Riding & Racing on Gravel – Clean Up Before The Trip Home

Continuing on from our Beginner’s Corner article – Riding & Racing on Gravel – You Get Dirty – we thought we would share some quick tips for those who travel to distant events or races – how to clean your rig before the flight or drive home.

Err… my kit is about to get seriously dirty.

Assuming you took a flight or made a road trip to a distant gravel cycling event or race, it is possible your bike may have gotten a wee bit dirty. While mud and crud caked onto one’s frame, components and wheels isn’t detrimental, cleaning your machine sooner versus later always makes the job easier.

BicycleCleaning2015-1This is particularly important if you flew, especially to an event overseas. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is known to open bike cases for inspection, and they don’t need further aggravation dealing with a filthy bike, potentially dragging along soil samples from another country.

BicycleCleaning2015-2Whether you drove or flew, resources such as water, hose or spray guns aren’t found at every event.

So, what to do? One one proven solution, and one unorthodox solution, can get your bike clean enough for travel on a plane, inside or outside a car.

Solution One:

Car Wash – Most modern self-service car washes feature at least one or two bays installed with a powerful jet spray. While the power jet action won’t get your bike absolutely sparkling clean, it will remove most of the crud. Additionally, car washes are cheap. To run the sprayer for a couple of minutes will cost one or two dollars, at least here in the US of A. If you have some paper towels or a rag handy, they can be used for a quick wipe-down of the bike, making your clean-up effort a little tidier.

BicycleCleaning2015-4Avoid directly jet spraying hubs, bottom bracket and headset areas. These areas of the bike contain bearings – while most modern bicycles feature sealed cartridge bearings, even those cannot prevent infiltration of water flung at high speed.

BicycleCleaning2015-5Solution Two (not recommended):

Firstly, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD. This solution is unorthodox and requires the use of a hotel shower / bathroom. It has the potential to be very messy. Because most hotels have a strict policy about trashing a room, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD. We cannot think of any reason to use this method, other than an emergency cleaning just before an international flight with your bike – see our earlier point about soil samples. As such, these steps are only suggestions – the Gravel Cyclist crew has never cleaned a bike using this method.

  • Step 1 – Take your bike inside. Hotels are generally fine with bikes being stored inside a hotel room, but if your bike is filthy, probably not. You should probably refer to Solution One before thinking about this.
  • Step 2 – Lift and carry your bike to the room – mud on the hallway carpet isn’t cool.
  • Step 3 – Load the bike into the shower. Assuming a shower / tub type arrangement, carefully slide the shower curtain aside, lift the bike inside the tub, climb in, and slide the curtain closed.
  • Step 4 – Fire up the shower and clean the bike. If the shower head attachment detaches, use it to spray clean most of bike. As in the first solution, use a paper towel or rag to do final wipe-down of the bike.
  • Step 5 – Give your filthy cycling kit a quick clean in the shower.

We hope these quick and simple cleaning solutions prove helpful. Thanks to Michael Toth of Valrico, Florida (who doesn’t use Solution Two) for suggesting this article.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Avatar Daniel

    There’s a car wash down the road from me. I use it all the time to wash the bike and then ride it home. Its cheap, I think $3 is the max I’ve ever paid, but be prepared for some odd looks from the other customers.

    • JOM JOM

      I’ve gotten used to ignoring the other customers 🙂

  2. Avatar Mike Wood

    I bought a small 12V pump kit used by people to wash down Jeeps after 4WDing. I take a camping water container (REI, 7 gallons) and I can wash 2-3 bikes. The kit gives about 125psi but with low flow (small jet) so it lasts well. I’ve seen all-in-ones too.

    • JOM JOM

      Excellent idea Mike! Thanks for chiming in.

  3. Avatar Sean

    Do you know of any gravel/fire road rides taking place christmas weekend (dec 24-27) in the orlando/claremont area?

  4. Avatar Mark Bates

    Any tips on how to get kits clean. I tried Clorox II after racing some wet events in WV, but it seems like that mud just sets right in forever making my kit a little different from the rest of the team that doesn’t partake in gravel (mud) races.

    Mark, Richmond VA.

    • JOM JOM

      Mark, I’ve had marginal success in cleaning kits post events – particularly in WV and northwest GA. Sometimes my resources are limited – hotel with no washing machines etc – regardless, I soak the dirty clothes immediately in a sink. When I do have access to a washing machine, I’ve had reasonable success with Tide Pods. Generally, I relegate one kit for racing in disgusting conditions.

      • K-Dogg K-Dogg

        Gravel Cyclist’s crew had our genius designer incorporate black grease, dirt specks, Georgia red clay, and Gu coffee stains into our kit. You can’t tell if we are slobs or not.

        Actually we are…..especially that Aussie bachelor.

  5. K-Dogg K-Dogg

    You can also swish it in a river or lower it into a waterfall on a rope. Pack one of those
    pot scrubbers on a stick.

    At Sac-O-Suds our cheapo motel let us use their pool hose…..not in the pool area of course.

    You can also put it on your roof in a rainstorm and drive 75 mph for a few hours.

  6. Avatar Heffe

    The Lynskey looks like a converted mountain bike, is that right?

  7. Avatar Bike Lover

    I usually rent a room by the hour and shower with my bike. Sometimes the bike comes out dirtier than when it came in. Is that TMI?

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