning as much as possible.
As a general rule, you should give your bike a full clean after every 100 miles (160 km) you ride. If you are riding in winter or bad weather conditions, you should clean it after every ride. That way, you can prolong the bike’s lifetime significantly.
Washing a bike is a hassle, but if you’re not doing it, soon you’ll not be able to ride it anymore. In this blog, I will help you determine when you need to wash your bike so you can keep going for thousands of miles.
Should I Clean My Bike After Every Ride?
After you come home from your ride, the last thing you want to do is clean your bike. You’re tired and just want to rest. Sometimes that’s possible, especially in the summer when the roads are not as dirty as in the autumn and winter.
But even if you’re riding only on beautiful days, you should show some love to your bike every now and then.
When determining how often to clean your bike, it is much better to rely on the exact number of miles ridden than the number of rides.
After every ride, there will be at least some sweat and dirt on your bike. After about 100 miles (160 km), there’s going to be so much of it you’ll need to wash your bike.
You can probably see why cleaning your bike is more effective on a mileage basis rather than a per-ride basis.
Someone can ride 100 miles in one ride, while another cyclist needs 3-4 rides to cover such a distance. The only thing that matters is how much time you spend on your bike because that’s the only time it gets dirty. Cyclists who do one longer or a few shorter rides end up spending the same amount of time on the bike.
What factors influence how often I clean my bike?
We have discussed that the distance covered is the main factor in the frequency of cleaning.
However, it is important to consider a few additional factors that you should take into account when deciding how often to clean your bike.
Riding in the rain is a guarantee that your bike will need to be cleaned afterward. Not only because of the exposure to rainwater but also because of the dirt on the road and the mud puddles you will encounter. These will provide a distinctive pattern on both you and your bike.
In addition to the rain, it is advised to avoid riding in the snow as much as possible. This isn’t just because it’s a dangerous thing to do, but the snow can also damage multiple parts of the bike, including the paint job, bodywork and braking system.
It is essential to wash your bike after every ride in the snow. There’s a lot of dirt on the road that sticks to the frame and drivetrain, but even more damaging to your bike is the salt that’s used for deicing the road.
If you don’t wash it off your bike quickly enough, it will cause rusting of metal parts and then it’s just a matter of time when you’ll have to replace them.
Type of bike
It is no secret that mountain bikes are designed for more challenging conditions than road bikes. While road bikes see smooth roadways, mountain bikes can cover a huge range of terrain from forests, high hills and, of course… mountains!
For this reason, you can expect a mountain bike to get dirty sooner and more often. This will demand more frequent cleaning – probably after every ride – compared to most other types of bikes out there.
Cleaning products that you use
There are many high-quality cleaning products available that can protect your bike for longer and make washing your bike less frequent.
Personally, I use a Muc-Off cleaning spray as it does the best job out of all the cleaning sprays I used. I like it as it also gives my bike a unique shine and protects it from lighter dirt. If I do a shorter ride, my bike stays almost intact.
And the fact that professional teams also use it just shows that it’s really effective.
Can washing my bike too often cause permanent damage?
Having a clean bike is nice, but washing it too often is not advised.
When you are washing your bike, you are probably using some sort of cleaning spray that contains chemicals. Even though most of them try to be eco-friendly, they still contain chemicals.
Rubbing chemicals over a frame and drivetrain over and over again can have consequences. The protective varnish applied over the frame becomes thinner with each wash and can be completely removed if washed too often.
This makes the frame susceptible to oxidation and rusting if you have an aluminum or steel frame. With rust, the frame loses strength and becomes unsafe to use.
However, I have some good news: this most likely won’t happen unless you clean it daily!
If you were to damage your bike while cleaning it, it would most likely be because of how you are doing it rather than the frequency of it.
If you are lubricating your chain every time, for example, you are most likely overlubricating, which will result in your drivetrain becoming damaged at a quicker rate. This is because overlubricating encourages the build-up of dirt and dust that could otherwise be avoided by applying less chain lube.
Another mistake people make when washing their bikes is that they try to scrub the dirt straight off instead of giving it a good spray with water first. This will quickly result in the paint and frame becoming damaged when it could easily be avoided by spraying the mud and debris off beforehand.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t clean your bike with a pressure washer. Use a hose instead. I wrote about that in one of my previous articles. Make sure you check it out.
Learning how to clean your bike correctly is the most important factor in keeping your bike in the best condition.
How to Clean a Bike
Speaking of cleaning your bike, let’s take a look at some of the basics that will help you keep your bike in tip-top shape for longer.
- Hose it down. First, you need to hose down the bike. This will remove some of the dirt and make the rest softer, making it easier to remove.
- Degrease the drivetrain. Use a degreaser, such as Muc-Off Drivetrain Cleaner, and apply it to the chain, cassette and chainring. Leave it to work for a few minutes.
- Clean the frame. Use a mix of hot water and cleaning spray, such as Muc-Off Bike Cleaner, and wash the frame and wheels.
- Clean the drivetrain. Use a spare sponge and clean the drivetrain with a cleaning spray you used on the frame before. If there are some greasy spots left, add some more degreaser and repeat the steps.
- Hose it down. Use a hose and rinse all the cleaner spray from the bike.
- Dry the bike. Use a dry rag, preferably a microfibre one, and dry the whole bike. Don’t forget to dry the hidden areas and the chain.
- Lube the chain. When the bike is dry and the chain degreased, you need to re-lube the chain. Depending on the weather you intend to ride in, use a dry or wet lubricant.