Keeping Your Ride Clean
It’s March! We are sick of riding our bike trainers and staring at the basement wall. We want to ride our bikes outside! As Vermont begins to get the occasional warm day in the early spring we will all be tempted to take our bikes outside and feel the (brisk) wind in our face and remember what it’s like to ride a bike in the sunshine. As you enjoy the mud season bike riding; remember to clean your bike after each ride in order to protect your bicycles components and finish. Here are some basic things you will need on hand and easy tips for a quick post ride bike clean.
1. Clean the chain.
Riding with dirt and grit on your chain will cause the chainring, cassette and chain to wear more quickly and lead to poor shifting and eventually causing the need to replace your drive-train. When the chain lubricant gets dirty it becomes grimy and oily and attract more dirt and grime.
It is easiest to clean your bike if you have a work stand or some other way to get your bike off the ground so you can turn the pedals and spin the wheels (and not have to bend over so much). Use a chain cleaning brush or specially made chain scrubber along with degreaser to remove built up grime, mud and oil from the chain. Put degreaser on the chain or in your chain scrubber and turn the pedals to move the chain through the scrubber or your brush. Don’t forget to use your brush on the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur and between the cogs on the rear cassette. You will see the dirt come off and the chain will return to it’s return to it’s original color. Then take a clean dry rag to wipe off the excess degreaser. Note, this will also remove your chain lubricant and re-applying lubricant will be the last step after cleaning the whole bike.
2. Clean disk rotors (if you have them.)
When cleaning and maintaining your bike it is important to be careful not get cleaners, degreaser, lubricants and hydraulic fluid from getting on your disc brakes and disc rotors. Contamination can be the cause of brake squeal and reduce braking power.
Dirt from riding usually comes off the rotor through the braking process or can be wiped off with a damp cloth. If the disc rotors have become contaminated, remove the wheel from the bike and wipe down with a clean cloth dampened with Isopropyl Alchohol (IsA). If you use strong solvents or cleaners you can remove important coatings from the rotor.
3. Wet your bike and spray on some bike wash.
Wet the bike with a hose or a bucket and sponge. If you’re using a pressure washer, be sure to stay well back to avoid ruining your bearings. Spray the whole bike with bike wash and leave it to settle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Brush it down.
Start at the top of your bike and agitate any remaining muck from the bike with brushes. Pay special attention to moving parts such as gears and brakes.
5. Rinse it all off.
Rinse the bike with fresh water, then check to make sure you’ve washed all the grime off the bike, brushing again before rinsing where necessary.
6. Make your bike shine.
Dry off your bike using a clean towel or a leather chamois to soak up excess water. Shine up the bike’s frame with PTFE spray or silicone bike polish, being sure to avoid braking surfaces like rims and disc brake rotors. Buff your bike with a paper towel or soft cloth. This will also help prevent mud sticking when next out riding. Note that many bikes have a matte finish and you may want a polish made for matte finishes.
7. Lube the chain.
Choose a lubricant based on the kind of riding you anticipate to be doing. Many brands have different formulas based on riding conditions. White Lightning is an excellent example:
Sets up as a dry wax film. Self-cleaning action works by small particles of the outer wax structure flaking off taking dirt, grit and grime with it. When used regularly chain cleaning is rarely required. Recommended for dirty and dusty conditions.
Formulated with non-petroleum based synthetic oils, this lube is as durable as a wet style lube without the grime build-up typical of a wet lube. This versatile lube works well in all conditions, both on and off road.
Designed for wet and muddy conditions, winter riding and coastal salt-air. Made with synthetic oils and water repelling polymers for a thick, heavy bodied lube that is totally waterproof. Anti-corrosive additives prevent rusting when subjected to snow and coastal salt-air.
Finally lube the chain by holding the bottle and steadily dripping it onto the chain while turning the pedals backwards. Be careful not to get any lubricant on the the braking surfaces like rims and disk rotors. You will notice in some lubricants a sediment on the bottom of the bottle. The sediment is actually the lubricant, so be sure to shake the bottle up before applying. After applying the lubricant, shift through the front and rear gears repeatedly to spread the lubricant onto the cassette and chainring. Using a clean dry cloth, gently wipe off any excess lubricant from the chain. Any excess left behind will only attract dirt and grime on your next ride. Hang your bike in a prominent location so you can admire it’s beauty before you make it all dirty again.