How to Wash Your Bike After the Ride

Aug 26, 2022

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Bike riding is an option for some, but passion and love for most bike riders. Many bikers may want to see if they are taking care of their bikes as much as they are riding them. Bike riding is done on various tracks which may include metal roads, arena tracks, and dirt roads. Being a bike rider, you must take care of your bike as much as possible after you ride it on the dirt road.

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When you have been riding a bike on a dirt track for some time, your bike may accumulate chunks of dirt in various parts of the bike. When these dirt chunks are mixed with water, the dirt can not only rust the metal parts of your bike but can also clog the pathways for the gear chain. The dirt in the chain will reduce the efficiency and speed of the bike due to increased friction caused by wear and tear on the chain and gear. 


Similarly, the small dirt particles stuck in the wheel ball bearing will begin to rust it and you’ll soon start hearing the noise coming from the wheel. The brakes are another crucial part of the bike that becomes the target of the water-dirt mixture. When using the bike on a dirt road, the brake cables may accrue dirt particles which can cause the hardening of the brakes as well as the sudden snapping of brake cables when applied at above-average speed. The dirt-ridden brake cable can also get stuck when not cleaned for a long time. So, now that you know the risks of not properly washing your bike, you might want to know how often or when should you wash your bike.

When to wash your bike

Other than a yearly or quarterly maintenance schedule – assuming you do have such schedules, you should always at least rinse your bike after every other day of riding the bike on the dirt track. Similarly, if you’re a daily bike rider for a short route, or if you ride a bike occasionally but on a longer route, thoroughly washing your bike afterwards must be your mantra.


It is quite common sense to wash your bike after riding it, but did you know that if you have not been riding your bike for a long time (for example, 6 months or so) you should take it out for a ride and wash it afterwards too? An unused bike can have the grease, lubricant, and dirt mixed and stuck in various moving parts of the bike. If the bike is kept unused for a long time, this paste-like material can become hardened and cause extremely difficult to return to normal operating conditions.


Washing your bike on a maintained schedule will keep our bike’s metal frame shiny and rust-free. Likewise, for living areas with extreme temperatures (both hot and cold alike), washing your bike every so often will normalize the temperature of the metal structure of the bike. Having normal temperature of the metal body will keep up the overall strength of your bike that can withstand sudden jerks during bike riding on uneven and dirt tracks.

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Tools needed for washing a bike


Properly washing your bike requires several tools so that you get the maximum benefit for the time spent taking care of your bike. If you use a different tool than needed, you might cause more harm to your bike than help it. Below we list a few such tools along with their typical use when washing your bike:


Plastic bucket or similar container: To fill up the detergent and clean water

Sponge: To dip and hold detergent water

Soft-haired brush: To clean dirt from the frame and shiny areas of the bike

Scrub brush for tires: To clean the tires of the bike

Liquid detergent: To produce soapy water

Water hose with adjustable nozzle: It will be used to rinse down your bike softly or hardly in the beginning and end

Dry pieces of cloth: To dry up the bike after washing

Wax: Once you have washed your bike, use wax for the shine and protection from water

Step-by-step guide on how to wash a dirt bike

Before you begin washing your bike, plan it well, and plan it. If you do not plan it well, you will not only be spending extra products but also be wasting lots of time, redoing many things. Following are some steps that you can follow to properly wash your bike:


i.Inspection

Begin by inspecting your bike carefully. Do you see a lot of grease and lubricants oozing onto the areas where they are not supposed to be? If so, you are going to need a lot of detergent water, and small pieces of dry cloth. If you see the grease, and lubricants in narrow places, you might also need a narrow brush. If the bike seat has a cover, take it off and place it away from the washing area safely.


ii.Dry run

Before washing with detergent or water, clean the dried chunks of mud with a dry cloth. Similarly, clean the lubricants, and grease from unnecessary areas of the bike with a dry cloth. Make sure that you do not clean the lubricants and grease excessively since that may cause a lacking lubricant which is needed for the proper functioning of the bike.


iii.Wet run

Now connect the hose with the water source and put the nozzle to low pressure mode. Now gently pour the water over your bike specifically under the mudguards, and tires. After pouring water, wait for around 5 minutes. This water will soften the dried and hardened mud chunks as well as prepare the bike for detergent washing. At this point, you can use a wet cloth to clean the mud from the bike frame, or a scrub brush to clean the tires.


iv.Prepare and wash with the detergent mixture

Put a reasonable amount of liquid detergent and mix it well with water. Once done, you are ready to clean your bike with detergent water. After cleaning the mud from the bike, your bike will have grease stains, and mud stains left. Similarly, the shine will be at its lowest as well. This is the time for detergent washing. Dip the sponge in the detergent mixture and gently begin cleaning the frame, tires, chain guard, mudguard, handle, and other areas of the bike. All the lubricant stains and mud stains are ready to be washed off now.

At this point, you should use a scrub brush to clean tires, and soft haired brush to clean off the chain guard, and tire mudguards. Also use a soft-haired brush to clean off the rim, and spokes of the wheels and bike pedals.


v.Wet run – Hose it down

After washing your bike with detergent, put the hose nozzle to a high-pressure mode and throw water at soapy areas of the bike. Thoroughly rinse it off so that there is no soap left around. Especially target the mudguards, tires, and pedals since the mud is usually pretty dried and stuck at these places. Remember to clean the greasy areas because dry run cannot properly clean the grease.


vi.Shakedown

Once you have washed your bike with water, it is time for a gentle shakedown so that water droplets come out of any inaccessible holes and are ready to be dry cleaned. Shake the bike gently and run the wheel for a few seconds which will thoroughly throw out any water droplets stuck in there.


vii.Drying

Now you can dry your bike with a clean, dry cloth. Make sure that you gently dry all the areas without rubbing hard because that may chip off the paint, or cause harm to the colour of the bike. Use a dry cloth wrapped around the narrow brush to dry off the inaccessible places of your bike.


viii.Lubricate, and grease up

After drying the bike, you must restore the lubrication of the bike. The lubricant should be in a pourable bottle. Slowly pour the appropriate amount of lubricant into bike cables, on the chain, around the central axel and wheel hub, brake clutches, handle bearing, and pedals. If you do not pour the lubricant in these areas after washing, they will be pretty stiff after a few days due to rusting. After applying the lubricant, check and run these places so that excess lubricant comes out.


ix.Take a ride

Once you have lubricated the moving areas of your bike, you should take it out for a short tour. One Km of the ride would be enough. This will make sure that the bike has been properly lubricated and lubricant has reached the necessary areas.


x.Final Dry Run

Take a piece of a dry, soft cloth and remove the excess lubricant that came out of the holes after the ride. Do not rub it hard or put the cloth inside the holes to clean off the lubricant. Only clean the lubricant that is outside the holes.


xi.Waxing

Now that your bike has been properly washed, you’ll notice that the shine of your bike is pretty off. That is because the detergent cleans all kinds of shiny stuff from your bike. To re-shine, your bike, take a small, dry piece of sponge, apply the wax onto it, and rub it gently on the exposed areas of your bike such as the frame, rim, spokes, wheel hub, and crank arm, and mudguards. After the first application, use another sponge to rub the wax evenly but gently on the bike. Repeat one more time such that you do not see any leftover wax, and the bike shine is starting to appear.


This will conclude the washing of your bike, the way it is supposed to be.

Dos and Don’ts when washing a bike

There are many things that you should Do, or Do not do when washing your bike. Here we list a few of the Dos and Don’ts.


i.Do’s

Inspect the bike before washing

Gather all the necessary tools, and products before washing commence

Use clean water for washing

Use high-quality liquid detergent, lubricants, grease, and wax

Use a clean, soft cloth, and fresh sponges every time for washing

If possible, use WD-40 or a similar product to prevent metal parts from rusting

Unplug the battery, if your bike is motorized, or uses a battery to power up the headlight


ii.Don’t

Aim the high-pressure hose at the moving parts of the bike such as the central axel, wheel hub, or the clutch brake cables

Use WD-40 or other petroleum solvents on the chain, gears, or any other parts of the bike which use lubricant or grease

Use any sharp tools, metal brush on the bike frame

Let the water get into the brake cables

Use water which has very high or very low temperatures

Frequently Asked Questions

i.Can I Use a Pressure Washer or Hose to Clean My Bike?

In general, you can use a pressure washer or hose to wash your bike. But always be careful to not aim the washer or hose towards the lubricated areas of the bike such as the wheel hub, central axel, brake cables, and handle ball bearing.


ii.How Do I Prevent the Chain on My Bike from Rusting?

Rust is the product of water and air. Make sure that your bike chain is always well lubricated. After each ride, you should use a soft brush to clean off any dirt from the chain and re-lubricate it. Remember, do not use the scrub brush because that will remove, the greases from the interlocking of the chain which is not easily replaced.


iii.How often should I clean my bike?

Overall, washing your bike often will not hurt your bike as long as you are not using detergent and a pressure washer every time. It is a good practice to wash your bike after every 3-6 days of use on a dirt road. If you mainly ride on clean racks, then you can wash your bikes once a month.

Conclusion

Bike washing becomes intuitive once you have done it a few times. You can take inspiration from various sources on the strategy of bike washing. One such source is the following video: https://youtu.be/yjuKatMkIkA In general, the video follows the method we outlined in this article, you’re always encouraged to take educated decisions by taking a different approach to properly washing your bike.