A Simple Guide on How to Clean a Mountain Bike

Keeping your mountain bike clean is a very important part of overall maintenance – and it’s very much worth the time and effort that you’ll have to invest. A clean bike will perform like it’s supposed to – and a bike that’s regularly cleaned will last much longer too.

Cleaning a bike doesn’t have to be a tedious chore – we’re going to go over the process, and explain how you can keep everything clean as a whistle – without losing too much time.

Mountain bikes invariably get dirty – it comes with the territory. Whether it’s raining and you end up with a mud-caked set of tires or pick up a couple of ounces of debris, grass, and sticks along the way, a dirty bike equals a headache.

Not only does it make storing the bike a pain, but it negatively impacts performance – and reduces the lifespan of some of your most essential components. To help you deal with a dirty bike, we’ve prepared this short, helpful guide. We’ll cover the key areas – the supplies that you’ll need and how to do it properly.

How to Clean a Mountain Bike

Tools, Supplies, and Equipment

Before you begin, make sure that you have everything you need to give your bike a proper cleaning. You might already have everything on this list – but if you lack a couple of items, they’re easy to get – and we’re going to list a couple of alternatives to some of them.

Cleaning Area

All of the dirt and grime that you’ll wash off your bike has to end up somewhere. If you’re storing your bike indoors or in an apartment or communal space, this can be an issue.

mountain bike covered in mud

If you have access to a backyard, preferably one with a drain, it’s best to wash the bike there. But if you don’t, you’re not out of options – most bike shops will either offer cleaning services or have a special area where you can clean your bike.

Bike Stand

A bike stand is a useful piece of kit that you should own primarily because it makes bike maintenance much less of a hassle – but it also makes cleaning your bike much easier.

A bike stand allows you to raise your bike up, giving you access to the entirety of the bike from all angles. Although a stand isn’t essential, per se, we still recommend getting one. Alternatively, you can build a bike stand yourself.


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    Water, Soap, and Cleaning Products

    It comes as no surprise that you’re going to need water. The best and most convenient way is to use a hose – but if you don’t have access to one, a good old bucket full of water can just as easily do the trick.

    cleaning bike frame with a spray

    But water alone won’t do the trick – you’re also going to need some cleaning products. Soap does a good enough job on its own, but spray-on bike cleaners and other specialized products are worth investing in.

    Brushes and Tools

    Last but not least, you will need a set of brushes, primarily for the chain and cassette – although a brush can make cleaning the frame much easier too. You can buy a bike cleaning kit online – but buying a good set of brushes that vary in size and bristle hardness does trick just as well.

    If you’re in a pinch, or can’t get your hands on a set of brushes at the moment, an old toothbrush can be used as an alternative for cleaning the chain and cassette.

    How to Thoroughly Clean a Mountain Bike

    Now that you’ve got everything ready, let’s go over the actual process of cleaning a bike, step by step.

    Start With The Frame

    The frame is the easiest part of the bike to wash, so let’s start there. Rinse your bike with cold water – either from a hose or a bucket. Start from the top and work your way down. This alone should take most of the grime off your frame – but don’t stop there – going the extra mile won’t take much time or effort – and it will pay off.

    cleaning bike frame

    For this next step, you’ll be using lukewarm water – so if you’re working without a hose, dump your cold water and refill your bucket. If you’re using soap or a cleaning product, put it in the water. Next, take a large brush, and wipe the bike down once more, once again beginning from the top and working your way down.

    Once the bike is properly scrubbed, rinse it thoroughly – as the cleaning products might damage your frame – particularly if it has any anodized surfaces.

    There’s no need to shy away from spray-on bike cleaners, as they do a decent enough job – but make sure to rinse them off properly as well. We recommend using a large, soft-bristled brush – but if you don’t have one, a set of rags can do as well.

    Using a soft brush will prevent any scratches on the frame, and properly rinsing your bike off guarantees that the chemicals won’t strip the color from your frame. Once you’ve rinsed the bike properly, make sure to dry it out as well.

    Tires – To Clean Or Not To Clean?

    Tires get dirty no matter what – so is cleaning them worth it? That depends on how dirty they are. If your tires have a large amount of dirt or mud caked onto them, particularly if it is disrupting the tread pattern on your tires, then you should definitely clean them. What’s the use of high-end tires if they can’t provide decent traction?

    cleaning a mountain bike

    If you have a hose, spraying the tires with high-pressure water should be enough – but if you don’t, use a harder, firmer-bristled brush with lukewarm water and soap to really get in there.

    And while you’re at it, inspect the tires for any damage such as cuts or punctures, and take the time to check and adjust your tire pressure. You will need a good pump, of course.  Make sure to also clean the sidewalls and rims of your bike.

    Chain and Cassette

    After you’re done with the tires, remove any debris from the drivetrain – you can do this by hand, with a small brush, or a toothbrush.

    Once that’s done, use a small, firm brush to apply a cleaning product to the chain, chainring, jockey wheels, and cassette. Scrub everything thoroughly, then wipe it down and allow it to dry.

    Suspension, Bolts, and Bearings

    Your suspension, bolts, and bearings won’t require attention each time you clean your bike – but you should check them every once in a while. When you clean your suspension, put some fork oil near the bottom of your stanchions, then cycle the fork through its travel a couple of times and wipe it down.

    bike cleaner

    In much the same manner, check your bike once every couple of months to see if any bolts or bearings need cleaning or lubrication. You can also coat any bearings with water-repellent products to keep them from harm.

    Lubrication and Drying

    While we’re on the topic of lubrication, once everything else is done, you should lubricate your chain and derailleurs. Don’t go overboard – using too much lubricant will just make more grim stick to the surface that it is applied to. Once you’ve applied an appropriate amount, let it sit and soak in for two or three minutes, then wipe the excess off.

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