Serious Cleaning for Serious Rides - the Dirt Bike Cleaning Guide
Depending on where and how you ride, your dirt bike probably takes a beating - and giving it a decent clean will make it run smoother and look slicker!
However, you need to ensure you're not getting too carried away with the cleaning that you cause damage.
Let's run through the essential steps to cleaning your dirt bike to keep it in tip-top shape for the next time you're ready to create mayhem on the trails.
The Parts of a Dirt Bike to Avoid When Cleaning
Yep, we know - dirt bikes are exposed to rain, snow, dirt, water; surely they'll be ok with a bit of cleaning spray?
The first thing to remember when cleaning your wheels is that there are some bits of a dirt bike that don't take too kindly to direct exposure to water, so you will need to remove these parts or cover them carefully:
- The seat: Listen up, washing your seat can destroy the foam inside, meaning your seat will quickly deteriorate into a wobbly, knobbly mess that is NO fun to ride on!
- Air filter: If you get water into the air filter, your bike will be scrap.
- Skid plate, bark busters & pipe guard: You don't absolutely need to remove these bits, but if you're doing a once a season clean, they're best taken off so you can get to the proper grime.
Ok, once these bits are removed, you'll want to cover the airbox and muffler.
You've already removed the air filter but still need to cover the airbox - duct tape or a good airbox cover work equally well.
Duct tape is also acceptable for covering the muffler, or you can use a sandwich bag and an elastic band instead - whatever you choose, it's got to be watertight.
Dirt Bike Cleans: Pressure Washer vs Hose
Now, some people might suggest pressure washing - but we're going to recommend you stick with an ordinary garden hose.
Pressure washers seem a lot more effortless, but there is a horrible risk you'll spray high powered water in places you don't want it, which can be a deal-breaker.
If you're desperate to use a pressure washer, make sure it's on the lowest possible settings, and take it easy with the spray.
Better yet, reel out your hose. You want to avoid directly spraying the muffler, airbox and carburettor.
Hosing isn't intended to be the finished deal; it's just a starter phase to get rid of the caked-on mud and dirt, so don't worry if your bike isn't sparkling yet!
Once you've hosed off those tricky bits of grime, you'll need to get your hands dirty!
- First, scrub away at any places where mud builds up. We're talking the wheels, chain, sprockets and swingarm. Get right in there, and don't forget the underside of your dirt bike.
- Don't get the hose back out until you've given it a seriously decent scrub - and then scrub again, till you hose it down and there's nothing left to see!
- Now you want to get your soap out.
Dirt bike cleaners need to be of decent enough grade to clear through grime residue, but they are not so acidic that they risk stripping away your paintwork.
Mix your water and dirt bike cleaner into an excellent thick, soapy lather, and start with the bigger bits first. It's tricky to get a sponge into those tiny nooks and crannies or between the spokes, but we'll get to them soon.
Here's the secret sauce - let the soapy lather sit for about two minutes.
That gives it more time to get under the skin of any oily residue and makes it easier to rinse off.
Bike Wash for Dirt Bikes
Obviously, we're MTB cleaning specialists, so it's going to be time sooner or later for something a little more niche!
A great way to keep your dirt bike in ace shape is to go for small washes with your dirt bike wash solution after a messy ride - you know the ones we mean.
Bike wash is fine for the frame, chain, sprockets and engine, and it's well worth using even if you've gone the whole soap and sponge route the day before because it'll stop the muck building back up again.
A decent bike wash is also great for a shiny finish.
However, you guessed it; there are some bits to avoid. You want to try not to get any bike wash on the brake pads and be gentle when you're rinsing it down again.
After cleaning, use a dry towel (a fancy microfiber version or a plain old cotton towel) to soak up the excess water and buff everything to a nice shine.
Looking After Your Dirt Bike Chain During Cleaning
The chain is a pretty essential bit of your bike, so it needs a bit of extra TLC.
If you haven't cleaned it with bike wash, you can use compressed air - but it needs to be totally dry without any water before you get started. Once it's clean, apply some chain lubricant to keep it smooth.
Compressed air is a fantastic option for those tiny bits you couldn't reach with your sponge or brush, too.
Chains that are looking a bit sorry for themselves can also be cleaned separately:
- Take the chain off, and dip it completely in a mild solvent or chain cleaner.
- Get your brush back out, and scrub off any dirt.
- Leave the chain to air dry, and then apply your favourite lubricant.
- Put the chain back - of course.
How to Clean Scuffs Out of a Dirt Bike
Finally, you're likely to find some scuffs on your dirt bike and can try getting rid of them after a thorough clean.
You'll want a scuff remover cleaning product, which usually needs to be soaked in water, and then scrubbed over scuffs.
When you're happy that you've got a tidy result, you'll want to remove any duct tape, plugs or caps, slot everything back together, and get ready to make things dirty all over again!