Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Mud and dust can do a real number on your bicycle if left unchecked. Improper maintenance after a dirty ride allows solid particles to get cozy with the bike’s moving parts, hindering smooth operation and wearing grooves into them. So say bye bye to your fork seals, cartridge bearings and suspension pivots. Unless you want a bike that runs and sounds noisier than a noisy thing, you’ll want to keep it clear of dirt and grit after every ride.
It isn’t just for looking good, either. I’ve had to replace brake pads because of contamination, which my bike shop mechanic says is due to riding into pools of mud or water which have oil films on them – and then not cleaning the bike immediately after those rides.
Here’s how you do it.
What do you do with something covered in mud? You wash it, of course. A simple garden hose should do the trick washing off most of the mud caked on your bike. But be careful not to spray high pressure water into areas like pivots, bearings, and other moving parts, as this might force water into unreachable areas and wash the grease off, causing long term damage. To be safe, just maintain low water pressure throughout.
If you’re the kind of biker who wants to keep his/her bike always looking brand new, you can spray on some bike wash after this first step and rinse it down a second time.
“After a muddy or dusty ride, your bike needs some love to keep it running smoothly. Otherwise parts that wear and tear, could wear and tear faster!“
2. Brush It Down
Just like with your teeth, water alone isn’t going to do the trick. To really get it clean, break out some brushes and scrub your bike down. You can use soap if you want, but it’s not a requirement. Use a big brush (or whatever you want, really) for the frame, a medium-sized brush with hard bristles for those hard-to-reach places, and a small brush, like an old toothbrush, for components like the chain and cassette.
Unless you prioritize form over function, pay special attention to that last bit. The moving parts of your bike are what you really need to clean. Get your old toothbrush into every inch of the cassette, chain rings, and derailleurs, and leave no speck of dirt behind.
Rub down, Relube
3. Rims, Rotors and Brakes
Jeremy Clarkson once said, “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” With any vehicle, the importance of brakes, with their ability to let you stop on your own terms, is paramount. Bicycles are no exception. Keeping your brakes running smoothly is as important as anything else in bike maintenance.
You’ll also want to clean your bike right after a muddy ride, because trails are often covered with oil and grime, which end up contaminating your pads and rotors, leading to lack of bite and loud squealing.
If you are using rim brakes, grab a rag and wipe down the rims to remove any grime and residue, as these will wear down your pads and reduce the life of your rim. Use soap or a cleaning solution if necessary.
“You’ll also want to clean your bike right after a muddy ride, because trails are often covered with oil and grime, which can contaminate your pads and rotors, leading to lack of bite and loud squealing. “
4. High and Dry
Never leave your bike wet for longer than is necessary. Once you’re done cleaning, wipe the entire bike dry , paying special attention to the moving components, then leave it to dry for a while.
Water can do a lot more harm than good to a bicycle, so wash it with care, and dry it with haste. You may also want to give your brake discs or rotors a once over with rubbing alcohol, as these are components which can pick up dirt and grease and contaminate your brake pads.
5. Lube it Up
Now that you’ve got your bike clean and dry, it’s time to get it smooth. Start off by applying lubricant to the chain, to reduce friction and ensure smooth rotations. Next, move on the derailleurs’ pivot points, gear cables and brake cables if you have them.
With your bike running like new again, you should be ready to get back into the mud and dirt and wherever else your pedal-happy feet may bring you, without wearing your parts down before their time.