Should I Wash My Mountain Bike After Every Ride?

One of the best ways to spend my day off is hitting the trails on my mountain bike for an early morning run or afternoon ride.

I come ripping through various terrains, some dry and some wet areas. Pedaling through these areas, I come across water, sand, mud, and clay that will build up and dry as I ride. After ten or more miles on the bike, the last thing I want to do when I get home is washed my mountain bike.

Time, again and again, has shown me that the best thing to do, however, is the opposite.

Should I Wash My Mountain Bike After Every Ride?

The short answer is yes, you and I both need to make sure we wash our mountain bikes when we get them home. It does not always need to be a detailed wash, but the excess mud and dirt must be removed.

Even if you are traveling with your bike, find a hose at your campsite or hotel and spray it off before riding again or heading home. Once you get home, however, plan to take an hour and spend time giving your mountain bike the wash it deserves. 

When we wash our bike after each ride, we get a longer lifespan out of it and will appreciate the effort in the long run.

Muddy mountain bike

How Often Should I Give My Bike A Detailed Wash?

A detailed wash includes a wash down with degreaser, chain lube, and polish. This wash usually happens after two challenging rides. 

By then, I had over 20 miles and layers of dirt in every crevice. This wash takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, ensuring that each area is cleaned and then touched with the appropriate oils and polish.

I like to make sure that it is dry after each wash entirely so that I am not letting water linger. Once it is dry, I take it to the garage to keep it out of the elements.

What Happens If I Don’t Wash My Mountain Bike After Every Ride?

If you only miss one or two washes on your bike, the damage is non-existent.

I may miss one wash every once in a while, but my experience of not washing a previous mountain bike has led me to make sure that I do not keep that habit for several reasons.

  • Grime and build-up
  • Rust
  • Loud Shifts

Wash Away The Grime And Build-Up

In my experience, going for long periods without a good wash can cause grime and build-up in your bike. This means sand and dirt can linger and wear down your gears and chains quicker than a clean bike.

This happens a lot when you spend more time just spraying the bike after a hard run than giving it a good wash and dirt removal. The build-up in the chain will keep it from moving and coming off the gear.

Related article – How To Clean Bike Brake Pads

Cleaning a mountain bike

Rust

Leaving mud or rainwater on your bike can cause rust on your bike’s aluminum and steel parts. The steel will not be as durable with rust as the aluminum will.

Aesthetically, it is an eyesore, but it can also start breaking down our bikes. The last thing we need on the trail is a bike breaking down and being miles away from the car.

Related article – How To Remove Rust From Bike Chain

Loud Shifts

One of the biggest concerns I notice when I do not wash my mountain bike regularly is the loud shifting during my ride. For me, I like a nice, quiet bike to help me focus on my ride. 

Loud shifting takes away from that calmness. It also makes it noisy for others who may be out on the trail. If someone hasn’t cleaned their bike, I can hear them coming before I see them.

Related article – How To Maintain Your Bike – Essential Maintenance Tips

What Should I Avoid When I Wash My Mountain Bike?

While you may think that you can use anything as long as it cleans your bike, there are a few things you want to avoid during the wash.

  • Avoid High Pressure
  • Leaving the Wheels On
  • Using a Cheap Brush

Avoid High Pressure

When you are washing your mountain bike, keep in mind that some parts are fragile. I usually use a garden hose, but I take the nozzle off first and then use the reduced pressure water for the rest of the process.

It may seem like using high pressure will be easy. It might be okay in some areas of the bike, but that pressure is strong enough to cause damage to the gears and the drivetrain.

Mechanic cleaning a mountain bike

Leaving The Wheels On

I take the wheels off when I give my mountain bike a thorough wash down. This is simply so that I can reach every part of the bike and ensure I am getting the grime and build-up out everywhere. Admittedly I don’t do this every time, but it’s good to really get in there once every few rides.

When you leave your bike standing, you force it to have pressure on the stand, which can be compromised in the wash. Also, there is a chance you can miss a few gaps of grime and build-up, causing rust later.

Related article – When Should I Replace My Bike Rims?

Using A Cheap Brush

Cheap brushes are usually thin and have small bristles. To get a good wash on your mountain bike, you need an excellent heavy brush with lots of bristles. 

It could be difficult to remove dried dirt and mud without a hard enough brush. For me, dried clay that has splashed and stuck to the mountain bike needs a good brush and a lot of elbow grease.

Dry Your Bike

No matter how good you wash your bike, if you do not dry it after, it could still begin the rusting stage and begin breaking down. You need to make sure you towel dry your bike, but use a different one for the drivetrain.

After I dry my bike, I add polish to the frame. Not only does it make it shiny, but the polish protects my bike’s paint, and the frame, in general, is protected from salt in the air, and excess minerals found in the water. Every environment is different, and exposure to these elements can impact the bike.

Keep Your Bike Stored Away After A Wash

When I give my mountain bike an excellent detailed wash, I go ahead and store my bike in the garage. I want to ensure that I keep it out of the rain, snow, and anything else that can damage my bike.

If you do not have a garage, I encourage you to sit the bike indoors in a shed or the corner of your room. If you live in an apartment or condo, you want to make sure you bring it up and tuck it in a closet or your designated outdoor space.

Related article – Bike Storage Solutions For Apartments

Hi, I'm Harry, the owner of this site! A 30-something MAMIL - a middle-aged man in lycra. An avid cyclist who is looking to maintain a baseline level of fitness to be able to enjoy the great outdoors on weekend rides with his mates!

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