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I’m a bad boy. Dirty, filthy and far from smooth. Because when it comes to bike maintenance, I, well… I just don’t do it until it’s too late. My “bicycle maintenance” is essentially me riding my bike into the ground and then thinking “hmm, this is getting hard to ride” and then looking at the bike and trying to fix months of neglect.
So, as a Mid-Year Resolution, I’m devoting myself to some basic bike maintenance at least once a month. The last Sunday of each month. There’s something poetic about that, isn’t there?
The trouble is… I don’t know the first thing about home bike maintenance. But I knew a place that does. And between the plentiful puns and GIFs, I headed to the very knowledgeable Bike Commuting sub-Reddit asking for guidance; specifically: “If you had just 10 mins to maintain your bike each month, what would you do to keep it feeling new?”
The post below is a compilation of the best tips. Which doesn’t include the following, although you can try it if you like:
Here you’ll find the best way to clean a bike, how to clean a bike chain and whether it is ok to use WD40 on a bike chain. Then we’ll cover how to clean the bike cassette and rims as part of this easy home bike maintenance guide.
So, read on for our 6-step, 10-minute monthly (or weekly if you’re good) basic bike maintenance guide.
Disclaimer: This guide is intended for commuters like me who currently do no or next-to-no bike maintenance. It’s an easy, no thrills, 10-minute guide. It may not be perfect, but it’s a start. If you’re a pro rider with an expensive bike – watch a more in-depth summary from the likes of Sick Biker on YouTube.
What You Need: Bike Maintenance Tools
You don’t need many specialist bike maintenance tools, and it certainly isn’t necessary to spend a fortune.
In our six-step guide you’ll simply need the following:
- A sponge or two
- Some clothes
- A brush (even an old toothbrush)
- Degreaser (e.g. WD40 or the B’Twin All-in-One Spray)
- Chain Lubricant
- A bucket of warm soapy water
And that’s all you absolutely need, although it’s recommend to wear some old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty as well as some gloves.
10-Min Basic Bike Maintenance Checklist
Okay, I’m ready, are you? Having read and watched several bicycle maintenance guides from cycling experts, there appears to be three key things to focus on for basic bike maintenance: bike cleaning, degreasing your bike chain and then lubing the bike chain.
I’ve broken the process down into six easy steps that you can do in as little as 10 minutes. Why 10 minutes? Because I hate wasting time and I fear any more will lead me to put off doing this much needed maintenance.
So… on your marks, get set, go!
Step 1) Spray Your Chain with Degreaser
In order to maximise efficiency when cleaning your bike (we only have 10 minutes after all), the first step is to degrease the bicycle chain.
By degreasing, we want to basically remove any dirt and oil that has built up in the chain. Now, WD40 is a popular bike chain degreaser (although may be looked down upon by connoisseurs), but it is easy, cheap and effective for beginners. I personally use an All-in-One Spray from B’Twin that “degreases, unblocks, lubricates, displaces moisture and prevents rust” – which is exactly what I’m after.
To make degreasing your chain easier, you need to get the wheels off the ground. If you’ve got a bike stand, great. I don’t, so I turn my bike upside down. This may not be optimal, but hey, I’m no pro. If you can be bothered, removing the wheels will help you really clean up every crevice. I’m too impatient to do this though.
You then want to spray the chain as you turn the pedal, to ensure it’s fully covered (ideally running over it with a brush), as well as giving the cassette a thorough spray too.
Also, if you have any other rusty areas on your bike, give them a spray too. Don’t forget, using degreaser is ideal for cleaning a rusty bike and the best way to get rid of rust on your bike.
To see how to degrease your chain and give your bike a clean (Step 2), watch this handy how-to video from the Global Cycling Network.
Step 2) Washing Your Bike
So, while the degreaser is working its magic, you can use this time to clean the rest of your bicycle.
If, like me, your bike isn’t crazy expensive and you just want to keep it ticking over, the best way to clean a bike is with some warm soapy water, a cloth and elbow grease. Get your bucket of water ready, and use an old towel, sponge and/or brush to get in every nook and cranny to rid the dirt. Be sure to give the rims of your wheels some extra attention. Be liberal with your water.
Should your bike be full-on filthy, a quick pre-wash with a hose before degreasing and scrubbing may be a good idea.
Step 3) Cleaning Your Bike Chain and Cassette
The degreaser you applied in step one should now have had time to dislodge the dirt in your chain and cassette. This means you’re now ready to get in there and remove the dirt.
Grab your sponge and give your chain a good rub down. A cloth and brush (even an old toothbrush) can also help you really get the dirt out of there. If your bike is as filthy as mine, this may need degreasing and cleaning twice over.
Step 4) Rinse Bike with Water
Pretty simple step. You wanna rinse all the soap and gunk off your bike with water. A hose is a great for doing this, if not just throw a bucket or two of water over it.
Step 5) Dry Your Bicycle
Okay, before the final step, you need to dry off your bike. You can let nature run its course if you like, but with just minutes left on my 10-minute schedule, I help it along with cloths and a hair dryer.
Step 6) Lube Your Bike Chain
The last and most important step for keep your bike in good nick. It makes pedalling and changing gears easier. What you need to do is give your chain and cassette some TLC, coming in the form of lubing the bike chain.
There are two main types of chain lube: wet and dry. The rule of thumb is that you should use dry lube for dryer conditions (i.e. summer) and wet chain lube for wetter conditions (e.g. winter). Makes sense.
As I’m now in Spain, I’ve opted for the Muc Off Dry Chain Lube (costs about a fiver on Amazon), to get my chain in good order.
You want to generally douse your chain with this lubricant and get it in every gap. Once done, wipe off excess lube with a cloth as this will prevent attracting new dirt.
And voila, your filthy unloved bike should now be a bit more pleasant on the eye and the thigh. Enjoy!
Do you have any quick and easy bike maintenance tips for beginners/the lazy? Comment below.