How do you clean an e-bike? Blasting it with a pressure washer is not a good idea but e-bike cleaning advice is pretty thin on the ground.
Most manufacturers just recommend wiping the bike down with a damp cloth but that’s hardly going to be very effective after a four-hour winter slogfest. So what about some real-world e-bike cleaning tips? We asked the people who design them…
Bosch makes the drive units for dozens of e-bikes and we spoke to Chis Astle at Bosch UK about motor cleaning. For obvious reasons the company doesn’t recommend using a jet wash as this can cause water to penetrate the bearings but it does say bike shampoos and care products, that don’t attack plastics or seals, are okay. To stop dirt becoming engrained, it advises a post ride wash but there’s no information about what to do if it’s really bunged up.
During cleaning Bosch recommends removing the battery and display, but if the latter is fixed cover it with clingfilm during washing. The company does recognise water can penetrate the motor so it has coated all the contacts with a special coating that protects against corrosion and wear.
Despite Shimano’s motor being fully waterproof, Shimano’s Ben Hillsden doesn’t recommend pressure wash cleaning. Instead users should employ a damp cloth, with the water well wrung out, especially for when cleaning the battery and plastic cover. We’re not sure how you’ll be able to get to any compacted mud with just a cloth but Shimano says you can use a neutral detergent to help clean off the grime. To stop water getting into the battery Shimano recommends refitting any caps to the charger socket, which seems like a no brainer.
Giant was one of the few manufacturers that has a sequence of tips for e-bike cleaning and recommends initially rinsing your E-bike using a garden hose. It also says its bikes can handle lots of soap and water (the battery is waterproof) so you can also rinse the bike to get rid of any excess dirt off. Giant also recommends removal of the HDMI (console) between wet rides and cleaning because water is prone to get between it and the housing bracket and it says most error codes can be traced back to this element of the system. Drying this area and applying a dielectric lube is also a good idea.
Since the UK gets some pretty rubbish weather we wanted a homegrown perspective on cleaning so we spoke to Ian Alexander at Whyte bikes.
‘From our perspective, we wanted to try and design in as much protection to the frame and the battery installation as possible. Our downtube design without the cut-out, should prevent a lot less water and mud ingress into the battery compartment and related connectors, compared cutting a big slot into the underside tube and then fitting a cover. Our testing so far has shown very little ingress of mud and water up into the downtube from the opening below, so we are confident we have a good design to resist a torrid UK winter riding and regular washing.
Rather than referring us to the owner’s manual Specialized did provide some specific e-bike cleaning tips.
If it’s really filthy Specialized says it’s okay to use a low-pressure hose to get rid of most of the mess, but advises against getting too close to the bearings or near the area of the chainring/spider area as this can cause premature wear of the bearings and will void the warranty.
The company says you shouldn’t be too vigorous on the more sensitive parts of your e-bike, like the electrical components, bearings, motors, seals, and hubs and always use a soft brush.
MBR’s take on it
We can totally understand why some firms don’t want to recommend cleaning your bike with a ton of water because it could potentially cause warranty issues with bearings and the electrical components. However, there’s nothing in the owner’s manual that says you can’t ride your e-bike through a puddle or down a wet trail. Your e-bike doesn’t know the difference between that and being sprayed with a hose pipe.
Mud and gunk is going to get into the motor and battery area because in the winter your e-bike is going to get plastered with mud and the only way to break it down is either with a hose or a bucket and brush. Some companies acknowledge this is going to happen, others just seem to have their heads in the sand. Whatever the manufacturer’s view, when cleaning your e-bike we recommend you don’t do it too vigorously or use too much water. You should then dry it thoroughly, either with an air drier (like the Bruhl MD1400 below) or by leaving it in a sunny place. Periodically we’d remove the battery and motor covers and clean out any ingrained mud and then we’d apply a specific electrical grease or lubricant to the connectors.
E-bike maintenance products
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Muc Off Waterless Wash 750ml, £11.99
It does what it says on the tin – Muc Off’s Waterless Wash allows you to clean, degrease and detail you bike without water. It’s slightly more involved in the depths of winter, when your bike is really plastered in mud – you’ll need to dry brush the worst off – but for those less claggy rides, it’s quick and can even be used at the trail head after a ride. Muc Off also has a dedicated chain cleaner for e-bikes and follow-up high torque lubes.
Finish Line e-Bike Chain Lube, £9.99
Although the peak load on an e-bike drivetrain is not much different to a regular bike, the consistent high torque means e-bike chains experience higher wear rates. To combat this Finish Line has developed a semi-dry e-bike lube that also provides excellent corrosion resistance.
To make lubing an e-bike chain easier we combined this with Finish Line No Drip Chain luber. Due to the crank being independent from the chainring you can’t back pedal an e-bike to lube the chain like a regular bike, but the No Drip chain luber has an application pad on the end so you can at least spread lube along the links and keep waste to a minimum.
Bruhl MD1400 Single Turbine Dryer, £119
If you do decide to clean you bike with a hose, then keeping water out of the electrics is going to be impossible but you can dry things out quickly and easily using the Bruhl MD1900+ air drier. This device was developed for motorbikes but with its 500W heat function and 1600W turbine, it’ll rid moisture from an e-bike in no time. Yes, it is an investment but you can also use it to dry your normally aspirated bike and possibly even footwear and clothing.