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In the Garage: How to Clean Your MTB

A clean bike is a happy bike. Max Ritter photo.

There’s just something about a clean bike that makes you want to ride faster and push harder on the trail. Maybe it’s a placebo, or maybe it’s the fact that a clean bike typically means everything is working well, your drivetrain isn’t creaking, and your suspension is as active as it can be. Even if you only ride in dry conditions, cleaning your bike frequently will keep it happy and make all those expensive parts work better and last longer. However, don’t just go hosing it down at the carwash, as washing it too aggressively can actually cause more harm than good, by forcing water into sealed components like a bottom bracket or suspension bearings. It blows my mind how few people clean their bikes properly. It’s a simple thing to do that can fix or prevent a lot of annoying problems down the line.

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For this edition of In The Garage, we’re looking at the best way to clean your bike, and some tips and tricks to make everything run smooth and last longer. Keeping mud and grit out of your drivetrain and suspension is important, but there’s a little finesse involved in doing it right. If you have a bike stand, great, this will be easier. If not, no stress, you can get your bike squeaky clean on the ground.

What you’ll need:

-A low-pressure water source, like a garden hose
-Simple Green, Muc-Off, or just water mixed with dish soap in a spray bottle
-Citrus degreaser
-A brush
-An automotive sponge
-Chain lube
-2 rags or hand towels

The Everyday Clean:

You don’t need to do a full clean on your bike every single time you ride it, but take a second to wipe down your fork and shock stanchion after every ride to make sure dust doesn’t end up deep inside your suspension. Likewise, making sure your chain is lubed every ride keeps everyone happy.

The Major Clean:

Hose It All Down

Use your garden hose to spray down the whole bike, knocking off chunks of mud or grit from your frame and tires. Avoid spraying the water stream directly into sensitive bits like linkage bearing covers, bottom bracket, shock and fork dust seals, or into your brakes. This step will get the big bits of gunk off, but there’s more to it.

Spray degreaser directly into your drivetrain, but avoid getting it on brake rotors. Max Ritter photo.

Soap and Water

Once your bike is wet, lightly spray down your whole frame with whatever your choice of soap is. Specialized products like Simple Green or Muc-Off work great, but mixing some dish soap and water in a spray bottle works just as well.

Use your brush and sponge to work the soap across areas like your rims and tires, cockpit, saddle, and suspension, and then spray it all down. Try to take care around your brakes with any soap, as it could leave residue that can impede performance.

Drivetrain

A MTB drivetrain is a dirty place, so take a little extra time to make sure it’s as clean as possible. While spinning your pedals backwards, use a small amount of citrus degreaser and the brush to work out all the dirt and grime on your chain and cassette. Make sure to brush down your derailleur pulley wheels and front chainring too. Hose it down. A clean drivetrain should look shiny, without any remnants of mud or dust caught on the chain or cassette.

Once the drivetrain is clean, it’s time to re-lube it. Apply a good amount of your favorite chain lube to your chain, let it soak for a minute, and then wipe it off with a rag while spinning your pedals backwards.

The Final Polish

Once you’ve hosed all the soap and degreaser off the bike, it’s time to wipe off any residue. Using a clean rag, dry off your frame, suspension cockpit, and wheels. Don’t wipe your drivetrain or brake rotors!

From The Column: In the Garage

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