How To Clean Your Bike Like a Pro
A clean bike is a happy bike. True, you don’t have to break out the detailing kit every time you get a mountain bike a little dusty. After all, it is a mountain bike. It should be allowed to revel in the elements and find itself covered in mud like a preschooler left to his own devices on the playground on a rainy day. We certainly have fun riding in the elements from time to time; however, we’ve found that neglecting proper cleaning leads to premature wear on parts, paint and finishes.
Maxima has been producing cleaning solutions for motorcycles, cars and bikes for many years. They’ve developed and formulated oils, lubricants and cleaners for world-class racers in many disciplines—from Supercross to NASCAR to mountain biking. Maxima’s cleaning kit is our go-to choice when it comes to cleaning our test fleet. This is the process we use to get it done.
Our test bike this month received a healthy dose of mud thanks to a rainstorm that hit our SoCal trails mid-ride. It’s in desperate need of a bath. Riding a bike in this condition after a tough and muddy ride can be torture on a bike’s finish.
We started by putting the bike in a work stand, as it’s the easiest way to access all areas that need cleaning. If your bike has a dropper post, it’s best to not clamp the slider portion of the post, as the work stand can easily scratch the precise surface. We prefer to clamp the base of the post.
Begin by using a medium spray to blast off the first layer of dirt. You don’t need to get the bike squeaky clean yet. Simply blow off the biggest clumps of dirt, taking care to not spray directly at any of the headset, suspension, hub or bottom bracket bearings.
Using a pressure washer or a jet-stream hose on the bearings forces water into places it shouldn’t be. Be gentle with the water stream as much as you can.
Coat the bike with your bike-wash solution. We like Maxima’s Bio Wash because it cuts through dirt but is biodegradable and safe for use on carbon frames. Allow the bike wash to soak in to loosen the dirt while you work on cleaning other parts of the bike.
Fill a bucket with water. This one has some suds in it leftover from the last 6000 bike washes we performed.
We like to use two different brushes for a deep bike clean. This one here is a stiff- bristled brush that we’ll use for scrubbing the drivetrain and tires. Start by applying a healthy dose of any generic dish soap to the brush as you would toothpaste to a toothbrush.
Then, scrub the rims and tires. You can even scrub the knobbies (we always do) for an extra-clean bike. Repeat this for the second wheel, unless you’re riding a unicycle.
Then, spray off the dish soap foam from both wheels. All of the excess dirt and grime should come off with it.
Now, re-wet the bike to re-activate the bike wash you sprayed on earlier.
Now, go for the second brush in your cleaning kit. This should only be used for the frame and suspension components. By not using this brush on your drivetrain, you avoid spreading grease and grime over your frame and other critical parts.
Scrub the entire frame, fork and cockpit area.
Scrub behind the crank and in the suspension bearings quickly. It’s better not to spend too much time here, as you don’t want to introduce too much degreaser and water to the bearings—just knock the dirt off.
Scrub the cassette and chain by rotating the rear wheel backward and using the brush against the cassette. Keep doing this backward rotation until you’ve scrubbed the whole length of the chain.
Use this time to also scrub the derailleurs, pulley wheels and the areas around them. Be especially careful to not spray too much from the drivetrain, as the brake pads could become contaminated if the greasy soap suds land on the disc brake rotor.
Secret tip: The back of the fork bridge is often overlooked and is usually caked in dirt. Give it a quick scrub.
Use a gentle spray from the hose to take off all the suds. No need for the “laser beam” stream here. A gentle shower will do.
Use a compressor (if you have one) to blow off the water left after washing. If you don’t have a compressor, you can leave the bike in the sun to dry too. Be sure to not simply put the bike away wet, though, as it will cause critical points to oxidize and rust.
We like to use Maxima’s Suspension Clean formula to take the water spots off the shock body and stanchion tubes after washing. Dried water spots are incredibly abrasive and will prematurely wear your fork and shock seals if they’re not removed after washing.
Spray a bike polish, like Maxima’s SC1 Clear Coat, generously on a rag. Do not spray it directly on the frame, as the over-spray could contaminate the brakes or other components.
Use the coated rag to take off all the water spots left over after the wash.
As a final precaution to prevent contamination, you can use Maxima’s Suspension Clean sprayed on a clean paper towel to remove any contaminants you might have left behind.
Finish the last few touches, giving the rest of the bike a quick look-over, and then go give it a test ride and hit the trails.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.