When I commute, which is a 20 minutes bicycle trip, I'm able to park the bicycle indoors at a facility, where I can rinse water off of it. See my other question regarding whether or not this is a good idea: Should you hose down your bicycle after having used it on salty roads?

However, I'm given the impression I should not only rinse off of it, but also lubricate the drivetrain after doing so. To do this twice a day is a stretch, but if I'm going to consider doing that on top of rinsing salt water off of it. What should I bring?

This artificial limitation of "one item" is not meant as a joke, I'm sorry, but I simply don't have the energy or time to do full maintenance of the drivetrain after such a short commute. But a simple spray or oil is perhaps possible to add to my routine.

I'm sure others find themselves in a somewhat similar situation, perhaps not with a facility to rinse off the bicycle, but nevertheless perhaps could bring one small spray or similar to maintain the bicycle with after every commute.

So the routine in my case is: commute on roads with salt and debris, rinse the bicycle with cold freshwater at low to medium pressure. Then, what?

What should I bring, how should I use it (chain, entire drivetrain?), and why?

WD-40? Oil? Just a rag? Some other spray?

  • 3
    It's quite OK to wash the bike in the evening. It won't die from corrosion during the office hours if it's properly maintained. Rinsing it off with water already helps a lot by removing most of the salt.
    – Carel
    Mar 4, 2020 at 18:42
  • 12
    It's also quite OK to wash the bike once a week or even less frequently. Mar 4, 2020 at 22:56
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    If you lightly spray down the bike, and you are using "wet" chain lube, there is no need to re-lube the chain after the spray-down. Mar 5, 2020 at 2:52
  • 9
    I wonder why you think a bicycle needs daily cleaning/maintenance. Do you also give your car a car wash every day?
    – Ivo
    Mar 5, 2020 at 10:13
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    I know it's a bit marmite, but, WD40 will penetrate and carry away water, dirt, and salt, prevent rust, and is a light lubricant. IMO, Probably good enough to keep chain / derailleur going through the week until you do something more thorough at the weekend. (The fact I can't spell derailleur does not undermine my point.) Mar 5, 2020 at 14:27

5 Answers 5


Do nothing.

Yes, nothing. Unless you are biking wearing a hazmat suit through some corrosive volcanic crater where it rains acid.

Rinse it off, at home when it's convenient, or it is especially dirty. Give a more thorough cleaning once a year in the spring. Lube the chain occasionally when it begins to make some noise. Other than that, you really don't need to screw around hosing your bike off so much. Just ride, it'll be fine.

  • 1
    I wold point out that is much harder to get the gunk off certain places off the bike unless it is cleaned regularly. Those include the cassette between the sprockets, the cranks and chainrings and areas around the bottom bracket. I mean especially the hidden areas that you won't clean with a casual rinse and where a large buildup of ugly stuff is possible. It just looks horrible after some time. Mar 5, 2020 at 10:08
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    @Odyssee: I've gone through several Minnesota winters on the same bike, doing nothing to it during the winter beside pumping up the tires, and it still rides fine. Sure, it doesn't ride quite as well as if I meticulously cleaned it, but the efficiency benefits would not come close to making up the opportunity costs of all that time spent cleaning. Mar 5, 2020 at 15:53
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    It's not about just if it rides, it also is about how it looks like, whether one fears to touch it and not get all greasy and what it tells about the cleanliness or tidyness of the owner. I do not clean my bike after every ride, but I at least try to remove the mud that otherwise falls on my floor when it dries. Cleaning it once a year must be really ugly. Mar 5, 2020 at 21:31
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    Keeping your floor clean is a different issue that warrants different non-bike considerations. If your bike is stored outside or in a garage, getting mud on the floor or ground is not a concern. Keep in mind the OP was asking about pattern of habitual, routine maintenance done every day. That's what I'm answering about. Don't take that to mean that if mud is on the saddle that you shouldn't wipe it off first, or if a stick falls into the cassette that you shouldn't pull it out before riding. Standard pre-ride checks and stuff should still take place. Mar 5, 2020 at 21:38
  • @VladimirF a dirty bike has the advantage of being less attractive to thieves, especially if it looks so poorly maintained that serious damage looks likely... — But I certainly agree: on a deep-dirty bike, every repair is super annoying because it's just gross. Mar 6, 2020 at 1:18

I would wax the chain rather than worry about relubing it after every ride (and in fact I'm planning on making the switch with my own commuter). Wax is fairly durable and won't rinse off readily. It does take some work to prep a chain for waxing the first time, and it's a little more work to wax a chain than lube it in situ.

  • 4
    I've never liked waxes for motorcycle or bicycle chains. IMO they pick up grit and so turn into grinding paste, and are a horrible to clean off once they have. YMMV. Mar 5, 2020 at 14:22
  • I have an amazing experience with chain wax lubes. As long as you clean your entire drive train (like you take everything off and make it shiny once) and apply the waxing lube according to instruction, then your chain is so clean and impenetrable for water for quite a long time, and it only takes wiping it with a dry cloth and re-applying the lubricant again like once per two weeks. I live in Finland, I ride 365 days a year and it rains cats and dogs October through May. This has really worked for me! Mar 5, 2020 at 19:18
  • @GrimmTheOpiner When waxing a chain, it should end up clean and shiny. There is no significant wax visible on the outside. You might have too much wax on it? Could be worth asking about motorbike chain waxing on mechanics.stackexchange.com
    – Criggie
    Mar 18, 2020 at 19:46

There's lots you can do if you want! The best maintenance is this: keep it inside a heated area whenever it's not being used. Use it often.

Keeping it inside is obvious: out of the elements is important for anything mechanical.

The worst bikes I saw were ones that had been abandoned outside for long periods of time. Not using the bike allows everything to seize up. Using it will help disperse water off the bike and keep oil and grease from congealing. Even the bikes that lived outside but were used every day weren't as bad off as the ones that had sat unused outside for a while.

So if you can't lug your bike indoors every day, at least bring it in when you know you aren't going to use it for a few days.

And remember: a little oil goes a long way. Too much oiling, or not thoroughly wiping it off after, leads to buildup of oil and dirt. This creates a gritty paste that will wear out your parts even faster. Don't do that! If you're going to oil at all, do it sparingly, only when necessary (squeaky chain) and be sure to wipe it all off after. Yes, wipe it off after. Trust me.


One thing you should do at some point in every ride is to shift through your full range of gears. That way you will be warned of any issues with the derailleur(s) getting sticky before they completely seize up.


Here is a perspective that my be useful. I only clean the drive train.

I ride cyclocross bikes in mud all the time, and I NEVER wash my bikes. I clean and lube my drive train all the time, probably every other ride. I clean the dirt and gunk from cogs, rings and derailleur parts, de grease my chain, then apply good ol' Triflow to the chain, then wipe the excess off. I have used waxes, and special chain lubes, etc. It all wears off too fast, and my drive train always gets gunky quick. I've had the best over all results and least chain wear by just using Triflow.

I do not wash the rest of my bike because there is no point. A good protective layer of mud and road junk adds a tad of weight, but who cares? My carbon bike is mostly carbon and Aluminum and plastic, nothing to rust. My steel frames have a corrosion resistant coating inside and out and eventually rust will win anyway, but why speed it up by washing them all the time? I just keep my bikes clean where it matters. Keep the chain lubed and enjoy the ride.

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