How To Clean Your Mountain Bike in 10 Easy Steps

Cleaning your bike after a ride can feel like a buzz kill but it doesn’t have to take forever. Follow these tips and you’ll get the job done quickly without damaging your bike.

1. Get your mountain bike dirty

One of the reasons people end up doing more damage than good while washing their mountain bike is because they wash it too frequently. Just because there is a little speckling of dirt on the down tube does not mean you need to bust out the scrub brushes… it’s a mountain bike people. But if your bike is truly dirty, give it a bath.

Before

2. Find a place to wash it

For many people who own homes, this is easy: just haul out the garden hose and get washing. But for those of us who live in an apartment or who live the nomadic mountain biking dream, finding a hose isn’t always so easy.

Nowadays, many of the popular purpose-built mountain biking trail systems have a bike wash stand right at the trailhead: this is perfect! If your favorite trail doesn’t have a wash stand I suggest heading on over to your local bike shop. Most shops are more than happy to let you wash your bike for free. (If they aren’t, it might be time to find a new LBS.)

3. Find some brushes and rinse

Purchasing a brush set is relatively inexpensive, and if you are already heading to the LBS to wash your bike, why not buy one while you’re there.

Brushes

Use the hose to rinse the mud off of your bike as best you can. In order to avoid ruining your rig, don’t spray high pressure water into areas that have bearings. The water can work its way in and wash the grease out.

You will notice 2 things in the photo below:

a) I am standing back away from the bike so the pressure isn’t too great.

b) This is just a normal hose, not a high pressure system (as compared to say the coin-operated car wash).

Washing

As I move in closer toward the bike and focus on the components, I reduce the pressure even more to turn the spray into more of a mist.

4. Scrub

Bust out those brushes pictured above and scrub your bike down. I recommend the big brush for the frame, the medium-sized brush with hard bristles for hard-to-reach places, and the small brush for components, especially the chain and cassette.

You can choose to use soap if you would like, as it will definitely help with greasy, hard to clean areas. However, if I’m aiming for a quick wash in under 15 minutes, I’ll skip the soap and just scrub and use water. It still works pretty well.

Make sure to get all of the hard-to-reach areas.

5. Clean the chain

Having a clean frame is nice, but where it really counts is with your drivetrain and other moving parts. Take special care to clean the chain well.

Chain

6. Clean the cassette and other components

Be sure to get all of the grime out of the cassette, and clean the chain rings and derailleurs carefully as well.

7. Skip the tires

Part of our goal is to get the bike clean in the shortest amount of time possible. Toward that end, skip scrubbing the tires. I will usually spray them down with the hose to knock the muck off, but I won’t bother scrubbing and detailing them. Really, what would be the point? The tires are the first thing to get dirty again, and having a little red stain from the local clay is not going to affect performance at all.

Focus on more important parts like the drivetrain.

After

8. Dry

Take care to dry your mountain bike off. If I’m going quickly, I usually focus on the chain, components, and other moving parts, and I bump my bike side-to-side in an effort to knock the water out of the heads of the bolts so that they don’t rust.

9. Lube

Immediately after you think your bike is adequately dry, do a full lube-job. Make sure to lube the chain well, in addition to all of the other moving parts such as your derailleurs. Be sure to wipe away the excess lube after it has had a few minutes to soak in.

10. Get your mountain bike dirty

Mountain bikes aren’t meant to be looked at or ridden on the pavement–they are supposed to be lovingly abused on a dirty singletrack trail! Go ride, get dirty, and go back to step #2!

Following this method, washing my bike usually takes under 15 minutes, with the lube job taking an additional 5 or so. This is fast, simple, and crucial to keeping your bike in good operating condition.

How do you go about washing your bike?

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