How to Clean a Mountain Bike: Without Hose, Without Water

Approx Reading Time: 19 minutes

Without proper maintenance and care, mountain bikes cannot endure rigorous and prolonged cycling on rocky terrains. It is like driving a car with contaminated fuel hence putting the engine’s health at risk. That is not to mention that like a car owner always takes care of his or her priced four-wheeled possession; cyclists should not neglect their mountain bikes yet, expect them to perform optimally on the trail. Thus, you must begin to appreciate the need for a clean saddle, frame, wheels, sprockets, drivetrain, handlebars, and cassette.

To Clean a Mountain Bike, without hose, without water?

Yes, it is possible to clean a mountain bike if you do not have access to water or a hose. Several parts of the mountain bike can be brushed, or wiped with a towel and a cleaning mixture. For some parts of the mountain bike, like the chain, you will need a degreaser. Using a portable bike washer with a cleaning mixture is also a very good solution.

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Getting started: What makes a Mountain Bike dirty and why should you bother?

Mountain bikes are prone to getting dirty, even more than track or road bikes. Thus, you should not only think about different cycling conditions that expose your bike to unprecedented wear and tear. Dirt on a bike is equally undesirable, especially after getting caught in the rain far from home. From rolling over loose gravel on rocky mountainsides to picking dirt on muddy trails, it is important to keep your mountain bike clean at all times. 

The catch is that without paying attention to the condition of your bike, dirt that accumulates on vital components like chain box and mudguard would negatively impact its efficiency. You may also have to part ways with more money in maintenance and repair costs should you leave your bike to get dirty beyond recognition.  

Now, bearing in mind the above situations, a question to which cyclists should seek answers to is “how best can you clean a mountain bike?”. You should note that apart from making sure a bicycle is well maintained; the next thing is ensuring it is always clean. In this post, we emphasize the latter. Our aim in this blog is to teach you how to clean your bike without water and hose. We know some cyclists reading this right now may be wondering, how is that possible! Well, keep reading to find out. 

First things first, we invite you to go over the following questions. They will help us explain our stand on this post in the best way possible.  

  • How often should you clean your mountain bike?
  • Reasons for keeping your bike clean beyond ensuring its optimal performance? 
  • Should you clean a bike after cycling and why? 
  • What is the best way of keeping your mountain bike chain, drivetrain, sprockets, and cassette clean? 
  • Is it possible to clean your bike without a hose?
  • How can you clean a mountain bike without water?  
  • Advantages of cleaning mountain bikes without hose and water.

How often should you clean a mountain bike?

The first question you should ask before deciding to clean a bike without hosepipe or water is how often it should happen. If you love your bike, you will want to clean it as often as possible, maybe every day. But what do experienced bikers and manufacturers have to say? Does cleaning a bike every day, for example, affect the durability of its components such as chain and frames? Is it necessary to oil moving parts every time you wash your bike? 

By cleaning, we mean either using water or not. You should already know a clean bike function optimally, whether it is during summer, autumn, spring or winter. For us, doing so twice a month is an ideal cleaning frequency, albeit, cycling situations may dictate that you use a bike washer every week. Think about competitions that take place during bad weather such as heavy downpour, in which case, a more rigorous and frequent cleaning becomes necessary. 

Reasons why you should keep a bike clean 

  • Not pleasing: A dirty bike is not pleasing to the eye. Think about yourself being the biker who always shows up for competitions with a dirty Carrera MTB. You may be turned away or competitors may begin to think you don’t value hygiene. 
  • Inspecting: When your bike is clean, inspecting it for faults, wear and tear becomes easy. For example, you can easily spot cuts on tires, broken cables, leaking oil seals, weak frames and faulty cables on a clean MTB. On our part, we say, proper inspection is only possible with a clean ride. 
  • Maintenance and rust: If you always look forward to taking part in muddy cycling contests, you should not forget to clean your bike often. It is because after mud and dirt accumulate on components such as frames and chain with no cleaning taking place, it begins to weigh down your valued bicycle. Even worse, dry mud may cause alloyed parts to peel off, leaving your bike exposed to rust. 

Should you clean a bike after cycling?

The next question that equally involves cleaning MTB is doing so after cycling. Is it necessary or not? If you are a subscriber to online bike forums such as bikeradar.com, you may have come across this question quite often. However, because many people post their opinions and answers, we understand that deciding on the best way forward is often a big challenge. 

No worries though, because from our experience point of view, cleaning a bike after cycling is not very necessary. It is always going to depend on its condition. If trails are muddy, you will have no option other than wiping rims and frames clean. On sunny days, you may only have to worry about your wheels gathering dust, which is easy to clean. However, under favorable cycling weather, you will only do so after a couple of rides. 

What is the best way of cleaning wheels and MTB chains and how often?

Now, when it comes to making sure your bike is clean at all times, more questions come to mind. For example, how do you clean the chain, and how often should you do it? Also, is it possible to do it without using water and hose? 

First off, you should note that the chain is a bike’s most vital mechanical component. To ensure you have a top-quality and the best fitting chain, keep it clean. Smooth cycling is always a wash away. Think about grit chains gather from wet trails, pollens, and mud, you would agree that leaving a drivetrain dirty will only worsen your cycling experience. You will need to do it often depending on the nature of a trail. 

Now, when it comes to cleaning a drivetrain, you need either a brushing degreaser or any quality cleaning device in the market. You can also use rotating brushes for deep cleaning, thanks to bristles that reach every part of a drivetrain, leaving it clean and sparkling. In a nutshell, you need tools such as a hose, a chain keeper, an air compressor, a brush, a degreaser, container and a brush with stiff bristles. There are several videos online that will walk you through a step-by-step drivetrain cleaning process. Most importantly, you should be careful not to lose removable parts during the cleaning process. Remember to wipe the chain dry after cleaning, and also oil it, especially if you use water. For starters, take a look at the following simple drivetrain cleaning guide:

You must start by checking the drivetrain for wear and tear. You may want to replace it with a new one should there be damages. Do not remove it and avoid using kerosene or petroleum-based cleaners. It is because while they can replace water; failing to thoroughly cleanse your bike afterward would be detrimental to its health. We will consider crafting a future post on the dangers of kerosene or petroleum-based to clean your bike. 

You can choose from different materials but from our experience, cotton rags are the best cleaners. Alongside it, you need a bike cleaning degreaser, which you can get from a store nearby. 

● How can you clean MTB without water?

Stepping out of a clean MTB feels great. When you know you are good at doing the cleaning without water, you always want to roll on trails like a pro. Not only that, cleaning your bike often saves you money and you can be sure of optimal performance once you are on the saddles and ready to go. 

Thus, apart from the above guide on cleaning drivetrain, you should always make sure other components are equally super clean. As soon as you start wiping clean the drivetrain, be extra cautious not to damage it. If you don’t have a cotton rag, flannelette is a great option. Now, spray a degreaser on the rag and chain then while grabbing the latter’s rung, create a kink. It will help you shake off grime and dirt from the chain.  

As you do this, cycle the pedal backward with the rag on the drivetrain. Continue doing so as dirt accumulates on the rag. You can always switch to a clean section of the rag and continue removing dirt using this method. Do not forget to clean the jockey until every component is sparkling clean. 

● Cleaning wheels without water

It is expected that of all components of your MTB, the wheels are the dirtiest, having rolled over all sorts of surfaces. But do not fret because with a good cleaner, soon everything will look as good as new.  

Using a bike washer with a cleaning mixture is an ideal solution, cleaning the wheels should be a breeze. You should resist the temptation of using a hose or a pressure wash. Most importantly, as soon as you finish wiping clean and dry the wheels, braking pads should equally be back on their seating, intact and dry.

● Cleaning the frame

When it comes to cleaning frames, there is quite a lot of work to do. You must remove wheels, toolbox and every component attached to the bike. If you find it challenging removing the rear, it is because the chain tension is high. So, what is the way forward? Well, lower the gears so you can have it removed the easy way. 

When cleaning frames, you should equally avoid using water. Chances are always high that water will get into bearings, causing more problems than you would expect. Instead, go for a bike wash solution, ensuring it is properly diluted so that it is not harsh on the frame. You don’t want to end up with a frame ripped off paint in the end, do you? Well, also steer clear of petroleum distillates. 

When it comes to cleaning, start by spraying the solution on the frame, then use a rag to wipe it clean and dry. If your bike has electrical and electronic components such as batteries and cables, pay close attention to the wiring to avoid damage. Moreover, hard to reach parts such as brakes, bottom bracket, fork, and rear triangle calls for more attention when cleaning the frame. With a frame that is sparkling, you are ready and set to start cleaning the next part. So, what do we have next? Well, let’s take a look. 

● Working the cassette 

A cassette on MTB refers to a group of sprockets on the rear hub. Slotting into a freehub, a threaded lock-ring holds the cassette in position. Sprockets can range from five to twelve depending on the model of MTB or manufacturer’s specs. You will, however, note that most mountain bikes have a standard number within the range of nine and eleven. Now, before we take you through steps of cleaning a cassette, you may want to ask, why is it important? 

The truth is that without this part on, mountain bikes wouldn’t be mountain bikes. Bikers do realize a pedaling efficiency on different trails, thanks to a cassette. It enables cyclists to vary gear and wheel revolution per minute. You can also put it this way: The more gears you have on a cassette the easier it is to vary speed and torque. 

When pedaling moves to sprockets with more teeth, you are technically working with an easy gearing lever hence less torque and easy uphill cycling. However, this option means you have to make more revolutions on the drivetrain. On the other hand, cycling on a sprocket with fewer teeth means torque increases, few revolutions but more pedaling effort. It is the best option for downhill racing. With that information, let’s quickly go through how to clean the sprockets/cassette. 

Step 1: remove the Cassette

Depending on how dirty the cassette is, removing it may be necessary. But let’s just say you have to clean it separately, so start by getting it off the bike. 

Step 2: Get the Cleaner

Get hold of a recommended cleaner, in this case, a degreaser. Sprockets accumulate both dirt and oil, hence cleaning them is often a tedious process. 

Step 3: Spray the cleaner

Next, spray cleaning solution on the cassette and a rag.

Step 4: Rotate the cassette

Put the rag between sprockets then rotate the cassette. Do this each time you move to adjacent sprockets. 

Step 5: Check for further cleaning:

Now, depending on the amount of dirt that settles on the flannelette cleaning rag, you should tell whether further cleaning is necessary.

What next after cleaning?

We do not want to assume you’ve landed on this blog by mistake. It is probably because you have always sought the easy way to clean a bike. Maybe you are looking forward to showcasing your new knowledge during dry weather-when water is scarce. That’s would probably make for an excellent topic for upcoming posts. What do you think? 

Well, after cleaning every component of your bike, and reassembling all removable parts, should you hit the trail? Well, not that fast. There are a few things you must know, and most importantly, do. 

● Apply a lubricant 

Greasing or lubricating movable parts of your bike are particularly crucial, nonetheless, after cleaning. If you used water to do the job, we would be emphasizing this bit even more. All the same, mountain bikes need rigorous lubrication to boost their efficiency, which brings me to the question, what is the best lubricant? 

Well, given the tough riding conditions, a heavy lubricant is the best choice. It lasts long and makes it possible to cycle in poor conditions, cushioning the drivetrain and cassette from overheating. It is also because conditions under which cyclists ride mountain bikes require frequent transitions, thus the heavier a lubricant is, the better it is for your bike. For the road biker, a light lubricant is ideal.

Now, let’s answer the big question which is, how should you lubricate your bike? You should take care to avoid messing chain stays and seat. Thus, resist the temptation of spraying whichever lubricant you have for the task. Instead, spray it on a rag them slowly and carefully apply it on movable parts. After this, run the chain over a rag as many times as possible before kinking it. You only need the lubricant in the chain links; hence running it over a rag only cleans mess on the outside. 

Is it possible to clean your bike without hose?

Let’s start by nodding in the affirmative. Yes, it is possible to clean a mountain bike without a hose. But what if you do not have tap with fresh water at hand. Forget about cycling into a cash wash for high water pray on your bike’s muddy/dusty components and start thinking about putting money on a quality cleaning solution/bike washer. On this premise, we are looking at a situation where you will be cleaning your bike at home, forgoing the usual hose pipe, and water spray at a car wash station. 

Because a hose is not necessary, the next question is what makes for a perfect bike cleaning solution?

● Defining the best bike cleaning products 

There are more than a dozen different brands of bike cleaning products such as prays. It, therefore, means you will have to do a lot of soul-searching before deciding on the best one for the money. Since it’s possible to clean your MTB without water, especially after it gathers difficult dirt and stains on the trail, you should pay close attention to the following:

  • Biodegradable: Use a biodegradable bike cleaning solution or detergent. It should also be a solvent-free formulation and non-toxic. We emphasize this because in as much you want to have a clean MTB next time you hit the trail, being mindful of the environment, your health, and the durability of your bike are crucial.
  • Damage: You should use a cleaner that does not pose any risk of damage to components of your MTB. While there are many ideal bike solutions such as SPIN POWER Foaming Bike Wash, counterfeits will corrode the frame and other steel components. You don’t want to end up with a difficult chain sprocket. 
  • Protective film: If you can get a bike cleaner that leaves behind a protective film afterward, the better.
  • Cleaning brush: When it comes to choosing a cleaning brush, go for both soft-bristled and hard-bristled. Each of these will come handy at some point. For example, use a brush with stiff bristles on tough mud stains and a soft one to clean off mud and grime from sprockets. 

Advantages of cleaning mountain bike without hose and water: The things you need

Thus far, you are probably asking one big question. Why is it necessary to clean my bike without water? The truth is that it is not every day that you will steer clear of hosepipe and water. For cyclists who prefer (partly) non-water cleaning, there is a reason for it. The following are advantages that come with it:

● Degreaser 

It is expected that at some point, components like drivetrain, cassette, and sprockets will have gathered dirt and grease. Thus, using a degreaser becomes necessary because using water will mean you apply extra force. A degreaser helps clean all moving parts. 

 ● Cleaning solutions 

Mountain bike cleaning solutions are all over the place these days. You just need to get the best one for the job. They have the advantage of removing and loosening dirt with great ease. It is something you won’t achieve with water. Talk about tough stains and dry mud; you realize a cleaning solution will deliver the perfect results you need. You should, however, dilute a solution before using it on your MTB for the best results.

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● Cleaning brushes 

Cleaning your bike without water does not mean brushing it becomes unnecessary. They are even more necessary, without which some parts will remain dirty. A brush, whether soft or hard, helps with softening mud and grime before scrubbing them off both easy-access and difficult-to-reach areas. 

● Sprays 

When you talk about cleaning a bike without water, sprays become the immediate alternative. However, you don’t just use any kind of spray. To make sure you have the best one, ask around for recommendations. So, why are sprays necessary? 

Well, you can use sprays together with a cleaning solution. But the catch is that with a quality spray, stubborn and dried dirt/mud will be nothing about which to worry. You should then proceed to rinse off with a solution. You should remember that sprays vary depending on bike stains you want to scrub, so make sure to put money on an ideal one. 

● Bike polish 

Apart from cleaning solutions that leave behind a protective film on the frame and other components, a polish is often necessary, especially when water is not part of the work. Bike polishes are sprays formulated with polytetrafluoroethylene, abbreviated as PTFE. The good thing about these types of sprays is that they guard your bike against corrosion by creating a glossy finish after application. 

A point of caution: Do not spray brakes and components related to them such as pads and discs as it would lead to contamination. You don’t want to end up braking hard when speed peaks and suddenly, there is a blind corner. There are sprays specific to other parts such as forks. 

● A cleaner 

There is also a bike cleaner, which slightly varies in composition compared to a spray or cleaning solution. Cleaners serve the purpose of removing grit, oil, grease, and fluids without risking the optimal performance of your bike’s brake pads/discs. There is a general agreement that a good cleaner reduces squeal and moistens brake pads, hence prolonging their life. 

Final Words

Cleaning a mountain bike without a hosepipe and water, we know, may prove a challenging ordeal. However, with this post coming hot on the heels of increasing demands for bike cleaning solutions and sprays, there wouldn’t have been a better time to learn more. Your bike deserves the best care and maintenance. It is the only way it will serve you well on the trail. 

Given that MTB treads difficult trails than a road bike, keeping it in good condition goes a long way in ensuring its longevity and optimal performance. A non-water cleaning routine, say every two weeks or month, therefore, becomes necessary. While at it, remember to inspect components for wear and tear. Also remember that after cleaning your MTB, lubricating its movable parts is necessary. Take note that the type of lubricant to use varies depending on the nature of the trail and other riding conditions such as weather.