UPDATED August 27, 2020

BY Micah Markson

IN Cycle Touring Advice


UPDATED August 27, 2020

BY Micah Markson

IN Cycle Touring Advice


How to clean your bike

HOW TO PREPARE: An 8 part series to get you ready for your first TDA tour. Click here to read more.

Whether at home or on tour, keeping your bike clean is an important part of maintaining its function and performance over the long term. While there are specialized tools and cleaning products available, I prefer to use this simpler approach. The items needed to clean your bike with this method are easier to find, even when you’re not at home. Read on for my preferred method, developed over years of working as a mechanic on our tours.

What you need

  • Hose
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Microfiber cloth, towel, or rag for washing the bike
  • Scrubbing brush
  • Chain lube
  • A 2nd clean microfiber cloth or rag for the drivetrain

With those materials in hand, watch the video showing how to proceed, or scroll down if you prefer the written version.

We’ve broken down the cleaning process into 10 simple steps:

  1. Rinse your bike
  2. Prepare your wash bucket
  3. Wash your bike
  4. Rinse
  5. Scrub
  6. Rinse
  7. Dry
  8. Chain lube
  9. Clean the chain
  10. Clean the chainrings and pulley wheels

Rinse your bike

Get the whole bike wet, but be careful not to spray high pressure water into any of the bearing in the wheels, bottom bracket, or headset. Lightly rinse the drivetrain.

Prepare your wash bucket

Put a bit of dish soap into a bucket, and then fill with water.

Wash your bike

Dip your cloth into the soapy water, and use it to wipe down your bike. Start with the less dirty parts like the frame, and then move on to the wheels. Dip the cloth into the soapy water again frequently, and rinse the cloth off if it gets too dirty. Don’t use the cloth on disc brakes, and don’t clean the drivetrain yet.


Quickly rinse the bike, just so that the soap won’t dry while you clean the drivetrain.


Dip your brush into the soapy water, and use it to clean any hard to reach areas, like under the downtube, around the derailleurs, and so on. Then you can use the same brush to clean your drivetrain. Use it to scrub the gears and chain, but just quickly, as you will clean these again later on.


Rinse the drivetrain, and then rinse the whole bike again in case any dirt or soap was left there. Be sure to lightly rinse the brakes as well.


Let the bike dry before moving on to the next step. If the sun is out, move the bike to a sunny spot and it will dry quickly. Otherwise let it sit overnight.

Chain lube

Hold the bottle over the chain, and squeeze it very lightly so a slow drip of oil comes out. Spin the pedals while you do this, until the whole chain has a light coating of oil on it. Then spin the pedals a few times to distribute the oil. The oil only needs to be on the top or bottom of the chain, not the sides.

Clean the chain

With a clean microfibre cloth or rag, clean any remaining dirt and excess lube from the chain. Hold the cloth around the chain while you spin the pedals. You can do this first quickly, and then again where you hold the pedals in place, and scrub back and forth on one section of the chain at a time. Move the pedals a bit, and repeat, until you’ve worked your way through the whole length of the chain.

Clean the chainrings and pulley wheels

Wipe off any excess oil from the chainrings. Then clean the pulley wheels. Press the cloth firmly against the pulley while spinning the pedals, but be careful not to catch the cloth in the drivetrain or pinch your fingers.

Done – now all you have to do is go and ride your bike!

How to Prepare

An 8 part series to get you ready for your first TDA tour. Click here to read more.

14 Comments for "How to clean your bike"

Cleaning the bike is something i am not good at, so thanks for this. The bike mechanics always comment that my bike is dirty! How frequently should the cleaning be? In miles/ days.

    It really depends on the conditions. If you are only riding on the road, and in dry weather, you could clean your drivetrain every week or so. If it is raining, or you are riding on dirt, it is good to do after every 1-2 rides. As for cleaning the rest of your bike, that can be a bit less frequent but every couple of weeks or 5 rides or so would be a good approximation.

Any special tips for e-bikes?

    I am not experienced in cleaning e-bikes, I would suggest checking with the bike shop or manufacturer.

Any special tips on cleaning e-bikes?

I’ve found it helpful to use a pump sprayer with car wash solution soap no garden hose required pull wheels off to get chain stays and brake area clean on front fork air hose on the bband deraileurs

Having rinsed my bike I have found that drying off with a garden leaf blower really dries the bike quickly.
Do you see any problems with this method?

    No issues for the bike that I can think of, however I have never tried this myself!

Hi , I got last month a new GT aggressor bike, nice one and it has a new kind of pain . . .
it’s black matte with some nice blue touches …
So, that pain need some “special care” to keep it nice ?
(Some paint fade with the sun or the use … like in the touched often areas )
If so. . . What is a good way to keep it nice ?

    You are correct that extra steps should be taken with matte paint. However that is a much deeper topic than we can go into here. I suggest doing a google search for how to wash a car with matte paint, the steps should be similar.

Please add me

    OK – we have added you to our newsletter list.

I agree with the two previous comments. This method seems to be overkill, involves removing the chain (which isn’t always feasible), and requires the use of a solvent. I would love to see how this compares with the type of cleaner Bert mentioned, I’ve been using a Park Tool manual cleaner (various models over the years), and it seems to work great when needed. I see “when needed” because regular lubing/wiping combined with a good scrubbing when washing the bike seems to keep my chains relatively clean.


Hello sir, my name is Corey N. Wakefield. .I visited your site .This site is very helpful for everyone .I hope we can all find out the latest news from you site .so I really Appreciate you sir .many many thanks sir

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