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Is Sand Bad For Mountain Bikes? (3-minute read)

When you are biking out on the beach or somewhere sandy such as a desert, one of the things you need to avoid is getting too much sand on your bike. Now, this is the same case as dirt which can make it more difficult for you to pedal. But is sand actually bad for mountain bikes?

Sand can be bad for mountain bikes, like any kind of dirt that can build up in the different moving parts of your bike and make it more difficult for the bike to move and function. But the dangerous part is that sand is an abrasive that can actually damage the bike.

At first, you might not think that sand can harm a bike because individual sand particles do look like they are harmless. However, when there is now too much sand on your bike, that is when trouble begins because any buildup of dirt or sediment can be damaging on any kind of bike.

Mountain bike on the beach

Can Sand Damage a Mountain Bike?

One of the things that people should know in relation to mountain bikes is that cleaning them is necessary. We are not only talking about the aesthetic appeal of the bikes when it comes to cleaning because there is more than just the appearance of your mountain bike in this regard.

The first reason why dirt buildup can be bad for your bike is that you would have to work harder when pedaling especially when the dirt has already built up in the chains and the different moving parts such as the gears and the bearings.

Switching gears can also be more difficult when dirt has built up too much on your bike. And when you put more effort into pedaling and switching gears, this can damage the bike chains, the gears, and the entire drivetrain.

But what about sand? Can sand be just as bad as any other type of dirt when it comes to your mountain bike?

In the same way, too much sand can also be dangerous to your bike because it is similar to dirt in a lot of ways. Of course, there are some that would consider that sand can damage your mountain bike more than dirt can.

At first glance, you might not think that sand can damage a bike because of how fine sand particles are. But you would be surprised to know that sand can be bad for your bike because it is more difficult for you to pedal if your drivetrain is full of sand.

Of course, the most dangerous part about sand is the fact that this is abrasive. What that means is that sand can scratch and damage different bike parts whenever there is too much sand that has built up on your bike.

Look at sandpaper as an example. We use sandpaper as an abrasive that can actually scrape off and smoothen out metal and rocks. Of course, sandpaper is based on sand, which itself is an abrasive.

So, imagine having too much sand on your bike while the bike’s different parts are moving. The different moving parts with sand in between them can have a sandpaper-like effect that can use the sand as an abrasive to essentially cause enough friction that can damage the bike. 

It’s like rubbing sandpaper constantly all over the different parts of your bike. And when this happens throughout a prolonged period of time, the damage to your bike can also happen steadily without you even noticing it.

This is why it is important for you to make sure that you clean sand off your bike after riding it somewhere that’s sandy. Cleaning sand off a bike can be tricky but it can be done as long as make sure that you do so promptly when the sand has already dried up.

What MTB Parts Are Affected the Most by Sand?

Now that you know that your mountain bike can get damaged by sand that has built up, which parts tend to be the most affected?

The answer is easy. Of course, the most affected parts of a bike when the bike gets too sandy are the different moving parts that actually allow the bike to move forward. We are basically talking about the bike’s drivetrain, which includes pedals, cranks, chains, and cogs, among others.

So, the reason why the drivetrain and the bike’s other moving parts are the most affected by sand is due to the fact that these moving parts constantly grind against each other and move so much while you are pedaling.

As mentioned, when you get sand stuck in between the different parts of your bike, what can happen is that there will be a sandpaper effect that will cause too much friction between these parts all while the sand acts as an abrasive that can damage the moving parts. 

This is why it is important to make sure that you don’t allow sand to build upon your bike as too much sand can eventually get to parts that are difficult to clean.

Is Sand Bad for Bearings?

Just like the different moving parts of your bike, sand can easily cause your bike bearings to wear out. If sand gets into the bearings you might end up hearing scratchy or grinding sounds that are similar to when sandpaper grinds itself on something that’s rough.

The bad part here is that when sand is stuck in the bearings it can be difficult to remove. You might have to take the entire bearing apart.

Conclusion

As small as sand particles may be, there are good reasons why mountain bikers tend to avoid riding on sandy terrain. Sand that has built up on your bike can easily damage the entire setup. And that’s why cleaning your bike regularly is a must especially if you tend to bike on sandy terrains.

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.