Deep Clean Your Mountain Bike

How To Deep Clean Your Mountain Bike At Home And Not Damage It

It took me years to figure out the right steps to deep clean my mountain bike efficiently and effectively. I’m kinda feeling jealous of everyone who is getting to read my years of experience boiled down in one article.

I can promise you that you are not gonna have to experiment with thousands of different ways to deep clean your mountain bike after a messy ride or when you are planning to make your bike work and look like a brand new one.

I’ll narrate the process step by step and reveal all the products, tips, and techniques I use to make sure my beloved bike shines like a unicorn horn.

We are not talking about regular cleaning, so, it’s gonna take a while and you gotta start taking notes, to be honest.

I’m pretty sure you are a dedicated biker who wouldn’t step away from learning a thing or two that helps you keep your precious bike in top-notch condition.

IMPORTANT NOTE

To perform better, last longer, and look prettier, there is no alternative to cleaning and maintaining your bike regularly.

We all know that, but, there’s a big BUT here. That is – deep cleaning your mountain bike can be quite complicated sometimes and if you are not doing it right, you can end up damaging your bike; plus, a lot of time, energy, and money might go to waste.

I’m here to help ya out will all of that, I’ll break down the whole bike cleaning procedure step by step to make sure you don’t miss anything when giving your absolute best to clean your favorite mountain bike. 

So, sit back, read, and take notes carefully. You’re gonna do just all right.

Why you gotta Deep Clean your MTB tho?

I’m pretty sure that all of ya reading this already know all that, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of recap that can help you motivate to do the right thing.

  1. it’s a trait of a real biker to take good care of his bike
  2. it will make sure that your bike lives longer and performs better
  3. your bike will look brand new and make others envious
  4. say goodbye to all the squeaky noises your bike might make
  5. perform better and go further with your bike
  6. save a ton of money in the long term

How to DEEP CLEAN Your Mountain Bike At Home: Step By Step

Usually, I deep clean my bike at least once a month, and the whole process takes about an hour. I have divided the process of washing your bike into 3 main stages, and all of them have sub-steps in detail to help you out clearly.

  • Pre wash – setting up and gather the essentials
  • Wash – degreasing and showering
  • Post wash – lubing and shining up

Stage 1: The pre wash in two steps

In this stage, you have to do two things.

The first is to find a proper place to wash your bike. It can be your backyard, empty front road of your house, car wash area, or even your apartment if you don’t have access to a proper place for the time being.

Give this a read if you need to get things done within your apartment – “How To Clean Your Bike For Apartment Dwellers”.

The second step would be to gather all the necessary items that you need for the DEEP CLEAN ritual.

Let me list out all the things I use along with buying links. I hope this makes things easier for you because all the things I used are proven and they work pretty great. So if you want to save time, you can just follow the exact list and see how it works for you.

All the supplies I use that you’ll need:

Pro Tip: get yourself into proper clothing for the wash, wear an apron, and a pair of gloves before you start cleaning. Deep cleaning your mountain bike can get very messy and you don’t want to ruin your clothes in the process.

Reading suggestions:


Stage 2: Washing And Deep Cleaning In Six Steps

Start with setting up the bike on your bike stand, it makes the job a whole lot easier.

Maybe some of you had decided to make that purchase wait, so what can you do now? Simply lean your bike against a wall or a table.

You can also turn it upside down and balance it on handlebars, however, I’m not a big fan of that idea because I feel like it makes it easier for the water to get into the head tube which I absolutely don’t want.

Step 1 – A light shower

Get your garden hose, and hose off some water to clear off all the extra mud and grease that’s sitting on your bike. Don’t start rubbing the bike with a brush yet, that can damage your paint as you’ll brush the sand and dust particles against your bike paint.

Get the extra dirt and mud off of the frame, wheels, and drivetrain by using only water.

Meanwhile, I put some dishwashing liquid in a bucket of water to create some soapy water that I need to clean and detail the bike.

Damage alert: don’t spray pressure water from your hose directly to the headtube, suspension, and drivetrain. You will not be happy if water gets in there, although it’s not something that happens very often and easily, but be careful.

Step 2 – Degreasing the drive train

In this part, after the basic hosing off, I’ll put some degreaser on the whole drivetrain including chainrings, chain, derailleur, and other areas.

You have to wait for some time so that the degreaser can soak inside each part properly.

After waiting for a while (5 minutes), I try to scrape off the greasy stuff from the chainrings. The park tool bicycle cleaning brush set comes in real handy in this step.

Step 3 – Washing the drive train and chain

Washing the drive train and chain

In this step, using my sponge and brushset, I’ll take some soapy water and clean the drivetrain pretty well. You can use both the brush set or sponge as your liking.

Make sure you use a separate sponge to wash the drivetrain because it can get real messy. You don’t wanna spoil the clean one as well.

The next step would be to use the park tool chain scrubber.

Place the chain on it, close the lid, fill it with degreaser (or soapy water if you want), and just pedal backward to get all the dirt and grime off of your chain. It’s gonna start shining pretty soon.

If you don’t have the chain cleaning tool, simply use a brush or squeeze the chain with your drivetrain-specific sponge and pedal backward. It will work just fine. But I highly recommend getting the tool since it makes the job a whole lot easier and significantly better.

Step 4: Removing The Wheels

Removing the wheels is not a necessary step if you are just cleaning your bike but we are deep cleaning your mountain bike, and taking off the wheels is necessary, as there are spots that can’t be reached if you do not take off the wheels. 

If you are new to the process of removing wheels, all you need to do is pull the quick lever outwards and loosen it a bit, the wheel should come right off.

If you are having trouble with the process watch the detailed video on “How to Remove and Install a Wheel on a Bicycle”. Trying to do things that you are not prepared for might cost you; so, take time, learn, and then do it.

Step 5 – Washing The Frame And The Wheels

Once the wheels are off, it’s time to clean the frame of the bike. Take the clean sponge, put it into soapy water, and then you know what to do.

After that, I make sure that I clean the fork as well, and using the round brush, I clean under the seat post which is often ignored by a lot of people.

The round brush is a lifesaver as it allows you to get to spots where normal brushes or sponges cannot easily clean. The funny thing is, I’ve seen some people use toilet brush for that.

Damage alert: Don’t even think about touching your disk brakes. Leave them alone as much as possible. Otherwise, getting some degreaser or lube on them can get into serious trouble. You can use rubbing alcohol at the end to clean those disks if you are too keen on cleaning them.

Next, wash off the tires with soap water and a soft brush. Pay more attention to the rims, hubs, and the cassette, give them a good scrub so that all the dirt and mud comes off.

Step 6 – putting things back with the last sprinkle

Put the wheels back on your bike, and then hose it off with clean water once again to get all the soap and degreaser off of the bike.

This should leave your bike shining already.

Stage 3: Post wash – Lubricating Your Mountain Bike

Step 1: Shake It Off, Let It Go

After you are done with all the washing it’s time to dry off the bike, you can give your bike a good shake or just dry it off using a dry towel and let go of all the extra water.

This will prevent your bike from rusting.

Sometimes, I even leave the bike overnight to make sure the bike is completely dry before I start applying lube.

Step 2: Lubricating Your Drivetrain

A lubricated drivetrain is a happy drivetrain.

So, after you are done drying off the bike, it’s time to lubricate the chain, derailleur, and all the pivot points.

If you live in wet conditions go with a wet lubricant as it’s less likely to wash off in wet conditions and strongly adheres to the drivetrain. That being said, wet lubricants are much thicker than dry lubricants so they will attract more dirt and grit.

If you live in relatively dry conditions then by all means use dry lube, they are much thinner than wet lube and attract relatively less dirt and grit.

Step 3: Excess Lube Is Toxic Lube

After you are done lubing the bike don’t forget to wipe off excess lube from your chain and other areas.

Over-lubricating your bike can lead to poor performance and component damage.

The excess lubricant will attract dirt and other abrasive particles that can damage your chain. So as a general rule, excess lube should always be carefully wiped away before the bicycle is ridden.

I usually follow this up with an extra routine, where I use spray lube to reach the areas which are hard for regular lube to reach. I like to lube the pedals as well in this stage.

As an additional step, which I follow sometimes, you can use wax polish to give your bike a shiny look.

Step 4:  Check And Finish

After you are done, make sure you check all the bolts, tire pressure, fork, and rear suspension adjustment.

I take this opportunity to tune up my bike a little if needed. I always check if everything is working right and if there’s anything I need to be concerned with.

Remember, it’s always better to be proactive. You don’t wanna face negative situations when in action.

Usually, I’d go out for a small ride to make sure everything is fine, especially the wheels.

Not properly attached wheels can lead to dangerous accidents, so make sure your wheels are perfectly placed and they don’t come off even after a heavy nudge.

There you go. Congratulations. You are done, and now you can be proud of yourself and a smooth bike that looks sharp and doesn’t make any squeaky noises.

Your riding experience enhances significantly when you are riding a well-groomed bike.

I’m not done yet. I have some more tips and experiences to share with you down below.

Top 7 Bike Cleaning Tips

  • If you have WD-40 lying around, you can use it as both a degreaser and lubricant for the bike.
  • Use warm water while cleaning your bike, it gets through grease and grime much better.
  • Keep the sponges, rags, and brushes that you used on your drivetrain separated, you don’t want to ruin your frame or other parts of your bike with grease.
  • Don’t use hard brushes or rags on your frame, they can easily scratch your frame.
  • If you don’t have a cassette cleaner you can use a rag in-between the chainrings to clean it properly from the inside
  • Try to build a habit of washing your bike, it will feel like your regular tasks rather than a tedious chore.
  • Never press your disk brake lever after you take off the wheels, the brake pads will close and you won’t be able to insert the wheel without opening the pads.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should you clean your mountain bike after every ride?

If you are riding on trails, you should be cleaning your mountain bike after every 2 to 3 rides to keep it running smoothly.

Is it ok to pressure wash a mountain bike?

Yes, you can but it’s really not a good idea. A high-pressure jet will get more dirt off the bike but it will also force past seals and bearing, making the components age quicker.

Can I use WD40 on the bike chain?

Yes, you can use WD40 as a degreaser on your bike to degrease your chain and other parts of your drivetrain. Don’t forget to lube your bike afterward.

How often should you lube your mountain bike chain?

It often depends on the condition of your riding, if you are riding in wet muddy conditions, then you should degrease, wash and lube after each or every other ride. If you are riding in relatively dry conditions then lube your bike, after every 50 to 100 kilometers.

Can I use Vaseline on my bike chain?

Not the best idea, but yes, you can use Vaseline as a lubricant on your bike’s chain. But a special kind of thinner is needed that helps to get the Vaseline deep into the chain links.

Should I use wet or dry chain lube?

Dry lubes are for the dry conditions and cleanest chains. Wet lubes can be in all conditions but it also attracts more dirt and grit.

How do I keep my bike chain from rusting?

Always make sure that there’s a layer of lubricant over the chain, it should prevent your chain from rusting. Also, regular cleaning is a must.

Can I use dishwashing liquid to wash my bike?

Yes, you can use dishwashing liquids just like when washing dishes but it’s better to use a bike-specific cleaner on expensive bikes so that there are no chances of rust or damage to the frame.

How often should I deep clean my bike?

Once in a month is good enough. But if you go through a rough and long ride, then you must do it after that very ride.

Summing it Up

It may seem like a daunting task to deep clean your mountain bike, but I learned my lesson the hard way.

After losing way too many bikes because of a lack of love and care, I had to change myself. So, don’t slack off like me and deep clean your mountain bike from time to time.

The game-changing part for me was to get the right tools. It makes the work so much fun and easier for me.

But, don’t let any excuses stop you from doing the right thing. Get the cleaning stuff, find a place, clean the bike, dry it off, lube it up, check for issues, and voila, you are done.

The best thing you can do for your bike is to take care of it, now that you know the whole deep cleaning process, it’s time you showed your bike some love and clean her up.

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Arbin Hank

The joy of riding bike has captivated me since the first time i rode a bike when I was 8. Since then, the passion for biking is all I've known. Hello, I'm Arbin Hank, the founder of california secret green-road bike team. Me and my team have decided to dedicate our time and effort you help out fellow bikers learn and choose the best products without losing themselves to confusing choices. Ride Bike, Stay green.

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