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Kärcher OC3 Portable cleaner review

30 Mar 2021
Verdict:

Impressively compact device for cleaning your bike with a jet spray. Photos: Cat Ward

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£110
For 
Portable • Light • Simple to operate • Effective
Against 
Water tank may need refilling for very muddy bikes • Spray is low pressure

I knew I needed to take action after the following text message exchange with my LBS:

'Steve, I need a new chain. If I pop in tomorrow can you put one on please?'

'Yes, but can we ask a special favour: can you clean the bike first?'

It’s not that I’m lazy and have a habit of neglecting all the parts that make my bike function smoothly, it’s more that the limitations of my domestic infrastructure inhibit my bike cleaning/maintenance capabilities. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

For example, I don’t have a garden, garage or shed. Any bike cleaning – and contrary to my LBS’s assertion, I do carry out some – has to take place on a public pavement at the mercy of the Scottish weather, i.e. rain, sleet, wind and/or cold.

Nor do I possess a work stand. There’s barely room for my two bikes in the hallway of our house, let alone any extraneous bits of gadgetry that would take up even more of our living space.

 

After hearing of my plight, a mountain biker friend made a recommendation. Normally when he says something it involves the words, 'gnarly', 'rad', 'dude' and 'cider', so I just nod politely and hope my phone rings.

But in this case, he had me hooked with his description of a labour-saving device that not only cleaned all the gunge off his downhill hardtail thingummyjig in seconds but was also small and compact enough to be stored in his car for his most 'gnarly' of expeditions.

'Dude, you should really get one for that weird thing with the drop bars you ride,' he said.

'It’s my gravel bike,' I corrected him.

 

But I was sufficiently intrigued to do some more research into the Kärcher OC3 portable cleaner. The reviews were almost entirely favourable, though the most breathless came from dog-owners who used it to spray down their muddy canines after walks.

One, however, wasn’t impressed: 'The tank was empty after washing one leg of the dog.'

There were few reviews from cyclists, but if it was good enough for my mate Henry and his regular off-road excursions on his mountain bike, I thought, then it was definitely worth a shot.

 

When it arrived, I wondered if half of it had been left behind in the factory – it’s that small. It looked just like the sort of vanity case used by make-up artists in the film business. The exact measurements are 277mm x 234mm x 201mm, which makes it small enough to fit under your seat if flying Ryanair (remember flying?).

Buy the Karcher OC3 from Halfords now

Without water in the tank, it weighs just 2.5kg.

 

It’s also very sleek and tidy-looking, with just the handle and water tank cap spoiling its German symmetry. The detachable four litre water tank slots on top of the power unit, with the jet spray nozzle and spiral hose (extendable to 2.8 metres) stored between the two.

It arrived partly charged, but I plugged it in for the recommended three hours and set off on my gravel bike in search of mud. I returned home filth-encrusted several hours later with a very unusual sensation – I was looking forward to cleaning my bike.

I filled up the water tank, slotted it on top of the power unit, unplugged the charger, and took it outside ready to do battle with my mud-spattered frame, components, wheels and tyres.

The first thing to note is that the spray is classified as 'low pressure', or 5-bar, 'sufficient for light soiling'. Some of the more mud-caked parts of my bike, particularly under the down tube and inside the forks, qualified as more than 'light soiling' so required prolonged application of the spray. An additional scrape with a stiff brush also helped in these areas.

But elsewhere the spray was sufficiently strong to shift the grime.

 

Bear in mind, however, that if you’re out on the trails a long way from a water source, you may want to use your water judiciously. I was a bit more haphazard and had to refill the tank halfway through cleaning my size L frame. (Alternatively, you could opt for the slightly more expensive OC3 Plus model, which has a seven-litre capacity).

Battery life is '15 minutes of continuous spraying', but there was easily enough power to dispense with two tanks of water during a 20-minute cleaning session.

I’ve now cleaned my bike twice in a week and have also used the spray to clean my cycling shoes, a waterproof jacket and the windows in our house. Alas, I don’t have a dog to use it on.

I think my LBS will be very pleased with the results, however.

Buy the Karcher OC3 from Halfords now