Video: How to wash your bike

Best advice on how to do it right and how often.

Video

Folks have different tolerances/preferences for dirty bikes. But bike cleaning cannot be ignored.

Why clean the bike and how often?

The mountain bike almost by definition gets dirty, a litle bit in the summer and significantly more during winter. So how do you wash it and how often? Don’t forget to check our review here of a purpose-built kit from Muc-Off HERE .

Some of it depends on your appetite for dirt and grime. Are you grungy or a neat freak? Is your bike brand new with a significant investment or is it years old hand me down? Do you have the cleanest bike in the group or the dirtiest? Does it rain every day where you live or is it very dry?


Clint Gibbs offers some great advice with normal household detergents. He also offers a great tip with using an air compressor for drying the bike.

How best to do it and how long does it take?

You get the point. Regardless, the static/aesthetic parts can stay dirty with little harm while the moving parts need to be cleaned to prevent premature wear. When exposed to mud, grime and debris, these parts begin to deteriorate. A regular schedule of maintenance (monthly, weekly or more often depending on your type of riding) is important. If you spend a lot of time riding in wet, muddy conditions, or if you ride hard, fast and often, plan to clean your bike more frequently.

Cleaning and lubing is important for performance too. So if you compete whether on the race circuit or with your personal records, then cleaning and lubing the bike is more critical.

But remember that lube and certain types of lube attract dirt. So choose the right lube for your trail conditions and always wipe off any excess lube after giving it time to soak in.


And here’s some great advice from the pros from Park Tool. Gloves, steamy water, table and some basic devices are dialed!!

Supplies:

Items for cleaning and lubing tasks
Clean rags: Keep plenty of these on hand for grease, oil and wax-related tasks and for general cleaning and drying.

Brushes: Have several sizes and shapes to get into hard-to-reach places to remove the grime that rinsing alone can’t get. Old toothbrushes work great.

Water: When used carefully, water can be a handy tool, but be careful here. Water, especially when coming from a high-pressure hose, can cause damage to sensitive bearing systems throughout your bike.

Soap / general cleaner: Use diluted dishwashing soap or preformulated bike wash cleaner for frame cleaning.


If you’re in a hurry or know you’re gonna get the bike dirty again too soon, this 5-minute routine is good.

Degreaser: A bike-specific degreaser (avoid kerosene or turpentine) will clean up gummy parts like your bike chain. Choose a solvent that is easy on the environment (and you). Dispose of all solvents properly.

Chain lubricant: Properly lubricating your chain helps extend the life of your drivetrain. Always apply bicycle-specific lube oil to a clean chain.

There are two types of lube: wet or dry. Wet lube is best to use when you’ll be riding in wet conditions. It strongly adheres to the drivetrain and is less likely to rinse off in rain. That said, dirt and grit will also stick to it, so be sure to wipe off excess lube.

Dry lube excels in a dry environment. Dirt and grit stick less to dry lube, but dry lube does rinse off easily if you find yourself riding in the rain.

Bike stand: This will allow you to position the bike at a comfortable height while you’re working on it. It will also allow you to turn the pedals or remove the wheels so you can clean all the moving and hard-to-reach parts.

Don’t do this:

And for what not to do, here are some valuable tips!!!

1) Don’t spray high pressure directly into your bearings

2) Don’t dry wipe stuck dirt off your bike

3) Don’t get lube on your brakes or brake pads

4) Don’t overlube your bike and leave your pivots and chain dripping with oil.

 

We scrolled the forums to see how often riders are washing their bikes and opinions varied from never to after every ride.

LegBacon said: “Here in the PNW I try not to wash it too much, but if I never washed it, yikes. It is a filthy mess right now and I’ll hose it off a bit after today’s ride. We ride in pretty wet conditions anyway and a little careful washing isn’t going to make a big difference. I try to take it easy on the pivots when using the hose and often I’ll just brush off the dry mud.”

Spyghost said: “Wash only when necessary. i only use paint brush and water to knock off a few grime. rainy season on tropical weather will require washing at times. i do strip downs for thorough cleaning annually though.”

Cleared2land said: “I don’t wash the bike frequently, but when I do it results in a somewhat time consuming service. Place bike on stand so that all components can cycled through their normal rotation. Gentle wash and soap to rinse most dirt. Yes, the chain gets a thorough scrub and cleaning. Followed by a complete going over with compressed air to remove all water from nooks and crannies. Blow dry everything, especially the chain and anywhere water likes to take up residence. Nothing is overlooked.

Then every moving part is addressed with it’s appropriate lubricant with the exception of bearings. These are addressed with a complete service on a regular and ongoing basis. The chain is thoroughly lubricated and allowed to remain overnight before a complete wipe down to remove as much residual lubricant as possible. All derailleur, levers, and other moving contact points are appropriately lubricated with excess lubricant wiped away.”

Visit our forums to learn more tips and tricks to clean and maintain your bike.

What are your local soil conditions like and how often do you wash your bike?


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • JP says:

    Though a lot of people do it, I’m not a fan of seriously cleaning the cassette while mounted. Against my better judgement I did it recently and ended up having these weird creak in my hub which I didn’t attribute to the cleaning and it took a long while to figure out. It takes 15 seconds to remove a cassette. Definitely consider taking it off if using degreaser. Another thing you can do is use the edge of a dry microfiber cloth to floss the cassette…takes off a lot of the dirt and requires no soap or water.

  • john says:

    in my opinion, washing a bike too much can do more damage than being a little dirty. Yeah if you just rode in super sticky peanut butter mud your bike needs a good cleaning. But summertime dust and dirt I’ll just wipe frame down with soft rag and scrub drive train with a brush. A garden hose can be your bikes worst enemy.

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