No matter whether you have an e-mountain bike, electric road bike, electric hybrid bike or even a foldable e-bike – they all pick up dirt on every ride. We all know how easy it is to get back from a ride, or in from the commute and just put your electric bike in the garage/shed and forget about it until the next time. However, although your e-bike is well made and reliable a little tlc will make it last much longer without any issues. The good news is it should only take a few minutes after each ride.
The most important features to look after are the battery and the drivetrain (the gears and chain - see glossary). We’ll talk about the battery in another blog but here we want to focus on cleaning and maintaining your drivetrain.
It’s very easy to think that cleaning your electric bike just means hosing off the mud and putting it away. It might mean it looks shiny but the bits that really need looking after will probably have been missed. Firstly it’s worth mentioning that using a pressure hose is never a good idea. Whilst the force of the water might mean getting the mud off more easily it will also force dirt and grit further into the moving parts and on an e-bike you also risk damaging the electrics! The best way to clean your electric bike is a trusty bucket of warm soapy water and a sponge/cloth. If you do decide to use a hose then just use it at a trickle and keep it away from the electrics.
Keeping the drivetrain clean is important as it’s the bit that will wear out quickest if it’s left to become clogged up with mud/dirt. It will also make the e-bike less efficient and potentially harder to pedal. To clean the drivetrain you will need some degreaser (such as Muc Off….), an old toothbrush, an old rag, and some chain lube. You can also use a chain cleaning tool.
Firstly thoroughly clean the chain, sprockets, cassette, derailleur and all the bits around it. Ensure that you spin the chain round and change through the gears to ensure you don’t miss any bits. Next dry off with an old rag. Give the e-bike a good shake to dislodge any excess water.
Now for re-lubing, or re-oiling as we used to say! There are many types of lube that can put on the chain, dry, wet, wax and ceramic. They all have pros and cons but if you want to just buy one reasonably priced, all weather, low maintenance lube then go for a wet lube. It’s good for riding in the rain and won’t need re-applying too often. The only down side is it can retain the dirt more easily than other types. To apply the lube just add a drop per chain link. This is easily done by holding the bottle by a link just over the rear cassette and slowly turning the chain backwards whilst squeezing the bottle. Ensure you don’t add too much and keep an eye out for where you started (Tip: start at the chain joining link).
Once you’ve added enough, spin the chain for 20 or so turns to ensure the lube gets to all the places it needs to. You can wipe off any excess using a clean cloth. You can also add a few drops to the rear sprockets to help them turn.
If you have a rear hub gear system, such as the Shimano Nexus then cleaning your bike is even easier as most of the tricky components to clean are all enclosed and hidden away from the dirt. The same goes if you have a belt drive, no lubing required and much easier to clean. Lucky you!
Ok, so you may be thinking this sounds like it’s going to take more than a few minutes when you get home and can you really be bothered to do it? It really doesn’t take long and like most things a bit of practice and having the stuff to hand makes it easier. If you can’t manage a full clean for some reason then clean the chain with a cloth held it over it, spinning the chain backwards a few times this will help keep your e-bike in tip top condition for years to come.