Clean Your Bike: PowerWasher Shoot-Out

Is the bucket and hose a thing of the past?

By Troy Templin

For the vast majority of cyclists we see on the road, a clean bike is a rarity. If you’re like us, despite your best intentions, between riding, work, family and all the other things life throws at you, spending time cleaning your bike is fairly low on the priority list. So, when we saw a few companies now offering pressure washers that are designed specifically for cycling, we got pretty excited. This should make things faster and more convenient, correct? 

I have owned a full-sized pressure washer for years but would never dare point it at my bike. Yeah, I know, we’ve all seen the pro mechanics blasting the race bikes with a power washer moments after a stage finish, but what the pros do isn’t always what is best for the rest. Sure, it makes it look clean on the exterior, but that level of pressure forces water past seals that were not designed for these kinds of conditions. This new breed of pressure washers claims to stay under that barrier while still being powerful enough to do a good job cleaning.

THE TECH

Muc-Off Pressure Washer
Muc-Off has launched a unit that they claim is designed for two-wheeled sports. There is a lance (spray head) that is designed to offer the optimal pressure for bikes. The unit will also include separate lances for motorbikes, as well as one that is adjustable for heavier jobs and a snow-foam lance that attaches a bottle of Nano cleaner for the ultimate spray-clean experience.

Our kit came with a heavy-duty waterproof bag that holds everything for an easy and convenient kit no matter if you’re on the go or staying at home. Being electric, you do have to be within reach of a power outlet for it to work. The power cord is 20 feet long with the hose and attached lance reaching 20 feet. Most of the exterior construction is plastic to keep the overall weight down. The unit puts out about 1000 psi thanks to its 1200w motor. 

Worx 40V Power Share Hydroshot Portable Power Cleaner
Worx has launched their new 40-volt, all-in-one handheld pressure washer that uses two 20-volt rechargeable batteries. The unit looks like a bulky pressure-washer spray gun, and it is, but with the motor housed inside. The two 2.0-Ah batteries attach to each side, delivering about 20 minutes of total use before needing to be charged. Worx does offer higher-capacity batteries, but the kit comes with the two 2.0-Ah batteries and a dual battery charger. Charging takes two hours; one hour for each battery.

The unit comes with a 20-foot hose with a filter on the end that can be used to pull water from a bucket or other freshwater source when no hose spigot is near. You can also attach a regular garden hose when available. The unit has two settings—high (450 psi) and low (290 psi)—with a convenient push button to switch between. The supplied lance has a multi-spray nozzle offering 0, 15, 25 and 40-degree spray options. The unit weighs in at almost 9 pounds dry with the batteries attached.

Old-School Hose 

In comparing the two spray units, we also thought to include the always trusty garden hose as a comparison. Most garden hoses operate at between 40–80 psi, but many utilities do deliver at over 100 psi, so if your hose spigot is in front of the pressure regulator for the home, then you will get the same pressure that is delivered from the street. 

THE CLEAN

Muc-Off
The Muc-Off unit delivers the most potential pressure, and it is evident when you heft the 12-pound package. The bicycle lance offered more than enough pressure to knock off most of the grime, but we did have to use the adjustable lance in areas that had packed in mud, like rims, tires and between the chainstays.

On a few bikes we even needed it for the underside of the downtube. This switching of the lance is fast and easy thanks to the quick-release design, but we found ourselves using the higher pressure lance in areas we shouldn’t like the headset and bottom bracket when in a hurry.

Combining the foam lance with the Nano cleaner creates an amazing snow-like foam that does an absolutely amazing job of engulfing the bike with soapy foam quickly. Let the foam soak in for a minute, then hit it with the cycling lance, and you’ll be impressed at how well it performs with little added effort needed.

We also found that instead of the adjustable lance, if we used a soft brush in problem areas, it had about the same results but without the risk of using the higher pressures. This technique still requires a bucket of water to rinse the brush and was only a few minutes faster than just using the hand-pump Nano cleaner, garden hose, brush and bucket. The big advantage is just how quickly it delivers the soapy cleaner across the entire bike, something just
not possible with the hand-pump unit.

Worx
The Worx unit is the most convenient and breaks down so small, it would fit in a gear bag and could be very easy to travel with. We really liked the ability to fill up a 5-gallon bucket and source from it when in areas that don’t have access to a hose. This also means you will need to still carry a bucket or two. As the Worx unit is not designed to deliver soapy water, the second bucket is needed for the soapy water and cleaning brush.

With a fully charged set of batteries, we were able to drain our 5-gallon bucket twice before the batteries died. This will be different if you upgrade to larger batteries. Also, since the water in the bucket is not delivering pressure, it takes a few seconds to get the water through the 20-foot hose and under pressure. The hose has a clip to hold the end of the hose in the bucket, but out of all the buckets we had, it didn’t secure well, and nearly every time we used it, there was at least once that it came off and pulled out of the bucket.

When we use a garden hose attached to a spigot, we got much better results and more consistent pressure than from the bucket alone. The 2.0-Ah batteries last about 20–30 minutes for us, which was enough to do two bikes as long as we also had a bucket of soapy water and used a brush to knock off the hard-to-get areas. If we used just the unit, it wasn’t powerful enough for packed-in mud or grime, and we would exhaust the battery trying to blast it off.

The two settings are easy to switch between the different levels of pressure, but neither was enough unless you get really close to the bike. It is still best when paired with a separate hand brush, and since there is no soap dispenser, you will still need to apply that manually. We do think that even while the pressure seems low, it is high enough to deliver water into areas that you don’t want the water to go, like hubs, bottom brackets and headsets.

THE VERDICT
When it comes to cleaning your bike, there is now a growing number of options. Do these power sprayers make it easier or faster? I would say not really, because you still need a brush and bucket just the same as you would with the regular garden hose technique. The Muc-Off unit makes applying their Nano cleaner so much faster and easier that it’s almost worth it for that. 

The Worx unit is convenient and easy to set up, with the ability to pull from nearly any freshwater source. The batteries also make it more mobile, but the supplied 2.0-Ah batteries in our opinion don’t give you enough juice to get a really dirty (gravel) bike clean on their own. Then the two-hour charge time kills the flow if they die. 

For us, we still used a brush and soapy water to get everything truly cleaned off. The biggest drawback to both of these units is they do offer settings that can and will damage your bike if not used correctly. This simply means that with more power comes more responsibility, and you need to remember that if the power washer isn’t knocking it off right away, just grab a brush and do it manually. 

If you choose to use one of these devices, we would recommend checking your bearings and grease more often. Even sealed bearings can be compromised if subjected to over 80 psi. Yes, that means even a focused garden hose could do similar damage.

For us, the Muc-Off is a great unit for applying soap and has the ability to do more than just bicycles if needed. We used it to soap up our vehicle and spray it down, and it did a fairly good job. The Worx unit is the ultimate in mobility with its battery power and ability to source water from a bucket. There is an added cost if you want to upgrade to larger batteries (we would recommend it), but Worx also offers a host of other tools that could make it worth the investment. The real drawbacks are that you have to hold the weight in your hands, and at 450 psi, its half of what the Muc-Off is able to deliver, so bigger jobs are not as ideal.

MUC-OFF PUNCH LINES

• Snow-foam magic

• Can you handle the pressure?

• Still needs a brush

WORX PUNCH LINES

• Convenience is king

• Only as good as its battery

• More power would be nice

MUC-OFF STATS

Price: $175

Weight: 12 pounds

www.muc-off.com

WORX STATS

Price: $230

Weight: 9 pounds

www.worx.com

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