A grungy sound coming from ‘somewhere below my saddle’ may just be what started my near-obsession with cleaning my Brompton. I’d only had my Brompton a short time, so to be told this worrying noise was simply caused by dirt under the rear guard was something of a shock, although given the fine (and damp) sandy/gravel surfaces I’d been riding it on, not too much of a surprise on reflection.
Mind you, Melbourne’s streets often don’t seem much better. A light rain shower and your brake pads to sound like sandpaper pressing against rims dirty from road grime. Some heavier rain and there’s sand washed all over the roads from tram tracks – along with other gutter muck.
Hmmm, a bit of mud accumulating there! The coating of #MelburnRoobaix mud went far beyond the girt accumulated on my usual commute
It’s definitely time to clean your bike.
To do a thorough job, I allow myself a couple of unrushed hours. Cleaning my Brompton is a task I find relaxing and very satisfying, so I like to take my time. I do, however, appreciate that not everyone finds their zen in this fashion.
Pleasure or chore, cleaning your Brompton regularly means you’re giving it a close up inspection and potentially identifying a problem when it’s small rather than when it’s bigger and more costly to fix. A loose nut, a wobbly spoke, a bit of glass worming its way deeper into your tyre…
There are many ways to clean your Brompton. But first, here’s what NOT to do:
How to kill a Brompton – you should NEVER do this to your Brompton or any bicycle.
You do NOT want to get water in your hubs, nor do you want to force water into any other sealed parts such as the lower bracket, bearings or hinges.
Here’s what I prefer to use:
- A clean, soft cotton rag to wipe off the dirt and grime. You can use paper towels if you have to, but you’ll go through a lot more.
- Tooth picks to get dirt and grime out of hard to reach crevasses
- Bicycle-specific wash for harder to clean bits and to wipe over the frame at the end
- Brake & Metal parts cleaner for the seat stem – use with a separate, clean rag
- Chain lube to re-lubricate the chain (heavy or light, depending on conditions)
- Superglue to patch any holes in my tyres when I dig out fragments of glass
The other essential bit of kit, whether you use it on your Brompton – or around the house – or to open a beer… It’s good to keep a toolkit in your frame.
Working from top to bottom, front to back, leaving the dirtiest parts (the sprocket(s), chainring and chain) until last, I clean or wipe over everything I see until there are no spots or smudges.
Don’t let the apparent simplicity of the front half of the bike misled you into thinking there isn’t much to clean. There are plenty of nooks and crannies around the brake calipers, getting the rag under the forks to do the guard properly, and don’t forget to polish up the headset and wipe grease from around the hinges.
Dirty handlebars definitely need a clean
Dirty front guard & brake calipers
Dirty from forks and axle
Carefully clean under the mudguard – it’s only plastic so be careful not to let it bunch up too much. Enough to clean, not enough to break
Clean between the brake calipers
Clean under the brake calipers
Front hub, nice and shiny again
Dirty hinge on main frame
Don’t forget to polish your headset and clamp with a clean part of the rag
Guaranteed to be dirty after any ride, the bottom bracket is easy to clean from the left side of your Brompton. Ensure the rag is clean if you wipe out the saddle stem tube.
Classic spot for dirt to build up
Dirty bottom bracket and tube
Use a clean rag to remove grit from tube
I find a bit of bike wash on the rag really helps get some stubborn muck off the pedals.
Dirty folding pedal
Get the rag into every nook and crevice and you’ll have it looking as new again
The left (non-chain) side is always a bit cleaner (or less-dirty) so I do that side first. Release your rear triangle so you can inspect the frame from all angles as there is a lot to clean at this end. The spokes are much more likely to be dirty on the rear wheel due to their proximity to the chain, so definitely give them a wipe before you get to the hub.
Black DOES show dirt!
A good spot to put your pump while you’re cleaning the rest of the back, so you don’t forget it once you’re done
Carefully clean under the rear guard
Dirty rear hub, forks and wheel
Give the bolts a clean as well as the hub
Just ‘coz you can see the tryptic, doesn’t mean it’s not dirty
Half clean rear rim
Looks so much better when it’s clean and shiny
Now that the hub’s clean, time to tackle the chain-side
After cleaning the frame parts, brake calipers, mudguard and struts on the chain side, it’s time to look at the chain tensioner and sprockets. A lot of grime builds up here, and there’s not much point trying to clean your chain if it’s just going to keep collecting grime from this area. Taking off the chain tensioner is not something I do every clean; you can still clean the sprockets to some extent with the chain tensioner still in place.
Dirty chain and chain tensioner
Dirty chain tensioner wheels
Free of the chain – easy when the rear triangle is unlatched
Don’t let it fling back – you might spray grime everywhere
Digging out the dirt… and glass and grit
That’s better! A much cleaner wheel on the tensioner arm
Lots of grime can built up even on the simpler wheel of a 3 speed Brompton’s chain tensioner
Dirty chain and sprockets
Half clean sprocket – a lot of grime builds up here
The sprockets are looking cleaner now
Looking clean again! Chain, sprockets and wheel
If you do take off the chain tensioner, why no go the whole hog and remove the wheel entirely. That’ll give you the best access to the inside of the rear triangle and the underside of the mudguard to clean!
If you have to take off your chain tensioner or rear wheel, it’s a great opportunity to clean those hard to reach places
Chainring next; back, front and teeth.
Cleaning the front
Cleaning the back
Clean both sides of the teeth
Don’t forget the little windows
And don’t forget to clean between the chainrain and frame
And finally – the chain! Rub your cloth back and forth along the chain until it’s clean. If there are still globs of grim in between the links I use a tooth pick to poke them out. When I’m done cleaning off the grease, I re-lubricate my chain, wiping off any excess lube with a clean part of my rag.
Now to tackle the chain. It may be sticky at first, but as you rub it’ll get easier.
Rub the chain back and forth to get the grime off
Re-attach the chain tensioner, put the Brompton pump back on and your Brommie is clean again! If you didn’t do it before, now is a good time to check your tyres for glass and other foreign objects that might be about to cause a puncture. This job is much easier if you fully deflate your tyres first; when you squeeze the sides of the tyre it makes it much easier to pry the glass out of the tread with a toothpick or pair of tweezers. Seal the hole with a dab of superglue. Be careful not to flick glass into your eyes!
Check for glass and foreign objects
Wipe over with a squeeze of bike wash on a clean rag because you’ve probably touched something clean with dirty fingers somewhere, and you’re done!
So that’s how I prefer to clean my bikes, but when it rains on the way to work I have only a fraction of that time to clean up, so in 20min I’ll grab a few paper towels and towel off the water from my Brommie, making sure to give a quick wipe over the:
- inside of the front forks
- bottom bracket
- rear triangle and just under the guard where grit builds up
- rims, from & back (I usually wipe over the Stermy Archer hub and rear spokes while I’m there anyway)
- chain (and re-lube if required)
Arriving after a wet commute – time to wipe down my Brommie
I don’t have anything fancy to wash my hands with at work, but I’ve found a bit of chain lubricant does wonders to lift the grease and grime, before a squirt of liquid soap or washing up detergent finishes the job.
Rub in a small amount of chain lubricant where your hands are dirty, before adding soap, to clean your hands properly after cleaning your bike
Now both you and your Brompton are clean again, it must be about time to go get dirty!
Almost like new again
Happy riding! 😀