It’s a given that rust is bad for your bike, so you’d think riding in a dry environment would mean you have a much easier time keeping your bike in tip-top working order. Well…not quite. It’s true that water should be kept to a minimum, and at low pressure, when cleaning your bike, lest you damage joints and bearings. That said, dust can wreck havoc of its own if you let it build up and clog the delicate mechanisms that let you push it to the max. Cleaning your bike after a run down dusty trails or sunny desert sands requires special care. Fortunately it’s not difficult, it just takes a little knowhow and the right items in your bike maintenance kit.
How to Clean Dust and Dirt From Your Bike
There are a few reasons to avoid too much water or liquid cleaning agents when you’re trying to de-dust your bike. Liquids can make it more likely for dust to stick to your bike, especially in nooks and crannies where moisture might not evaporate right away. With that in mind, give your bike a good wipe down when you’re done with your ride. If there is caked on mud or dust, feel free to use a damp cloth or gently rinse the frame and tires, taking special care to dry as you go with another cloth. A little soapy water can make a huge difference on your tires and the bulk of your bike. Just don’t spray your bike hard with the hose— you could inadvertently squirt water into parts of the bike that should stay as dry as possible.
Clean rags will help you remove dust from the frame and other parts of the bike, to work lube into the gears and brakes, and to wipe off excess moisture or grease that could trap further grit. An old tooth or nail brush can help you get into tiny crevices, too. You’ll want both a cyclist-specific degreaser and dry lubricant on hand to tend to your bike chain. This is the part of your bike that sees some of the most wear and tear, so give it extra attention every time you clean your bike, or ideally after every ride. Don’t be afraid to loosen the chain so you can really give it a good inspection and access it from all angles. In addition to the chain, you’ll want to examine your bike’s front chain rings, rear cassette, and rear derailleur and make sure each is clean and freshly lubricated to avoid unnecessary wear and keep your bike parts lasting as long as possible.
When you clean the suspension system on your bike, pump the components a few times as you lube to make sure you haven’t missed any dust. Wipe excess lube away so it doesn’t get more dust stuck to your freshly cleaned bike and so all parts are clean and dry when you’re done. This is why it’s so important to use dry lubricant, rather than wet lubricant, during desert bike maintenance. A dry lube is often wax-based, making it less sticky, but also less durable. A dry lube will easily wash off in rainy weather, and won’t last for as many miles as a wet lubricant. However, they’re crucial even on slightly dusty dirt trails in the woods, not to mention desert or beach conditions with considerably more opportunities to get coated.
Don’t forget to stay away from your disc brakes with any product other than a specific brake cleaner— anything else could gum them up. A specific disc brake cleaner will keep them in good working order without causing damage. These cleaners are designed to air dry rapidly while keeping the brake parts hydrated and free of grime. You shouldn’t need to clean your brakes too often. As important as bike maintenance is, sometimes it’s wise not to interfere too much.