How to Clean Bike Gears: remove dirt

Mountainbike gears ensures that the chain is guided to the correct chainring. If a derailleur is very dirty, the gear will work less smoothly. A dirty derailleur can also cause wear of various parts, including the bicycle chain. Regular cleaning of your mountain bike derailleur is therefore recommended. On this page I tell you everything you need to know about cleaning your MTB derailleur.

Why cleaning bike gears is important

A derailleur ensures that you can shift smoothly with a mountain bike. It is the guide of the MTB chain to different chainrings. When a derailleur is not properly maintained, shifting can become a problem. But not only that: various mountain bike parts, including the chain and sprockets, will also wear out faster.

What can you clean the bike gears with?

Before I share with you the steps to clean an MTB derailleur, it is important to consider the resources you need. Or rather: the means you should not use! Do not use these resources:

  • Lubricant, this ensures that dirt can adhere correctly
  • Brake cleaner, as this can degrease the bearings

It is best to clean the gears with a bucket of water or a good degreaser. You can also use a claw brush to remove stuck dirt from between the derailleur wheel.

how to clean bike gears
You can clean the derailleur wheel with a ‘claw brush’. © MTBdex.com

Mountain bike gears cleaning step-by-step plan

Lubricant and a good brush? Then we can get started.

Follow the steps below to clean the MTB gears.

  1. Place the mountain bike on a stand

    It is useful if your rear wheel comes off the ground, so that you can keep spinning the wheel. Preferably use a mountain bike stand or hang it up.

  2. A clutch derailleur? Then turn it off first

    Turning off the clutch of a derailleur makes it easier to clean and possibly disassemble it.

  3. Fill a bucket with water and grab a sponge

    Clean the derailleur carefully and with care. Choose lukewarm water or a good degreaser to loosen the stubborn dirt.

  4. Remove the coarser dirt from between the derailleur pulley

    Use a claw brush. Do not use a screwdriver as this may bend the derailleur pulley.

  5. Rinse the derailleur well with water and dry it with a clean dry cloth

    Don’t forget to dry the derailleur wheel and cage thoroughly

  6. Reengage the clutch and check adjustment

    Don’t forget to turn on the clutch if you just turned it off. Due to cleaning, the derailleur can no longer be properly adjusted. Check out everything you need to know about derailleur adjustment MTB.

It may be smart to disassemble your derailleur and derailleur wheel for cleaning. This prevents you from coming into contact with other parts during cleaning.

When cleaning a mounted derailleur, it is inevitable that you come into contact with the bicycle chain. It will most likely be necessary to clean the MTB chain. And did you use degreaser? Then you should not forget to lubricate the MTB chain as well.

Frequently asked questions about cleaning MTB gears

Do I have to disassemble the MTB derailleur to clean it?

It is not necessary to disassemble the derailleur during cleaning. It can be smart: this way you do not come into contact with other parts during cleaning (which then have to be lubricated again, for example).

What do I need to clean a derailleur?

Use a good degreaser and plenty of water. Use a claw brush to remove stuck dirt from the derailleur wheel.

How often should I clean the MTB derailleur?

This depends on how often you get on your mountain bike and under what weather conditions you have ridden. When you notice that your mountain bike shifts less smoothly, it is probably time for a cleaning.

Do I need to lubricate the derailleur pulley after cleaning?

Personally, I recommend not to lubricate the derailleur wheel. A well-lubricated MTB chain that passes the wheel provides enough lubrication in my opinion. Too much lubricant can also cause dirt to adhere quickly.

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