Washing your MTB without ruining it

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Power washers are great, but you can’t use them everywhere on your bike (Photo: Michael Cerveny)
Power washers are great, but you can’t use them everywhere on your bike (Photo: Michael Cerveny)
  • Winter riding, means a lot more bike washing
  • Although cleaning your bike is an activity of care, much damage can accidentally be done
  • The power washer can be both friend or foe. Use it wisely 

Mountain bikes and mud. They are inseparable if you are going to be riding in winter.

With the severe weather South Africa has been having these last few weeks many trail networks are muddy, and if you are going to ride your bike will collect a lot of mud and require more frequent cleaning.

Bike cleaning should be simple. Like washing a car. But it isn’t.

The mountain bike has a lot of exposed components and mechanical features, that can be severely damaged by incorrect water pressure and sediment.

You might think you are doing a stellar job cleaning your bike, with that power washer, but you could be doing a lot of damage.

e-bike
Mud has to be cleaned off the bike, but how you do it, makes a big difference (Photo: Bosch)

Use pressure and soft touches, to clean

The best approach for cleaning a muddy mountain bike, is to use both delicate sponge dabbing and a high-pressure cleaning system.

On the frame’s main tube sections you can use the power washer. Tyres and rims are easily cleaner by the pressure of a power washer, but don’t aim it at the hubs, which can ingest some muddy sediment, seeping into the bearings, and triggering rust.

The biggest risk areas for damage with a power washer are your pivot bearing and suspension seals.

On a dual-suspension mountain bike, you’ll have a rear linkage. This contains pivot points, that turn, thanks to bearings, which make your suspension link to the shock.

These bearings don’t like high-pressure directed at them. They are adequately weather-sealed to deal with rain or some terrain splash, but not a stream of high-pressure water, from a power washer.

Most bearings are steel, with the most expensive variants being ceramic. And steel bearings will rust, if you manage to force some water into them.

mountain bike fork
Your suspension seals are made to keep out dust, and a bit of moisture. Not a jet of water pressure (Photo: Ohlins)

Save those seals

Your fork and shock seals are the two other places where care should be applied. Rather use the sponge and wipe these areas clean, when having to clear mud.

A mistake many riders make is to aim the power washer at their bike’s fork or shock seals. Designed to keep environmental contaminants like dust or light moisture out of your suspension system’s damper, these seals won’t resist a power pressure.

The result is a ruined seal, and water inside your suspension, where it will mess with the internals that make a fork or shock do its job.

Washing your muddy bike should not be a rush job. Take your time, and don’t try to do it all too rapidly, with the convenience that a power wash promises.

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