There is no getting away from it — riding a mountain bike in the winter is not an activity for the fastidiously clean. Waterlogged, dirty, muddy trails cover the intricate nooks and crannies with a layer of grinding paste that corrodes metals, destroying the smooth performance modern machines are capable of.
Walking into a bike shop and simply asking for some oil for your bike results in a mind-boggling amount of choice, add in lotions and potions for cleaning, and for the uninitiated it’s a minefield. For cleaning you often need nothing less than hot soapy water; washing up liquid in a bucket of water, it’s that simple. Oily drivetrains may need some form of degreaser to leave them sparkling. These can be fairly toxic, so look for something a little kinder to the planet such as the Pedro’s Bio Cleaner or their more potent, planet friendly, degreaser.
With degreasers you need to take care, try not to let them drip towards bearings or the bushes on suspension forks and bikes. Careless use can flush all lubrication from these delicate areas. If run dry this can do as much — if not more — damage than using them dirty.
Lubes come in two basic forms, wet and dry. Wet lube lasts longer in the rain but can pick up dirt.
Dry lubes need more regular application but stay cleaner. However, it is possible to use wet lube all year round and not end up with a ‘rookie tattoo’ — tell-tale chain marks on the calf. Almost everyone puts too much oil on the chain and it’s this reason they end up black and grungy. Careful application will not only keep your bike running smoothly but prevents this build up of dirt.
Following this simple, methodical routine, your bike will work better, last longer, and it’s easier to spot any potential problems sooner — when they can be fixed, rather than later when things need replacing.
You’ll be amazed how much cleaning you can do with just household sponges and washing up liquid. Done regularly enough, you may never even need degreaser.

Polish (optional)
Various brushes/Cotton rags/Sponge
Bucket of hot soapy water

1 With hot soapy water just get a good lather up and wash the frame down, starting at the highest point. This allows the dirt to run down and not contaminate freshly cleansed bits. Taking the wheels out will allow you to get at hard to reach areas.

2 Fully lather the entire drivetrain to start the cleansing process. This should be done with a separate sponge to stop oil being transferred to the rest of the bike.

3 As you’ve taken the wheels off, don’t forget to wash them down. Don’t worry about the treads, these will clear themselves as the mud drys. Keeping the rims and hubs clean lets you to spot any cracks that may appear where spokes join the rim and hub.

4 Once everything is washed, rinse down the frame by chucking a bucket of cold water over it. Then dry off the frame. Take care to get all the water from around cable stops or it can rust the cables.

5 If it still needs it, now’s the time to degrease the chain. Spray the chain entirely. This is easiest in sections spraying along the lower run of chain, and running the crank backwards.

6 Once wetted along its whole length, hold a rag around the lower run, and pedal backwards. Keep moving the rag so you can see when the chain is clean. You’ve finished when, after running the chain through, the rag is clean.

7 If the cassette (cogs on the rear wheel) is very dirty, spray it with degreaser. Make sure the cogs are face down so the fluid drips off rather than into the hub bearings. Fold the rag and slot it between the sets of cogs. Sawing backwards and forwards will clean the cogs, and rotate the cassette.
Repeat this in each gap until it shines.

8 If you’re precious, a spray polish will protect your steed. It also stops mud sticking to the bike. Follow the instructions.

9 Click your rear shifter so it would be in the smallest cog. Insert the rear wheel so the axle is between the upper and lower run of chain, and slot the chain onto the smallest cog. Now with a small amount of pressure on the rear derailleur and an upward tug on the wheel it should slot into place. Tighten the wheel. Now oil the chain. Along the lower run drip a single drop of oil on the top edge of each roller. This is the only place that needs oil, and this is one job that is not worth rushing. Do the chain in sections, rotating the cranks slowly to expose the next dry section.
You will be able to see when you have lubed the whole chain.

10 While turning the cranks, change gear into the biggest cog up front and biggest at the rear. Stop pedalling and with everything stationary, shift to the other extreme. That is, smallest cogs front and rear. This will provide enough slack in the gear cables to be able to unhook them and slide the outer along to lube the inner cable. Unhook all the cables and repeat.

11 Drip oil onto the pivots of the front and rear derailleurs. Wipe off any excess.

12 Drip oil around the central metal ring of the jockey wheels (small cogs on the rear derailleur).
Don’t forget the backside. Wipe of any excess. Clipless pedals need lubing too. Again a drop on the pivots will suffice.

13 Finally hold a rag around the chain and back pedal. This gets rid of any excess lube, and prevents dirt sticking to the chain.
Do not do this earlier, as the oil needs time to penetrate inside the rollers.


You’ll be amazed how much cleaning you can do with just household sponges and washing up liquid. Done regularly enough, you may never even need degreaser.