Cleaning and Maintaining Your MTB In Dusty Conditions

Cleaning and Maintaining Your MTB In Dusty Conditions

Ahh summer, long days, sunny weather, and dust. So much dust! Maintaining your bike in dusty conditions requires a bit of a different approach to keep things running smoothly without making all the grit stick where you don't want it to.

Read on for a selection of tips to keep your bike feeling great over the summer.

Dusty Shuttles
"Getting out for a day of shuttles sure is fun, but travelling on a trailer up a dirt road can make a pristine bike super crusty in no time"

In this blog we will cover:

  • Looking after your suspension
  • Drivetrain maintenance
  • Waterless cleaning
  • Go easy on the grease

What you'll need:

  • Microfibre cloth (cockpit/frame only)
  • Dust brush (cockpit/frame only)
  • Drivetrain cleaning brushes
  • Grease rag
  • Spray bottle of bike wash
  • Dry chain lube
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Air compressor (optional)
  • Clip-on chain cleaner (optional)

Look After Your Suspension

Dusty Suspension Fork
"Show your fork that you love it by wiping your stanchions down before each and every ride, or even before every run if you're doing shuttles up a dusty road"

Our number one tip for looking after your suspension, especially when it's super dusty, is to keep the stanchions on your fork and shock clean and free of grimy buildup and dust.

Giving the stanchions and wiper seals a wipe down with a microfibre cloth before each and every ride will show your suspension that you love it and will keep it feeling plush for longer.

Allowing gunk to build up around the wiper seals is the quickest way to make a plush fork feel sticky. The grit will work its way past the seals and into the internals, making your suspension feel harsher, and it can even wear through the coating on the stanchions if left unchecked for too long.

If you're doing shuttles on a dusty road and your bike ends up caked in dust at the top, it's a good idea to give your stanchions a quick wipe before each run to keep them performing at their best.

Also, think about increasing the frequency of your service intervals if you're ploughing through a tonne of dust on every ride. Even just dropping the lowers on your fork to replace the splash oil and regrease the dust wipers should be enough to maintain their plushness if you stay on top of it.

Need suspension lubes or service parts? Check out these links.

If you notice streaks of caked-on dust running down the side of your fork it's a good sign that you're well overdue for a service (and possibly a new fork).

Drivetrain Maintenance

A good dry chain lube is the way to go in dusty conditions. Wet lubes attract dust and they'll mix together to form a lovely grinding paste that will eat through your drivetrain in no time.

Dry lubes are generally a 'wax in a solvent' that goes on wet to coat the chain and then leaves a lubricating film behind as the solvent evaporates. Some brands don't require you to wipe the excess off as you would with a wet lube while some still do. Read the instructions to be sure.

For best results, it's normally recommended to lube your chain at least an hour, or even the night before your ride to give it a chance to penetrate into the rollers and dry off properly.

You will still get a bit of buildup when using wax-based lubes but it doesn't attract dust and tends to flick off easily, making it much easier to clean than the greasy sludge you get from wet lubes.

Some of our favourite dry lubes are made by Squirt, Smoove, and Muc-Off

Check out our full range of chain lubes

Cassette Cleaning Brush
"These little brushes are great for dusting down your cassette and jockey wheels"

When it comes to cleaning time you should be able to get away with a set of drivetrain cleaning brushes to clean the dust off the cassette and dislodge any buildup on the jockey wheels and chainring. Finish Line has a great little brush called the Grunge Brush that is perfect for getting dry crusties and dust off the exterior of your chain, chainrings and cassettes. A toothbrush will do the job though if that's all you have access to.

Finish Line Grunge Brush
"The Grunge Brush is a quick and easy way to give your chain a scrub before applying some fresh lube"

If you can hear the grittiness in the chain when you pedal slowly, it means that the dust has found its way inside the rollers and it will need a more thorough clean. Clip-on cleaners work well for this, but removing the chain and giving it a good shake in a lidded container with some degreaser or concentrated bike wash will also do the trick.

Chain Cleaner
"If your chain is sounding super gritty you might need to give it a deeper clean to flush the dirt out from the insides of the rollers"

Check out our range of bike cleaning tools and brushes

Just be aware that it's totally possible to clean a chain a little TOO thoroughly, and a squeaky clean chain can end up...squeaky not long into a ride. If you've done a deep clean you'll probably want to lube your chain twice before the next ride to ensure that the rollers actually have some lube inside them and it's not just metal on metal. Do one application the night before and then the second at least an hour before your ride and you should be good to go.

If you're heading out for an all-day adventure or racing an Enduro it's not a bad idea to take a small bottle of lube with you so you can re-apply if it starts to get a bit noisy.

Waterless Cleaning

The good thing about dust is that you don't need to grab the bucket and hose to give your bike a clean. In most cases, all that's required is a wipe down with a microfibre cloth and a dusting with a soft-bristled brush. An air compressor with a blow gun attachment or a can of compressed air is great for blowing dust out of hard to reach areas, as well as the chain, cassette, and cockpit area. Just take the same precautions you would with a hose and avoid blasting directly into any bearings and seals. You'll be amazed at how clean you can make your bike without much effort.

Dusty lever
"A soft bristled paint brush works well to clear most of this stuff out but an air compressor works even better"

Old t-shirts do just fine for wiping down your chain and cleaning greasy parts but those old moth-eaten things don't retain dirt well so they're not the best choice for cleaning your frame. Go for a microfibre cloth wherever you can. They do a better job at lifting the dirt and trapping it in the fibres where it is less likely to cause scratches. Keep your bike cloth separate from the grease rag and send it through the washing machine when it starts to get grubby.

Microfibre Cloth
"A microfibre cloth will lift the dirt and trap it in the fibres, making it a much better option for cleaning than an old t-shirt"

Get the Muc-Off Microfibre Cloth Here

Splatter marks from puddles or sticky bits from that electrolyte drink you dribbled can be targeted with a spray bottle with some diluted bike wash, or a dedicated waterless wash product. Go easy with it though, and get rid of the dust first or you could end up with a bunch of muddy smears.

Get Bike Wash Products Here

Be careful with some of the waterless wash products (and most car wash) as they often include silicone or wax-based ingredients in their formula. They work well to make your paintwork look all sparkly but it's worth taking some precautions to keep it away from your brake pads and rotors to avoid the risk of contamination. If the product you're using contains any of those ingredients, or you're just not sure, it's a good idea to remove your wheels and cover your brake calipers with a Ziploc bag when using them.

Go Easy on the Grease

Dusty BB
"Dust will be attracted to any oil or greasy residue so try to keep it contained and clean the surrounding areas with isopropyl alcohol after working on your bike"

Grease is your friend when it's wet and sloppy out there, but grease and oil residue attracts a lot of dust, especially around the bottom bracket, suspension pivots, and headset. You'll still need to keep using grease over summer, just don't go overboard, and make sure you clean off any excess that purges out when you reinstall the parts. Give the surrounding area a good clean with isopropyl alcohol to remove any greasy residue before you hit the trails.

Excessive dust on your suspension products means that either they weren't cleaned properly after their last service, or they're crying oily tears because you've never loved them and the seals have died from neglect and too much gunky buildup.

In the next post, we'll go through some of the most common creaks, squeaks, and knocks that MTB's tend to develop. We'll give you some tips on how to seek and destroy annoying noises so you'll be able to ride in peace.

Have we missed anything? Let us know your tips in the comments on the socials and we might include it here.

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