Cleaning your bike is sensible to keep it running better for longer, and to uncover any potential problems. Alfred Kärcher is the most recognisable name in power washing, at least his surname is, with a vast array of powerful mains or petrol-powered machines. The trouble is, a bike’s bearings aren’t designed to resist water being forced in to them at pressures north of 110 bar/1,600psi.
The challenge is to create a portable washer that’s compact and powerful enough to clean effectively, with a water supply that’ll get the job done.
Kärcher’s OC3 is the smallest and lightest cleaner I’ve seen, measuring just 277x234x201mm. The unit’s lower half contains the rechargeable lithium ion battery, motor and recessed top to store the coiled hose and spray nozzle. On top sits a clear four-litre water reservoir that’s held in place by the two-part handle. When empty the OC3 weighs 2.2kg.
Rubber flaps cover the top filling port, which accepts a hose plus attached nozzle, and the mains charging port on the bottom. The stated charge time is three hours, with a run time of 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but when you factor in the OC3’s water flow rate of two litres per minute and the four-litre tank, it makes more sense.
I tested mine continuously from brimmed tank to empty, and managed two minutes 15 seconds. Separating the tank and base allows you to pull out the 2.8m hose, then refit the tank, press the button and go. Even when full, you can easily hold the OC3 in one hand while moving around spraying.
The non-adjustable, fan-shaped, flat water jet is effective at stripping solid dirt from bikes at close range, but won’t sting if spraying your hands, making it fairly safe for bearings. Wash a road bike sparingly and you’ll manage a couple on one tank, but if you have two filthy cyclocross bikes, you’ll need more water.
Kärcher offers accessories including a 2m suction hose with built-in filter at an extra cost, which replaces the water tank and can suck water from another container, theoretically allowing unlimited supply. The limiting factor becomes battery life. A 12v car charging cable would be an obvious boon and should be available in the new year.
For ease of storage, transport and use, the Kärcher is brilliant, making it more useful for other small domestic cleaning tasks, such as boots, pets and pushchairs. At the moment you need to plan ahead to make the most of it away from home, but if you’re realistic about the task ahead, the OC3 is a very smart choice.