When your bike is clean of dirt and other debris, it shifts more smoothly and brakes more efficiently (and safely!). Here’s how to properly clean your bike:
Fill a bucket with soapy water. You can use bike specific cleaning products found at your bike shop or simply grab some mild dish detergent that you have at home.
Wipe down your frame. Take a rag or sponge, dunk it in your soapy water, then ring it out so it isn’t dripping. Wipe down your frame, hitting the areas that may have accumulated a bit more debris (e.g. under your fork and the underside of your downtube. Avoid getting soap on the brakes and chain. Once you’ve finished, rinse off the suds with a hose, but avoid spraying water directly at the hubs or the crank area, or any other areas that have moving parts and dry off your bicycle.
Lube your chain. Once your bike frame is clean, make sure you give a little TLC to your hardworking chain. Flip your bike upside down or put it in a stand. Grab a fresh rag and lube (likely from your local bike shop) and drip small amounts of lube as you pedal backwards for one full rotation. Then use the rag to pedal backwards in at least 5 more full rotations (shifting the gears as you go) to wipe up the excess lube. Wait at least one hour to head out on your next ride to allow the lube to sink in and dry.
Wet and gritty outside? Plan to clean.
Pro tip: Bikes generally require more cleaning in the spring when the roads are wet and may still be covered in grit from the winter; so make sure you’re paying attention to the state of your bike during this time of year, or when riding on any wet road/terrain.