by Rod Bucton
Friday, 6.45 pm, Port Macquarie, Mid North Coast New South Wales, Australia
It’s been a long long week at work and to add to it, it’s been raining for a few days.
Finally the weather has cleared ready for your weekend ride with your mates. You head out and test your skills in the wet conditions. After an hour or so of slip and slide and puddles and mud and a few “small” hits, you head back to the car… your body and bike is caked in mud from top to bottom.
You are a little battered and bruised, but you had an absolute ball.
You head home drop your bike in the corner of the shed and dive in the shower.
You think to yourself “I’ll give her a wash later”, but one thing leads to another and your bike misses out again.
Something that most of us probably don’t enjoy to do all that much…but still a very, very important part of your mountain bike maintenance program and that’s cleaning your bike.
It’s something that I have really grown to enjoy because I’ve found there’s nothing like hopping on a bran new mountain bike. And second to that, is hopping on a beautiful, clean, well-maintained, well-prepared mountain bike.
For me, it puts me in a great frame of mind. It’s like when you clean and vacuum your car.
Next time you drive it, everything’s clean, everything’s tidy, there’s no dust, there’s no dirt. It’s clean, it’s organized.
And on my mountain bike, I feel in control, prepared, ready to ride, ready to take on whatever the next trail throws at you.
And you never know what maybe lurking under that mud, that is going to let you down next ride!
So for me, cleaning your bike is very important. It’s something I do after most rides, as most of the trails close to my home are a red clay. And so, when that becomes wet from rain or even heavy dew, it sticks and clogs my bike like you would not believe.
When it’s on the tires, and the tires are rotating, it flicks up on your frame, and goes everywhere. So I’ve found after riding, it’s important, when that mud’s fresh, to get it off. Otherwise, to leave it there for another day makes it just that much harder to get off and makes much a bigger job than it has to be.
So, firstly when you return home from a ride and put your bike in your bike stand. Or if you don’t have a bike stand, I position my bike with the back wheel in the panels of our fence which holds the bike upright.
Then, grab all your washing gear-
a garden hose, a bucket, an old sponge, a new sponge, a scrubbing brush, bike wash, chain cleaner, an old toothbrush, a chamois or soft cloth and a pair of workshop or gardening gloves.
For me after working in an office for years and years, my hands are very soft and tend to be cut and scratched just from looking at them…unlike my mates who have been working on building sites for a long time, their hands have hardened up, they don’t need to worry about this. Me, I’m a little bit different. A little bit softer. So I think gloves are a good thing to wear so throw them on and you can get into the job.
To start with grab a hose, and try to carefully hose off most of the heavy sections of mud. Always be super, super careful to never use a really high water pressure or a high pressure cleaning unit
Keep the water away from your gear shifters.
Keep it away from your bottom bracket.
Keep it away from your suspension forks, either the front forks or the rear shock absorber.
If you spray high pressure water into those elements, you can force water and dirt and grime into those components and as a result, they’re not going to work as well for long, and may even cause damage and will then cost you a lot of money to get them repaired, replaced, and back on the trails again.
I mentioned about keeping water away from gear shifters. What I’ve found, if you’re hosing in that area, over time water gets into the shifting cables, they become dirty, a bit gummy, and then they don’t move as freely and start to seize up. Your gear changes then end up being a struggle, rather than being smooth and effortless. So then, you’re up for new gear outer and gear cable, all because you were a bit sloppy with your hose when you’re hosing down.
So from there, after you have hosed off the heavy sections of mud, grab your bucket, a bit of warm soapy water, and start with a god sponge and go over the whole of the bike except the wheels. Use an older sponge just to wash the wheels, the rims, the discs, the spokes, the underside of the frame, the water bracket, the pedals, the rear triangle.
I really, really have always looked after my bikes and I was told once, by a guy that I used to ride with in my early days,
“If you look after your bike, it’ll look after you.”
and I found that to be true. If your bike is clean, well-maintained, you can see if there’s any faults, any problems, you can fix them, and keep riding. If your bike’s all dirty, covered in mud, grease and grime, you don’t know what’s working, what isn’t working, and unfortunately then your bike can let you down, and sometimes be at the worst times.
Then wash down with your hose on a light mist spray just to get that bit of soap off.
But if your bike is really filthy use the hard scrubbing brush to scrub the tires.
Now this might sound a bit of overkill but, as I mentioned, I ride in an area where the trails are a red clay. When it gets wet, it cakes on your tires and looks a bit untidy. So I like to scrub that off and then a good wash down.
At that point, just give your bike a bit of a shake, to shake of a bit of that water, and I’ll leave the bike out if possible, in the sun, just for a short while, just to let some of the water dry out.
And from there, use a light soft dry cloth to wipe your bike down.
If your bike is really, really dirty, sometimes, you might need to use chain cleaner. This a pretty unique little tool that clips around your chain and also holds a small amount of degreaser. By reversing the cranks this gives the chain an extra thorough wash to get it super clean. Use the old tooth brush for those extra difficult sections of your chain.
Once dry you need to re-lube, ready to store or for your next ride – ice wax on your chain and a light shock absorber grease to the sliders of your front forks and rear shock absorber (for a dual suspension bike).
Ice wax is known as a dry lube, even though it is a white milky type product and tends keep your chain dry and reasonably clean. There are some other chain lubricant products that are quite oily and hold dirt. Early on I used to have have a really dirty, greasy chain and was constantly, constantly degreasing and cleaning the chain.
An oily chain lube maybe something you only have to use when riding very, very harsh wet conditions with a lot of mud, a lot of water, a lot of grime, so that it stays on your chain a longer in those harsh conditions.
I have found maintaining your forks maintains the seals and keeps the dirt and the grime out of the seals, and they continue to work and work and work. And so use a little bit of grease on the sliders, and give the forks a quick pump and at that point, you’re pretty much ready to go, and pop your bike away in storage, ready for your next ride.
I’ve always taken this approach when washing my bikes and it has helped me keep them in excellent condition for years and years.
So with all this in mind washing your bike should become an essential part of your mountain bike maintenance routine. Not unlike maintaining your bike you should also focus on maintaining yourself with good exercise, a good sleep pattern and good nutrition.
One very important aspect to consider especially for mountain bikers are your hip flexors, as when you are in the seated position on your bike (and at work in the office) your hips don’t reach full extension, hence becoming shorter and tighter. This may result in causing back and knee pain as well as impacting on your glutes and restricting the amount of power you can apply to the pedal with each pedal stroke.
However one solution to this is with a well formulated program.
Click here to take a look inside the “Unlock your Hip Flexors” program and look forward to “returning the energy & strength to your body”.
So keep in touch and get out on the trails.
About The Author
Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.