Race Against Time: The 5 Minute MTB Cleaning Routine

Got a few minutes to get out of the door and forgot to clean your bike after your last rain-filled, mud-soaked ride?

Don't worry; we've got you!

Let's get cracking with a super speedy five-minute guide to cleaning your MTB ride from the experts at Get Dirt Box.

What Happens if I Forget to Clean My MTB Bike?

First, don't panic! Everyone (yes, even us) forgets to clean their bike some days.

Or, perhaps we didn't forget but were bone-tired after a long day in the saddle and didn't get round to it.

All is not lost, because although we'd always recommend giving your bike at least a quick wash every couple of weeks, missing a clean here and there isn't going to spell disaster - nothing terrible happens if you miss a shower, right!

The same goes for your bike.

However, don't let it become a habit.

There are all sorts of potential problems lurking if you've got particularly wet, and MTB bikes don't take kindly to being saturated (psst, we've another guide to a thorough clean which highlights those bits you always want to keep dry!).

How to Clean Your MTB Bike in Five Minutes

Here are the steps to the quickest clean of your life, and it's dead simple:

  1. Collect your grubby bike and hose it down.
  2. Spray your technical bike cleaner over the whole frame (NB, make sure you're in the shade out of direct sunlight!).
  3. Give it two minutes - don't rush this bit, or it won't have activated.
  4. Use a microfiber sponge to scrub the frame, or use a brush for any really grimy bits.
  5. Rinse off with a hose, not a power washer, and buff dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
  6. Lubricate your chain, rotating the pedals backwards while dropping the lube inside each chain link.

Done!

Now, ideally, you'd leave it overnight, so everything has set and dried, but if you're in a serious rush, you can get going right away in a pinch.

As we say, don't let that be your everyday cleaning routine, and it isn't a deep clean and won't remove any ground in grime or oil residue, but it'll do for a quick turnaround.

How to Stop Your MTB Ride Getting Dirty

We're only joking; of course, there's zero way to guarantee that oil and mud aren’t going to leave their mark!

However, you can protect your bike and avoid a lot of wear and tear.

There are a few options, but some include:

  • Using a protective PTFE solution for your frame - note that these are NOT suitable for brakes, so keep it to the frame!
  • Apply a detailer finish for matte MTB bikes, which protects the frame and is an easy detailing option.
  • Choose proper quality chain lubricants, and use a moisture-resistant protective product to stop water from making its way in. Again, don't touch the braking surfaces.

Good protective cleaners form a seal, which is a handy way to stop oil from adhering to the frame and reduce your cleaning time.

With any of these options, it's beyond essential to be careful about getting any cleaning solution or spray on your brakes or pads, as a messy application can cause them to slip or malfunction - needless to say, that's a situation to avoid.

Tips to Avoid Damaging Your MTB Bike During Cleaning

Mountain bikes are meant to get dirty. People end up causing damage during cleaning because they're being too enthusiastic, using too heavy a cleaner, or opting for high power pressure washers that are too ham-fisted for the more delicate parts of the bike.

You don't need to drag out the toothbrush for a tiny bit of dirt, but you do need to be conscious that build-ups of mud can cause problems of their own.

Let's run through some simple tips to make sure you're keeping the MTB cleaning gods on your right side:

  1. Don't spray pressurised water near your bearings - get them soaked through, and the water will wash the grease out.
  2. Use a hose or bucket of water, never a spray washer. If you're worried about high pressure, stand a bit further back.
  3. Opt for a mist spray rather than a flood to ensure you're not saturating any parts that don't like water.
  4. Have a range of brush sizes. Big brushes are best for the frame, medium-sized brushes with stiffer bristles for the hidden bits, and a tiny brush for the smaller parts such as the cassette and chain.
  5. Buy a proper bike cleaner, which is the most efficient way to deal with grease or those areas that are hard to clean. Water is ok in a rush, but you'll want a good soap option for your more in-depth cleans.
  6. Clean the chain well, always. It's easy to focus on the frame and making it look fantastic, but carefully cleaning your drive chain and other moving parts is more important.
  7. Strip all the gunk out of the cassette, and clean the chainrings too.
  8. Always dry your bike off. You can lean your bike side to side, tip or bump it to make sure there isn't any water resting in the heads of the bolts, which will turn to rust if it is left there.
  9. Make sure to lubricate properly when your bike is dry, and never skip it! Lubricating the chain is crucial, and you need to give it a few minutes to soak in and wipe off any excess.

There you have it! It's absolutely possible to give your MTB bike a quick clean in less than five minutes, but it’s not a go-to solution to replace proper cleans after a week or two of rides.

We'd also recommend more frequent cleans in rainy winter weather to ensure you aren't leaving build-ups of oil, rust, dust and dampness that'll take way longer to deal with than if you keep up with your cleaning regime throughout the season.

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