Rapha Manuals: Love Your Bike

A clean bike will last longer and maybe even go a little bit faster. Giving yours a wash every now and then is well worth it. Here’s our routine for keeping your bike pristine.

20 July 2018

Post ride, the cyclists’ to-do list might include a shower, clean clothes, a comfortable seat and a well deserved snack. Cleaning your bike does not usually appear top of the list – if it appears at all.

But if you look after your bike, it’ll look after you. Uncared for, components wear out quicker and can cause roadside hiccups that’ll delay if not completely curtail a ride. It pays to take the time to give your bike at least a cursory clean.

This is especially true if you’ve been riding in wet or wintry conditions. Save yourself from avoidable mishaps and time stood at the side of the road by spending just a few minutes cleaning your bike and you’ll keep things running smoothly.

Affectionately referred to as the King of Clean, Rapha’s Product Wear Test Coordinator Hamish Low talks us through his classic bike care routine.

Before you get started, collect everything you’ll need so you have it all to hand. Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and grab a couple of sponges, a hard brush, a spray can of chain degreaser and an old rag or towel – in particular, microfibre cloths are very useful. Cycling-specific cleaning products are preferable but often more generic alternatives work just as well. For example, an old toothbrush is great for cleaning hard-to-reach areas in the groupset

Degrease the chain

The drive train is the dirtiest part of your bike so that’s the best place to start. Shake the can of degreaser and spray it on the chain, cassette and chainrings. Turn the pedals backwards while you do this to ensure you cover the entire chain. It will take a few minutes for the degreaser to lift the oily grime from the drivetrain components, so leave it to work while you turn your attention to the next step.

Clean the frame

Dunk the cleaner of your two sponges into the bucket of water and get to work on the frame. Start at the top with the saddle and handlebars so that any dirty water drips down onto the mucky parts of the bike. With areas like the downtube that collect the most dirt, make sure to use lots of water to ensure that you don’t scratch your bike by rubbing grit against the frame. If you have a hose, start with this as it can help to loosen and remove the worst of the dirt before you get to work with the sponge.

Remove the wheels

If you’re unable to remove the wheels, do your best to clean them whilst in the frame. Otherwise, remove them so you can get to harder-to-reach spots more easily. You can flip the bike upside down, but be careful not to scratch your shifters or saddle when you do – I’d recommend using a work stand, which can be bought fairly cheaply and will keep your bike secure while you clean it.

With the wheels out of the way, you can get stuck in with your sponge and clean the rest of the frame, paying particular attention to the brake calipers and the rear triangle of the frame where grease and grime collect. To clean the wheels run a wet sponge along the outside to clean the tyres and the rim. If you have disc brakes, give these a quick clean before replacing the wheels in the frame.

Back to the start

Remember the degreaser you applied to the chain at the start? It should have done its job by now. Take the dirtier of your sponges and use plenty of water to rinse the degreaser off the chain, cassette and chainrings. Chain cleaning tools work really well here but don’t worry if you don’t have one – a sponge will get the job done.

Rinse With Clean Water

Your bike is now nice and clean but to finish up, you’ll want to rinse off all the soapy water. Refill your bucket with clean water or, if you have one, switch on the hosepipe and lightly spray your bike. Finally, take the old rag or towel and dry the bike down, removing most of the water, before storing your bike somewhere safe where it’ll dry completely.

There you have it.

Just like your bike, if you invest in good kit it’s crucially important to look after it. Rapha’s Apparel Wash and Re-Proofer will help you get the most out of your precious wet-weather gear, so when you need it, it won’t let you down.


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Technical re-proofing solution designed to restore water-resistance to Rapha performance cycling clothing.

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