I took my mountain bike out yesterday in the snow. Did some hills around town, riding through slush and puddles, and all sort of dirt/mush/ice/snow.

I gave the bike a pretty good wipe-down after the ride, but I have my outside spigots turned off, so I didn't hose it down.

Should I be worried about potential damage to cogs/rings/chain/etc, or any of the other components on the bike? It's a Specialized Epic, aluminum, full suspension.


  • Last winter when I was riding I found the salt was really hard on my chain. I gave it a spray before and after every ride but I still found many rusty looking spots (it was in good condition before winter). My bike is aluminum and it faired pretty well. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 13:08

6 Answers 6


For a one-off ride in the salt like that, you should be fine for now if you lube the chain and wipe it down. Give the bike a good washing whenever the weather warms up enough to turn on the outside spigot.

In my experience of riding through road salt (and grit, which is probably just as bad) on a regular basis, the bike tends to need a new chain every spring, and a new cassette and bearing overhauls about every second year or so.


Road salt is pretty bad for your bike, and I would recommend cleaning it as often and as thoroughly as you can. It's my understanding that snow and ice can cause rust on steel frames, so you'll want to get those off as well. On an aluminum frame, I'd be concerned with the paint -- and with screws & bolts (usually made of steel).

I've never had a bike with suspension, but I would think the same problems could happen there, although my wife's suspension fork is sealed. (Rear suspension would offer more places for road salt and ice to hide, but rear shocks are usually sealed units as well.)

Clean thoroughly and often. You can use a tub or a shower, and I recommend against high-pressure water.


Salt could be very dangerous. If you own a car, you should already know that.

Your chain and probably other parts of drivetrain will need replacement in spring, if you ride your bike in winter.

If salt gets inside your suspension, it can do bad things to it.

Ride a cheap bike in winter.

  • 2
    I have ridden my bike through many winters, and haven't had it at all destroyed by the process. I'm sure there are ways to help protect it, but as long as you clean it periodically, the bike didn't seem to suffer. (Trek 1200c, 5 years of Boston winters).
    – zigdon
    Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 20:27
  • All of this is true, except for the claim that your bike will need to be replaced. Your drivetrain will need replacement if you don't clean it often. Commented Jan 31, 2011 at 22:31
  • I do not see where I have stated that bike will neet to be replaced. I have seen high-end fork which had got salt got in it because of lack of maintainance. It could not be repaired. It really depends on components on your bike. I would not ride an Ultegra-equiped bike, but I do not see a problem replacing a chain in the spring, as you would need to do that anyway.
    – Papuass
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 8:45
  • Papuass: I think your last bolded sentence is ambiguous, you should rephrase it if you don't want to infer bike being replaced.
    – user652
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 4:29

Just adding some experiences that I've had biking through several winters with my hard tail.

SALT: It really comes down to keeping the salt at bay. It's doable, but it takes work. The main thing to do in the winter is once a week; wipe down the chain (dry), apply your lube, wipe again, lube again, and wipe off the excess. Also, you'll want to use a few q-tips to get any gunk out of the two cogs of the rear derailleur as that will build up fast. This will keep the salt and grit from doing the most damage.

Fork suspension: The main problem is that the stanchions need to remain intact of rust and pitting to move smoothly, and that the innards remain sealed off. Below freezing, the seals will contract and open up and become brittle. Salt will get into the fork and destroy the insides. Salt will also rust the stanchions and cause pitting that can facilitate debris to come into the the fork even in the warmer months if it gets severe.

Using some kind of covering (eg lizard skins stanchion boots) will protect from salt and grit corroding yours posts and from building up around the seals. You'll want to use suspension (fluoro) lube to keep it clean and smooth. For the winter you should check this every other weak.

Drivetrain: The problem is grit. Salt will do more damage as an abrasive in this case than corrosion. The main thing here is as a mentioned above to keep this as clean as practical. The salty slush will wash away oil quickly. So even if don't have time to wipe is down, if it looks dry, lube it a bit. See rust? Lube it before it gets worse.

Bearings: This is the most fun bit. Since the seals have shrunk and are stiff the salt can get into the bearings. If this is let to go on you'll end up like me with a seized freewheel hub. Best solution? Apply some (a lot of perhaps) grease (preferably the same as the bearings are packed with around the rubber seals. You'll wan to wipe it off and reapply fairly often to prevent salt from working it's way in there, but it is a lot better than rebuilding/replacing your hubs.

Almost an after thought... I have only really used disks in the winter so I may add that you'll want to "warm them up" before you need to stop. The main things that the brake pads clear any debris and water from the disk. I think it also helps the friction when it warms up as well, but I don't know that for a fact.

If you have v-brakes... I'd try to get discs if possible. The rims well get even dirtier than disks and I can see dirt not clearing out v-brake pads.


Salt is bad, but please mind that washing salt off with a waterhose is also bad. Rain doesn't get into your bearings and chain, while water from a waterhose sometimes does get in nasty places.

Remove salt with some cleaner and some old cloth. Grease your chain again with thin oil. And grease all metal parts (bolts and stuff) with some thick grease such as vasaline.

  • 2
    Specifically, a high pressure hose is bad and can force water into your bearings. A regular garden hose without a pressure nozzle isn't a big deal.
    – jimchristie
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 2:33

i am in wisconsin and bike all winter and have for over 30 years in my experience there is no amount of cleaning / oiling you can do to stop salt from destroying your chain (unless you remove and clean after every ride) best bet is to get a winter beater every couple of years

  • Why not time your chain replacement to be in the Spring, and then get a year's use out of it ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 1:23

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