Cleaning Up a Muddy Mountain Bike

If you’re using your mountain bike the right way, it will get extremely muddy. Cleaning up a muddy mountain bike may seem like an impossible task — but you have to get the dirt, sand, and grime off your bike unless you want shredded brakes, bum shifting, and a dead mountain bike.

You must clean your muddy mountain bike after every messy ride, no matter how tired you are. Even if your bike gets a little spritz in the rain, you should religiously wipe it down with a rag and think about relubing the chain. For the times when your mountain bike gets totally trashed by mud, you’ll have to do a little more maintenance.


-Work stand (optional)
-Lubricant — grease for places on the bike where metal touches metal and liquid lubricant for the chain and other pivot points on the bike
-Chain cleaner
-Various scrub brushes

Getting Started

If your mountain bike is totally soaked in mud and dirt, your first action should be to get rid of any large debris you can see. Get all those broken sticks, dead leaves, and big clods of dirt off the bike. Once the big stuff is off the bike, it is time to spray your bike down (the whole bike) with a good cleaner and degreaser product.

TIP – When picking a degreaser, check the label to make sure the one you buy is approved for both plastic and rubber. Degreasers that are citrus-based are usually bad for mountain bikes.

Getting the Wheels Off

If you have a work stand handy, you’ll make the job of cleaning up your muddy bike much easier. The work stand will make it easier to remove your wheels and really clean that bike up. If you don’t have a work stand for your bike, you can either lean the bike up against a wall, or use a bike rack in your neighborhood to keep it standing up. A bike without wheels needs a place to rest.

With rags, sponges, brushes, or whatever you want to use, gently brush away the muddy areas that didn’t come off with degreaser. If you scrub the bike too hard, you’re basically scratching the bike with sandpaper. There’s no reason to ruin your paint job just to save some time.

Cleaning the Chain

Spray a little water on your chain, then spin it into action holding a brush over the chain where it passes over the back cassette. This is a quick way to clean your chain without using a fancy chain cleaning tool. After you clean it moving forward, back-pedal your chain across a rag soaked in degreaser. Voila — clean chain.

Rinsing and Finishing Touches

Once your muddy mountain bike is returned to its clean state, it is time to rinse the whole thing down with a hose.

Avoid using high pressure hoses to rinse your bike — high-pressure water has a way of getting into the bearings and even the bike’s frame. This will rust out and destroy your bike in less time than you think. Instead, use low pressure and take your time rinsing the bike. Avoid spraying water directly into the bearings.

Listen for any crunching or whining sounds right after you clean the bike. These sounds imply that there’s dirt deeper in the bike, near the hubs or any of the bearings. This kind of dirt requires a more professional bike disassembly and cleaning job.

Lube Up

You need to relube your mountain bike’s chain, pivots, pulleys, brakes, cables, shifters, and levers. After your lube job, wipe the excess off with a rag. Excess lube attracts grime and can mess with your paint job as well.

While you’re on your hands and knees lubing your mountain bike, take a little time to perform an inspection. While you are up close and personal, it is easier to see loose bolts, frays in the cables, or a crack in the frame. If you can catch a serious bike problem now, you’ll have less of a headache dealing with it in the future.

If you do a complete cleaning job on your mountain bike every time it gets muddy and dirty, your bike will last longer and perform better. A clean mountain bike is a happy mountain bike.