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When using your bicycle on salty road, if you can opt for hosing it down or not hosing it down after a commute (without re-lubricating the drivetrain at this point!), what should you do? Do you cause more harm than good, by spraying water into the drivetrain and chain? I could see this removing oil, but I can also see it removing salty water. I don't know what is best.

I realize this would depend on the type of road, the type of bicycle, does it have fenders, or not? Hence, I'm looking for a rule of thumb answer. However, in my case, to make it specific I can state that this is a hybrid bike with fenders.

  • yes, clean your bike regularly. – Vladimir F Mar 2 at 16:29
  • @VladimirF I should have been more specific, the crux of the question is if you should clean the bike when you are not able to re-lubricate the drivetrain/chain/cassette -- imagine parking the bicycle at a workplace where you are able to hose it down thoroughly, but time schedule doesn't allow for you to re-lubricate it every day, but it does allow you to hose it down. Should you hose it down, or does this cause more damage than good? – AlphaCentauri Mar 2 at 17:22
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    @DanielRHicks: On their YouTube channel CGN have demonstrated that bearings and especially their gaskets have a far greater resistance to water ingress than most people assume. – Carel Mar 2 at 18:34
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    A gentle spray of water will dissolve and remove salt far more effectively than it will remove chain lube. – Argenti Apparatus Mar 2 at 18:45
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    @DanielRHicks But a hose does not really make a big pressure to be dangerous. Pro mechanics regularly use pressure washers to clean expensive pro bikes. Those have mostly sealed bearings, but not all, Shimano hubs are still cup and cone. It is fine to clean with some reasonable power of the water stream, just be reasonable pointing it at the right places. – Vladimir F Mar 2 at 20:29
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Here's how I understand the situation generating the question:

While riding to work on a salty wet road the drive train has become a salt water saturated mess. Now you are at work and have access to clean water but no ability to clean and lubricate the drive train.

If that's the case...
Running some clean water over the drive train to wash off the salt water so that it does not sit on the drive train all day makes sense.
Clean water is better than salt water.
Clean water and then drying the drive train is better yet.

From an article on the effects of saltwater on metals

The combination of moisture, oxygen and salt, especially sodium chloride, damages metal worse than rust does. This combination corrodes, or eats away at, the metal, weakening it and causing it to fall apart. Saltwater corrodes metal five times faster than fresh water does
sciencing.com

Both salt water and fresh water corrode metal. Salt water corrodes faster so drying the drive train helps.
Once you get home it would be best to clean and lubricate.

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  • Running water over the bike should be fine. The problem is high pressure from a hose can drive the salt water deeper inside and remove lube from where it's really hard to replace - a bad thing if you're going to ride the bike home later. Keep the pressure off the mechanics and bearings. – Andrew Henle Mar 2 at 21:01
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    A hose is probably not available, as salt is put on roads in winter conditions, and outside hoses are usually shut off for the winter. – whatsisname Mar 4 at 5:58
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There is almost nothing worse for your bike than salt and water. It will destroy components that aren't usually affected by freshwater ( i.e. various composite, plastic and aluminum components). Even salt "air" and spray from living next to the ocean can be very damaging to a bike.

I would not hesitate at all to rinse a bike off as soon as possible with low pressure freshwater after riding on salty wet roads. If you can leave the bike in a location where it will dry relatively quickly that would be best, but even so at worst fresh water will likely only damage the chain in the short term. On modern bikes most bearings are sealed and most components are either plated or aluminum, freshwater can't do much to them. Salt water will destroy the entire bike.

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