How to Wash Your Mountain Bike Shoes and Destroy Them

Nothing can slow me down on my mountain bike, because if I went any slower I would not be riding it. I’d just be standing next to it. That said, one of the things I consider least likely to slow anyone down, even those of you who are actually pretty fast, is a little dirt on our gear.

Oh sure, we all like to keep our gear in good working order, but a patina of dirt on the cleats or the bike frame lets people know you are too busy riding to be washing your rig. Please note that I do recommend washing clothes after every ride. A slightly dirty bike frame is one thing, but a stinky jersey can be an affront to the wearer, not to mention offensive to fellow riders and local wildlife.

I was lucky enough to travel to Park City this fall to get in some sweet singletrack riding. We couldn’t wait to soak in some epic trails in sunny 60-degree fall Utah weather. Instead, a storm parked itself over the area and the first snows of the year fell. I decided to ride anyway, though, because I forgot my laptop charging cable and there was nothing good on TV.

Sundown in gorgeous Park City

I was there with my buddies to ride for fun, but Greg, Singletracks Editor in Chief. was out in PC on a press trip the same weekend. You can check out his in-depth ride reports here.

The first day, my group hit up the Mid Mountain trail. It was snowy and cold and I was underdressed. At the end of the 30-mile loop I was shivering pretty good and slurring my words. You know what they say, though: There ain’t no thermia like hypothermia.

The next day the group put in another 10 miles of singletrack. I was still cold from the day before, but I summed up my courage, put on my big boy pants, and bravely played 9 holes of golf.

The third day we had yet another epic day of riding planned, on the famous Wasatch Crest Trail via Armstrong and Pine Cone Ridge climbs. We regrouped on the top of the ridge, ate snacks, then everyone set off again.

It was gorgeous up on the ridge, but the descent was pretty hairy. There were two kinds of riding that day: muddy snow and snowy mud. Between trying to stay warm and trying not to wreck our bikes, my buddy Bob and I took a wrong turn up on the ridge and went down the western slope rather than the eastern side. We ended up in Salt Lake City rather than back in Park City. Oops. We had to grab a cab back to SLC, after we stuffed our faces with some pizza.

I shivered more that day than I ever have before in my life, and I’ve walked up to 22,000 feet.

There was no time to properly dry my mountain bike cleats before I jumped on the plane to come home from Park City, so my bike shoes ended up being wet longer than is advisable. That plus the many miles of riding I’d put into them left them smelling like a serial killer’s basement. I decided to give them a good cleaning.

Normally I’d just hose ’em off, leave ’em in the sun for a while and call it good, but I decided this time I wanted extra-clean shoes, so I popped them in the dishwasher. What could go wrong, right? I’d just put over 60 miles in two wet, snowy rides on them, surely they are dishwasher safe.

Don't do this.

Well, here’s what can go wrong: the glue that holds the soles of your shoes on can melt and your shoes can be ruined.


Now, I could probably ride these things some more, but my fear would be that they’d completely fail 10 miles from the car and I’d have to duct tape my feet to the pedals Breaking Away style.

Oh well. I scored them for super cheap on Craigslist anyway, and the ratchety buckle things were getting a bit crap, so I was ready for a new pair.

If you don’t want to destroy your mountain bike shoes, wash them by hand. Take the insoles out, stuff them with newspaper, and let them sit someplace warm but not too hot. If you toss them in the dishwasher to save yourself some time, you might as well just toss them in the trash.

+1 Singletracks on Google Plus to keep up with all of our newest articles!