How to clean your gravel bike
Wash your bike after every ride to reduce wear and tear with our quick and easy 5 step guide.
When we think of gravel riding, we imagine dusty golden roads that disappear into the distance. We imagine ourselves deep in nature, the blistering heat beaming down on the smooth gravel beneath our tyres. We return home giddy with happiness, put our bikes away and grab a cold beverage.
What we don't imagine is the wear and tear on our bikes (and, let's face it, our emotional wellbeing) when the dust and mud cling to the components. The fine sandy gravel acts as sandpaper against your drivetrain eventually leading to slipped gears and a whole lot of frustration the next time you ride. Add rain into the mix and you've got yourself a recipe for rinsing your bank account dry.
To cut a long story short, a happy gravel bike is a clean gravel bike. The good news is that it doesn't need to be as arduous as you think. We'll show you how.
The ideal cleaning routine
The benefits of deep cleaning your gravel bike every time you ride are marginal at best. If you're out on those dusty roads, the chances are you don't need to dedicate the remainder of the weekend to soapy water.
A quick rinse after a dry ride is great for removing the thin layer of dust that usually goes unnoticed between rides.
After a longer ride - a bikepacking trip or gravel race for example - we recommend investing a bit more time and attention.
What do you need to clean a gravel bike?
Cleaning materials don't need to be expensive or overly complicated. For years, many riders have repurposed common household items. Mod cons such as power washers and bike-specific cleaning potions and brushes have made the task much easier.
Brands like Muc-Off do a brilliant range of bike cleaning products to save a bit of elbow grease. Their products are environmentally-friendly and smell great - what's not to love?
Checklist of cleaning equipment:
- Garden hose or power washer
- Bike stand (optional but a real help for deep cleans)
- Bucket of warm soapy water
- Clean rags or microfibre cloths
- Small brush or old toothbrush for hard to reach places
5 steps to a clean gravel bike
Let's assume you've just got in from a gravel ride. The weather took a turn halfway round and you've returned with a bike that's barely recognisable. You have arranged to go out on the same bike with your friends in a few days' time.
The ideal place to clean your bike is outside: a garden or balcony for example. If you don't have any outdoor space, a bathtub might suffice.
We're big fans of keeping all your cleaning equipment together in one place. It'll be easier to grab and you'll know you have everything you need right there.
Remove all your accessories: water bottles, lights, bags, GPS etc. and place your bike in the bike stand. Take the wheels out if you prefer and set them aside.
It's crucial you get as much of the caked on mud and dust off the bike as a first step. Your bike (or more importantly its paint job!) does not need exfoliating with dust and pebbles.
Your wheels might have dirt between the tyre knobs, so a slightly higher pressure might help loosen the mud off.
Apply the water liberally and use the sponge and soap to bathe your bike.
Work from the top down so that the grime makes its way down the bike. This method also helps keep the sponge from getting too dirty too early.
Use a smaller brush to clean around all the nooks and crannies such as behind the chain rings and at the bottom bracket junction.
Apply bike specific degreaser to the whole drivetrain (chain rings, cassette and chain) and scrub the chain with a toothbrush or chain cleaning tool. Dirty chains are responsible for a lot of damage if they are left alone. You'll end up replacing your cassette and chain rings much sooner if you don't clean your chain regularly.
Finally, give your wheels a good wash on both sides and clean between the spokes. The longer mud stays on your tyres, the more likely it is to stain. If you have tan wall tyres, you'll want to act fast.
Using clean water, rinse the bike and wheels.
Now is a good opportunity to check your brake pads to make sure you have enough left for your next ride. Disc brakes are easy to maintain, however a few bad spells of weather could mean you're due a new set.
Put your wheels back in the frame and give the cranks a quick spin.
Grab a dry rag and begin working your way down the bike to get rid of any excess moisture.
Apply the appropriate lube (wet, dry, ceramic) to your chain, carefully avoiding braking surfaces and ensuring you apply it sparsely. Excess lube will clog your drivetrain and make a mess of your floor.
Perform a quick check of your bike: tyre wear, chain wear, any paint blemishes or dings you may not have noticed while it was caked in mud.
Once you're happy, relax and start planning your next gravel ride!