If you use your mountain bike regularly, it is most likely to be exposed to debris, dirt, mud, and grime. Even though this is normal, you have to ensure your bike also has a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule. Mountain bikes are pretty expensive, especially if you have invested in a good one. Hence, you need to clean your bike more frequently so the parts do not deteriorate.
A mountain bike is typically used on harsh terrains that can be wet and excessively muddy. Anyone who knows how to use their mountain bike correctly has to deal with a dirty bike more often than those who only ride on urban road tracks.
In order to get good performance from your mountain bike every time, it is best if you keep all parts absolutely clean and lubricated. A good lube job decreases the wear-and-tear effect caused by friction and protects the moving parts. Moreover, it also fends off corrosion and rust, maintaining the longevity of your mountain bike.
Assemble a Mountain Bike Cleaning Kit
To make things easier and faster, assembling your very own mountain bike cleaning kit is a good way to go. This way, you won’t have to search around for materials every time you clean your mountain bike.
Let’s look at some basic bike cleaning supplies that you will need:
Having a collection of old and new brushes can help you clean your bike efficiently. If you have brushes of different sizes and bristles, they can help you reach into the nooks and crannies that a cloth rag or water may not be able to clean.
Old toothbrushes, spoolies, and coat brushes work really well, along with scrubbing brushes that are meant for cleaning bikes. You can either assemble your brush collection at home or purchase one from the store.
Bike cleaning brushes aren’t that expensive and can last you a long time. Sponges are also a great addition because they can wipe down the mountain bike frame without harming its coating.
2. Cloth Rags
You will need plenty of cloth rags for wiping down and cleaning your bike. They will come in handy to remove dirt, soap, oil, and grease from your mountain bike. You can either purchase a set of household rags or even use your old t-shirts for this purpose.
Note: Do not use paper towels because even though they might get the job done, it will be a huge waste. Clothing rags are both useful and environmentally friendly because they can be reused.
You will need a large bucket or a drum to hold water while you clean your mountain bike. This will help you make a soapy mixture to scrub down your bike without making much of a mess. If you do not have a bucket, you can opt for an old (but clean) paint bucket or any other cylindrical item that can hold water.
4. Water Hose
You can either wash your bike by using a wet brush or sponge or use a water hose. Pressure hoses are not really necessary for bikes, so it is better to stick to a normal water hose if you are using one. If you do not have a water hose, you can also get the job done using a simple water bucket.
Note: A high-pressure water hose can cause damage to your mountain bike, especially to the sensitive bearing area. Even while using a regular hose, it is best to stand a bit far from the bike in order to steer clear of any water pressure directly hitting the bike.
5. Soap or Cleaning Liquid
You can use any kind of dishwashing liquid or even a specific bike cleaning soap. Almost any kind of liquid soap would work in this situation.
6. Degreasing Formula
You will need a high-quality degreasing liquid that can clean up all the sticky and greasy parts on your mountain bike chain. Choose a degreasing formula that can melt the grease properly and is easy to use. There are many bike-specific formulas available in the supermarket, so choose one that you feel is the right fit for you.
Note: Steer clear of turpentine and kerosene degreasers as they are harmful to you and the environment.
7. Bike Stand
A bike stand can allow you to position your mountain bike at a height that makes it comfortable for you to wash it. Suspending the mountain bike on a stand can also allow you to remove the wheels and fully clean the pedals.
If your bike is on the ground, it can be challenging for you to reach these parts end thoroughly clean them. However, having a bike stand is not 100% necessary. It helps, yes, but you can clean your mountain bike without it.
8. Bike Chain Lubricant
Once you are done cleaning your bike, it is essential for you to lubricate your bike chain properly. This helps and extending the longevity of your mountain bike’s drivetrain and increases the overall performance. Once the chain is clean, you can apply bike-specific lubricant to keep it nice and rolling.
Other than the traditional wet lube, you can also purchase dry lube if you live in a dry environment. Wet lube is a great choice if you are going to be using your mountain bike in a wet or rainy area.
Unlike dry lube, wet lube can strongly attach itself to your bike’s drivetrain, and the chances of it sliding off in the rain are less. However, it can make your chain dirty and grimy pretty quickly because of its sticky nature.
Other than the cleaning equipment, you should always have a good pair of gloves in your bike cleaning kit. It can protect your hands from the different kinds of soaps, lubricants, and degreasing liquids that you’ll be using to clean and maintain your mountain bike. These products are not harmful as per se but can affect your skin texture in the long run.
How To Start Cleaning Your Mountain Bike
Now that you’ve gathered all the necessary cleaning products and tools, it’s time to start cleaning.
Most parts of your dirty mountain bike can be easily cleaned by simply wiping them with a cloth rag. However, some bike components will need additional brushing, lubrication, and in some cases, excessive scrubbing. The type of cleaning that you have to carry out on your mountain bike depends on what your bike has been through.
This is where you suspend the mountain bike on a bike stand and assess the areas that need the most cleaning. If you feel that your mountain bike needs a wash, use a general water hose and gently wash your bike frame.
Now let’s discuss how to clean each mountain bike component individually:
1. Bike Frame
Fill your bucket with some warm water and add your liquid soap to it. To clean your bike frame, you can use a brush soaked in the soap water to brush off any grime or dirt gently. The key is to start scrubbing from top-down. Clean the handlebars first, then make your way to the headset, seat, front fork, and finally the brakes.
If your mountain bike has disc brakes, it is best to keep the soapy water away from the brake pads and rotors. Once the top half is done, you can move on to scrubbing the cranks, chainrings, and chainstays.
Next, use clean water to rinse off all of the parts that you’ve just scrubbed. Next, dry the bike with clean cloth rags before moving further. If you feel that any particular bike component is still dirty, you can repeat the process to get the desired result.
2. Rotors and Brake Pads
Do not clean the rotors and brake pads with soapy water. Instead, use rubbing alcohol or specific bike rotor cleaners to clean them.
Keep your bike brake pads away from the soapy water and degreaser liquid because they can mess with its function.
3. Bike Chain
Your mountain bike’s chain is one of the most essential components that you need to take care of. It is also the riskiest part of your bike, which is why you have to and lubricate it frequently in order to make it last longer and perform better.
If your mountain bike chain does not have a lot of grime and dirt buildup, you can just resort to a simple bike degreaser and a cloth rag. However, if your bike chain is excessively dirty, you may have to use a chain cleaning device. A chain cleaning device can thoroughly clean your bike chain, leaving you with a better result and unless of a mess.
Once the degreasing formula has dried, you can apply a few drops of lubricant onto the chain. You should evenly distribute the loop on the chain, ensuring that some of it get inside each link. Once the loop dries out, wipe off any access with a cloth rag so it does not promote further dirt and grind the buildup.
If you live in an area where it rains quite often or generally ride your mountain bike in wet areas, it is always better to lubricate it every time you have a wet ride. This will prevent your chain from rusting and give it a longer life. Generally, you should always lubricate your bike’s chain whenever it appears dry or makes a squeaky sound.
4. Brakes and Derailleurs
Brakes and derailleurs need a considerable amount of attention while cleaning and maintenance because they are one of the most essential components of your mountain bike.
After you’re done washing your mountain bike, use about two drops of lubricant on the bike’s lever pivots and barrel adjusters. This allows them to help the bike function properly and effectively, especially on difficult terrains.
Cables allow you to control all the components found in a bike’s mechanism. Hence, keep a check on it and see if it needs any lubrication to function properly. Cables need a lot more attention in wetter environments than in dry ones.
Brake and derailleurs assemblies have several tiny parts that need to be taken care of. The small moving parts are essential for your mountain bike’s mechanism, which is why you should consistently apply lubricant to the pivot points. The wheels, arms, and pulleys also need attention to stop them from becoming rigid.
It is better to skip the tires in your cleaning process because they stay clean for a very short period. They are the part that gets dirty the quickest, and to be honest, there is no point in having clean tires.
You can always spray them with your water hose to get any dirt off, but spending time scrubbing the tires may be a waste. Tires may develop stains over time depending on the type of terrains you’ve been riding, but that should not have an impact on their performance.
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It is important to remember that mountain bikes aren’t meant to look pretty. They are monstrous bikes ready to take on the rockiest terrains for some adrenaline-based stunt action. Compared to a road bike that you use for daily commutes, a mountain bike is bound to get way dirtier – but that’s okay.
Using the method highlighted above, it will take around 15-20 minutes to clean your mountain bike from top to bottom. Happy Cleaning!
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.