Brakes are one of the most important parts of a bike. They don’t just slow you down or stop you from your tracks. But they can also make you go faster! Yes, that’s possible if you use it properly.
Mountain bike brakes easily get dirty because they’re near the ground. This is especially true with brake rotors and calipers.
Cleaning the brakes isn’t really that difficult. But that’s if you know how to clean brakes without taking tires off.
So, how to do it?
That’s what we’ll help you with in this article.
Here, we’ll show how you can clean your brakes with the tires on. We’ll also give some tips on how to do this easily. As well as the reasons you need to have clean brakes all the time.
How to clean brakes without taking tires off?
The first step you need to do is to put your bike in a bike stand. We recommend you get a proper bike stand, so you can position your bike properly. Park Tool is one of the best bike brands that sells tools.
Get one where you can clip your bike’s saddle. This makes it easier for you to clean the different parts of your bike. This also ensures that your bike is securely connected to the bike stand. Open the stand’s clip and connect it to your seat post. You can also wrap a soft towel around your seat post. Most especially if you have a dropper.
Connect a hose to your faucet and open it lightly. Don’t open it too much so that the flow of water stays gentle. Pour water onto your brake levers using the hose. Spray it evenly throughout your cockpit.
This ensures that your cockpit is clean, including the bike’s stem and handlebar. Use your hand to rinse off any dirt off your cockpit and brake levers. Do this as gently as possible because some brake levers are very fragile. Take for example, Hope brakes that have complex structures.
Get a sponge and pour liquid soap into it. We recommend you use Muc-Off’s Nanotech bike cleaner because this is specifically designed for premium bike cleaning. Let the sponge absorb the soap. Then slowly rub it around the brake levers.
Make sure you cover every area because dirt, mud, and grime usually goes into its nooks and crannies. Rinse it with water.
But make sure the flow is just gentle. You don’t want water to enter the bearings because these can get damaged and rust through time. Repeat the soap rubbing process with the sponge after you rinse it. Make sure that there are no more bubbles or soap residue left.
Get a clean chamois and wipe the newly washed brake levers. Make sure that you cover the area of the brake’s position. This also includes the brake hoses that wind up along your cockpit, frame head tube, and down tube.
Wipe it dry. Get another dry towel and use it to wipe your bike clean and shiny. Chamois is effective in removing dirt and grime.
But they usually leave some swirl marks on the bike. This is a big turnoff if you’re particular with how your bike looks. Or if you want it to look very shiny. We recommend you use a microfiber towel to finish wiping the brake levers.
It’s time to clean the brake rotors. These are the brake discs located and connected to your front and rear tires. Follow the same process you did with the brake lever. But you can go harder this time because the brake rotors are made of metal.
They’re also more tolerant of rugged use. Rinse your rotors with water that gently flows from your hose. Use your hand to get rid of mud that stuck to it. But be careful because some brake rotors have very sharp edges.
Also, don’t touch your rotors if you’ve just used it and rode downhill. Rotors absorb all the heat from your brake calipers. And they get very hot.
These can even burn your skin sometimes. Use the Muc-Off bike cleaner and pour it into a sponge. Rub the sponge around the rotors. Then rinse it with water. Wipe it with chamois until it’s dry. Then use another dry microfiber towel to finish it and remove any swirl marks.
There are also times when you need to use a degreaser if your rotors are stained. Spray it directly onto the rotors and wait for it to dry. Then rinse it with water.
Now it’s time to clean your brake calipers. These are the small parts connected to your rotors. They clip and hold on to the rotors once you’ve pulled the brake levers. This is why it’s very important to keep them clean, so they can properly hold the rotors.
Spray degreaser directly onto the caliper. Then wait 5 to 10 minutes for the degreaser to absorb into the caliper.
Then rinse it off with soap and water. Use a chamois to wipe it dry. And then wipe it again with another dry microfiber towel. It’s even better if you use an air blower to dry the calipers so that it can also cover its internals.
And you’re done! Now, it’s time for you to test out your bike and see if the brakes work better now.
Benefits of Cleaning Mountain Bike Brakes
One of the most important things why clean your brakes is to have stronger braking. This happens because your brake calipers can directly latch onto your rotors. It then stops your rotors from rotating.
This won’t happen if the rotors are contaminated with dirt because the calipers will just stick to the dirt on the rotors. Strong braking is necessary especially if you ride downhill and enduro trails. You rely heavily on your brakes to provide momentum and slow you down on gnarly descents.
Modulation is important for bike brakes. It’s because too strong braking can throw you off your bike and over your handlebar. Meanwhile, weak breaking can offshoot you into corners and lead to accidents.
You need to maintain the right balance, so you can ride your bike properly. Clean brakes modulate your speed and put you in total control of your bike. You need this to become faster in the trails without compromising safety.
Safety is a very important thing in bicycles because these are just two-wheeled vehicles. You need to have the right balance and equipment, so you stay up on the ground. And one good way to ensure safety is to have good and clean brakes.
Clean brakes make sure that you can easily stop if you want to. An example is when there is a car that slid past you and they slowed down. Clean brakes also make the braking power more efficiently.
This means that you can control it much better. There are some cases when brakes are very strong that a slight pull can throw you off your bike. You don’t have to worry about that with clean brakes because you won’t get thrown off the bars.
Braking doesn’t just make you slower. What many people don’t know is that brakes can also make you faster! Think of it this way.
Clean brakes create efficient braking power. This means that you can modulate your brakes when you approach berms. You then easily release the brake levers once you’re in the berm. And the berm will send you faster through the trail.
How to tell if your brake pads need to be replaced
Mountain bike brake pads create friction when the brake pad and rotors rub with each other. This process slows down the bike and stops it.
But brake pads deteriorate through time and become thinner. This causes it to lose braking power. It also creates a squeaking sound that’s very irritating to the ears.
Check if the brake pads are still at least 1 mm thick. Replace it if it’s already thinner than that. You can also stack three credit cards on top of each other to know how thick is 1 mm.
It’s important to know how to clean brakes without taking tires off. Not only is this convenient and easier. But it also ensures that you have a safe, clean, and fast ride.
It’s not really that difficult to lean the proper way on how to clean brakes without taking tires off. You just need to know the right steps and use the right tools and equipment to do it correctly.
Just remember to check your brakes and bike before riding to ensure utmost safety and enjoyment.
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends.
After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings.
Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.