Cleaning bike routine in winter?

So I’ll offer up that I’ve never been great about keeping my bikes squeaky clean, and it just gets worse over winter. I’m sure some of you have a routine (maybe different for summer versus winter) to keep everything looking minty after each ride.

The best I’ve found so far has been quick detailing spray (technically meant for cars) on my frameset after summer rides. Wheels and tires can start to take a bit longer, especially if I’ve gone off road or during winter months, as the spray is just for light dirt at most.

Any tips, and especially a cleaning routine, would be appreciated!

Depends on what your winter conditions are like. Are you a desert rat that’s just dealing with dirt, or are you from up North with the wildlings? Do you ride on trails or winter city streets? Salty road grime is a beast of its own.

Good question! Perhaps that’s why this is so difficult for me. I live near Denver, so it’s nearly a desert but it also snows…sometimes. This means that I’m basically dealing with everything, and seeing as how I ride road, gravel, and MTB, I’m also on completely varying surfaces.

Fortunately the one thing I don’t really have to deal with (often) is salty road grime. There’s usually no need to salt the streets here as the snow typically melts quickly.

NorCal so somewhat similar conditions… Monday I came back from a ride where it hailed and rained. Even though I was on paved roads the drivetrain was grimy with mud and sounded terrible. Came home, rinsed the bike with a hose and quickly wiped down. Then into the garage because it was 40F and chilly. Once inside its time for Chemical Guys Waterless car wash in a spray bottle with microfiber towels, same thing I use on our cars. For the chain I’m trying Ceramic Speed UFO Drip, its about $1.50 per week if you ride ~180 miles/week. Benefits of melt-on wax performance without the hassle - clean the chain and let it dry, then just drip it on. Almost no grim on the chain in between applications. So far so good.


Wait for a warm spell and wash all my bikes outside in the work stand :slight_smile:


I leave them filthy for weeks and just clean the chain. If the mtb or cross bike is absolutely caked I’ll put the jet washer on it. Bearings will be knackered by the end of winter anyway so why worry?

I start my routine with a waxed chain, as that makes keeping the chain clean / recleaning much easier. I make sure to wipe down my drive train after every ride, add some squirt to the chain, and I only need to do a full reclean every so often.

For the bike, I have two squirt bottles setup:

  • Plain water
  • Isopropyl alcohol

Depending upon how muddy / gritty my road bike / gravel bike gets, I can do a decent job with just those and towels. I do clean the disc rotors with the Isopropyl alcohol and rags (they are only used for this purpose) whenever they get wet / dirty.

For the wheels, living in the Bay Area, if I cannot clean them immediately, I can usually get to them within a day or so. Since I’m a weather wimp, that is usually quick enough. I clean them with dish soap, and then rinse them.

Exactly what I was going to suggest… or whatever brand but I use their eco smart.

For cars I actually have a 5 gallon pale with a screw on lid that has fresh never used microfibers soaking in the waterless wash. ( They then become detail rags for a wash or two and then downgraded to bike rags)2 For normal road grime on a bike spray and wipe works. If it’s really caked and a pre hosing isn’t in the cards fully soaked microfibers is probably a good idea to help loosen the dirt and reduce scratching.

Luckily I have a steam pressure washer so any dirt car or bike is no problem year round.

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winter or not, Ive got an ultrasonic cleaner (~$80 at HF or online) with some citrus degreaser in there and i drop my chain(s) in there every few weeks. Greatly extends chain/cassette/ring life and keeps things clean.

as far as the bike, i wipe it down with simple green if its not too bad, otherwise get the bucket of water out and a brush so i dont scratch it too much.

I take the microfiber towel inside and soak it with warm water.

I’m also using the eco smart wash from Chemical Guys. And Griot’s microfiber cleaning solution in the laundry when I wash a pile of microfiber towels.

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Here winter comes in all possible shades. After a couple of weeks of snow (=salty roads; gravel not possible) we have spring like temperatures currently (roads are clear but gravel is muddy). However, you always return with a dirty bike.

I only use a bucket with some soapy water (the neutral soapy stuff), a brush, and a portable high pressure cleaner (garden hose is shut off in winter).

I just clean the bike quickly, let it dry, and lube the chain. That’s all. Main service with replacing stuff comes in spring. Has to be quick for me.


I clean my bikes religiously.

They cost me a lot of money, and I want them (and all the components) to last a long time.

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Out of interest, how often do you ride outside though in winter. I’ll often be riding through mud 6 days/wk. It’s just not practical to clean the bike meticulously each time.
Just back from a longer ride today (6hrs) and the bike was totally filthy so blasted the hell out of it with the jet washer. Then blasted my boots too. I do enjoy how quick and easy a pressure washer is plus it’s quite fun.
End of winter: headset £20, BB £15, half an hours work tops. They’d be destroyed anyway just from the riding.
Works for me.

UK is so muddy in winter.

For me, with electronic shifting and hydraulic disc breaks there isn’t so much to do anyway. And as you say, some bearings need always replacing. Key for me is cleaning the drivetrain. And this done in a few seconds.

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Yep. At the very least I run a hose on the chain. Then prior to the next ride give it a squirt of gt85, run it through a rag, then put some light oil on it.
The frame doesn’t care if it’s clean or dirty.