The straight answer to this question really has to be, “I don’t”. But of course if I left it there then this really wouldn’t be much of a blog post, would it!
So what am I getting at here? Well first off as a mountain biker you have three bike cleaning options as I see it.
Option 1. You just don’t bother cleaning your bike at all. This will work for a short time and if you continue to lube up the chain regularly then your bike will continue to run OK for a surprising amount of time. You do however open yourself up to early failure of various components. And it won’t run as smoothly or noiselessly.
Option 2. You meticulously clean & lube your bike after every ride. Clearly the best way to go and if we all had the time or could hire someone else to have the time to do it for us, then I think we’d all choose this way. But I certainly don’t have time to be cleaning my bike that regularly and even if I did I can’t imagine I’d be able to afford all the cleaning fluids and solutions that I’d get through anyway.
Option 3. Clean what you need to. This is my way of doing things. Mostly this boils down to wiping and spraying my fork stantions after each ride unless I’m really pushed for time and cleaning the chain with a chain cleaning device about once per week/month or after a really muddy ride.
Of course after cleaning the chain I relube with a decent cycling specific lube. Then when I have the time I’ll treat my muddygoose to a proper clean with a bucket and sponge but this is infrequently. I also have a can of a light teflon spray oil to spray onto my derailleurs from time to time to stop them seizing and a big tube of grease for my bearings, but both of these are probably better classed as maintenance rather than cleaning. Although there’s a thin line between the two!
What products do I choose? Well that depends on what’s on offer, available or takes my fancy. I’m not going to tell you that one’s better than the other or to buy this or that for the best results. We can all make up our own minds I’m sure! But I will tell you what I’ve got at the moment.
Fork Juice from Juice Lubes.
I like Fork Juice, it comes in a spray can and is great for spraying onto your fork stantions. If the dirt is dry leave it on for a while before wiping away.
Cycle your forks by putting your weight onto the bars and then wipe off the extra dirt that comes up out of the dust seals. I like this one, it seems to keep my forks lovely and smooth.
Bike Hut Degreaser from Halfords.
I use this in a chain cleaning device I got from Amazon. Seems to do an OK job but I might try another brand next time. Get a big bottle and it will last you ages. I use one load of degreaser in the device and then 3-4 loads of plain water to rinse, until the water stops coming out black. Wipe dry by running the chain through a rag and then lube up.
Wet Lube from Muc Off.
Lubes well, easy to apply but picks up dirt something terrible. Will definitely be changing this when I run out next time.
Brake Juice from Juice Lubes.
Brake Juice also comes in a spray can. Spray it on your disks now and then and that’s it. No need to wipe or rinse, it just evaporates away very quickly.
Very easy to use, even seems to help prevent squealing a little. But not a necessity in your cleaning regime. I might not bother to buy any more when I run out, I guess it depends on how rich I’m feeling!
Hozelock Garden Sprayer.
The latest tool in my cleaning arsenal. Like a portable pressure washer but with bike-kind lower pressure spray. Fill with water and then pump by hand to create the pressure. It holds 3 litres and although it’s not designed for bike cleaning the Hozelock Garden Sprayer is ideal for taking in the car to your next biking trip. The nozzle can be adjusted between spray and jet and the length of the wand lends itself to getting into all the nooks and crannies too.
I use mine at home as well as on trips, because I have no access to the back garden except through the house and I have no access to a hosepipe except when in the back garden; of course a muddy bike can’t go through the house! Taking it to a muddy ride is the best use though as it’s portable and the mud comes off much more easily when fresh and wet. Take an extra 5 litre bottle of water and you can clean your mates bikes too.
So that’s what I do. As for you, well pick a regime that fits your needs and time. I really do recommend the sprayer and the fork juice and some kind of chain cleaning device and use all of mine regularly. Old tea towels make great rags and even new ones aren’t too expensive if you buy value ones. And of course above all, don’t forget to lube!