5 Top Spring Cleaning tips from Gracies Wrench

Spring has sprung and it’s time to get your bike in tip-top shape for a summer of awesome riding.

No more excuses, expert mechanic Tori Bortman of Gracies Wrench is here to share her wisdom and make it easy to get your bike ride ready. Follow her easy tips and you’ll have a smooth ride all season long.

Five Easy Tips for Spring Cleaning

  1. Clean your Frame: Everyone looks better with bling!
  2. Clean your rims: This helps you stop rain or shine.
  3. Oil your chain: Nothing runs like a well-oiled machine.
  4. Air your tires: The fastest way to a smooth ride.
  5. Get your bike in for work while the deals are on: Take advantage of early spring sales!


Cleaning your Frame

Start with what people see first, your frame. Brush the large bits off while dry with a soft cloth or brush, follow with a spray-on cleanser (Cirtisolve, Simple Green, 4O9) and wipe it down. For really grime crusted bikes, using a hose, a sponge or soft brush and a bucket of soapy water can be a great option. Careful to not get soap or water into bearings and wash away the valuable grease. Never use a high-pressure hose or sprayer that can force dirt and water into your bearings. When using a hose, use water pressure comparable to your grandma’s watering can. Gentle.


Not sure where the bearings are? Any part on your bike that spins (wheels, pedals, etc.) have them inside. Look carefully for places where the spinning actuates and completely avoid soaping or spraying those.


Cleaning your Rims

Next up is removing the black, dusty build-up from your rims—pay special notice to the surface that the brakes contact. Keeping your rims clean will increase power, the life of your wheels and brake pads and quiet your brakes.


A dry cloth works best because this insidious black stuff has a tendency to smear if you start off with cleanser. If your wheels are coated and you have no other choice, get the big bits off with the dry cloth then use a light spray-on cleanser to clean the braking surface and the top of the rim between the spokes. If you used the hose method to clean the bike, you can get this off with scrubbing and rinsing but it may take multiple passes.


This can be done as regular maintenance each time you lube the chain (see guidelines below).


Cleaning your Chain

If you haven’t oiled your chain all winter, it may be crying out for lubrication. If you have cleaned it and you didn’t wipe the excess oil off, it may need a deep spring cleaning. To clean your chain, use either a degreaser (Citrisolve, Simple Green, etc) or solvent (WD-40). Please note, WD-40 is a great cleaner and a terrible chain lubricant. Chains MUST be oiled after using it.


Spray the cleaner on a rag if you plan on immediately lubricating the chain immediately after words, or on the chain itself if you can wait 24 hours for the cleaning agent to dry out. If you spray it directly on the chain and don’t let the cleaner evaporate, the remaining cleaner or solvent will break down the new oil. Scrub the chain with a firm brush to loosen caked on debris and wipe down thoroughly with a rag until your chain maintains it’s original silver color.


Chains need lubrication a minimum of about every 100 miles, but as is often the case in our lovely winters the chain gets wet. If you ride in rain or on very wet pavement, lube it as soon as you can when the chain is dry again.


Below is a step-by-step guide to oiling your chain. Chains need oil on the inside parts where metal meets metal, not on the outside. The lubes I recommend are ATB(Absolutely The Best) or TriFlow, because both contain a “conditioner” and “shampoo” in one, which can make your lubrication process a snap. If you use those products regularly, the cleaning above will be only occasionally necessary.


  1. Turn your bike upside down or put it in a bike stand. Your rear wheel will have to be off the ground for this to go smoothly.
  2. Hold the straw of the lube against the chain and turn the pedals 5 or 6 times until you’ve gone around the chain at least twice.
  3. Wipe the excess off. Wrap a rag around an exposed part of your chain and pedal 6-10 rotations in each direction. This is the MOST important part of oiling the chain. You need to spend 2-3 times the length of time it took you to put the oil on wiping it down. This cleans your chain (the “shampoo” mentioned above) with a small amount of solvent that is carried in the lubricant.


Inflating your Tires

As for your tires, inflate them every 3-7 days (or each time you ride if you don’t get out as often) to the higher side of the recommended range imprinted on the sidewall of the rubber.  For example, if your range is 45-85 PSI, you want it at or near 85. If you are very light compared to most people, you might want to go a little lower. If you’re carrying gear that adds weight, stay towards the higher side.


Surprisingly, this combined with oiling your chain can often make your ride feel brand new.


Get Your Bike in for Work While the Deals Are On!

March and April is the time bike shops will be ending deals on winter maintenance specials and hold their spring sales—parts, accessories and even new bikes are discounted. Check with your local bike shop for upcoming sales and winter maintenance specials that might be ending soon. Getting your bike in for service now can mean a quicker turn-around time and the possibility that the shop might have parts you need on sale..

Consider a class!

This is also a great time to get out and take a class to learn how to do maintenance and repairs yourself which can increase your confidence, independence and help you better navigate your favorite shop.

Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench. Tori’s new book, The Big Book of Cycling for Beginners, was recently published by Bicycling Magazine.

1 thought on “5 Top Spring Cleaning tips from Gracies Wrench”

  1. Clean your Drivetrain. Spray your chain with a cleaner/degreaser, and work on it with a rag. There are various chain cleaning gadgets that enable you to wash a chain without removing it from the bike, but a good wipe down with a rag and some solvent does a pretty good job, too. Wipe down the derailleur, and remove any gummy deposits from the pulleys on the derailleur cage.

    Wet your Bike. Give your bike an initial rinse; either with rags or a hose, to loosen caked on dirt.

    Wash your Bike Frame and Wheels. Go from top to bottom, front to back, using a diluted soap or a dedicated product and the soft bristled brush. Use the brush to scrub the braking surfaces of your rims.

    Rinse your Bike, being careful not to shoot high pressure water at bearing packs or shock seals.

    Dry the Bike. Bounce the bike on the ground a couple of times, and then hand wipe the bike dry, starting with removing any excess water near shock seals. Apply a bike polish occasionally if you like.

    Lubricate. Lubricate your chain and other components as needed.

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