How to clean up your bike

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Before taking your bike out for a spin, especially if you haven't gone out in a while, it's a good idea to clean it up, service it, and make sure you're safe. It also doesn't hurt to have a shiny bike that doesn't squeak when you go out on a ride with your friends. And you can do all this in the privacy of your own home.

What you will need

1. Lubricant for your chains

2. Dish soap or de-greasing solution

3. Toothpaste

4. Rags

5. Small brush (toothbrush also works)

6. Large brush (toilet scrubber works as well)

7. A bucket or large container

8. Supply of water (garden hose)

Optional item

1. An iPod or some music to keep you entertained

The process (a basic clean-up)

1. If your bike is making weird noises, your problem is most likely rooted in your chain and gears. An easy solution to this somewhat embarassing problem is to clean it up and relubricate it.

2. Fill your bucket with some warm water, and create a soapy solution. Take your large brush and scrub away at your gears. Don't be afraid to be too liberal with your dish soap. It can take a lot to take the grease off your bike.

3. Remember, you have two sets of gears. One in the back (on the back wheel), and one in the front (by your pedals). Keep scrubbing until you get a majority of the gunk off the gears. You can shift gears to clean up the gears where the chain is blocking access. Feel free to empty out your bucket and re-fill it whenever you need to.

4. Once your gears are all soapy, take the large brush and apply some soapy solution to the chain. Cleaning the chain can be frustrating and tiring, but it's the most important part of maintaining your bike. Using your small brush, and applying lots of dish soap, scrub out all the grime in between the links.

5. If you feel that your chains are clean enough, move on back to your gears. Take a rag (preferably a thin one) and soak it in the soapy solution. Now work your way through each individual gear and clean out the gunk in between the gears. Remember to do both the front and the back.

6. Taking a bucket of warm water or a hose, rinse out all the soap and gunk you've cleaned out.

7. Repeat steps 2 to 6 as many times necessary to get to a level of cleanliness satisfactory to you. But if you can see large chunks of gunk left in the chain and gears, you probably have not done enough work.

8. If you want to polish your chain and gears, take some toothpaste and apply it liberally over all the surfaces with the small brush. Let it sit for several minutes before re-lathering the surfaces with the wet brush. Then, let it sit again for a couple minutes before rinsing out the toothpaste either with a bucket of warm water or with a hose.

9. If you want the other parts of your bike to shine as well, in a similar process, take the large brush to clean up and brush off any dirt and grime. Then, apply toothpaste on the surfaces you want to make shine (wheel rims, the frame, etc.).

10. Air dry your bike once you've finished cleaning it up.

11. Take your lubricant and apply it on your chains. Make sure you shift around the gears to make sure you get enough lubricant. But it's always easy to get too much lubricant on, so after applying, let the lubricant sit for a while. Then, wipe off the excess using a clean rag. Your best test to know whether or not you have enough lubricant on is to listen.

12. Similarly, lubricate all the other parts of the bike that you've cleaned up (i.e. brake cables, wheel sprockets, and so on). This will get rid of any weird noises, and ensure people on the road don't give you funny looks.

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