They say failure to prepare is preparing to fail. These words ring true when it comes to bike maintenance. Not only is proper bike maintenance something that will make your bike look like a million dollars leaning against the wall at your local coffee shop post ride, but more importantly it will ensure that you limit any issues that could easily be fixed. Being able to identify issues such as worn bike tires, worn brake pads and even damaged brake cables during your regular bike maintenance could even save your life!
Look at any professional cyclists or triathletes bike and more often than not it will be gleaming and spotless. This is not just because they like the look of a clean bike but because they know that a well-maintained bike will perform better, components last longer and ride faster than a dirty bike. Taking the time to clean and examine your pride and joy can take from just 10 minutes up to a few hours depending on how much detail you go into. Below are just a few tips and hints that will help you to ride faster.
How often should you clean your bike?
This really depends on the hours you ride and also the weather conditions. If you ride in dry weather over smooth roads then you might be able to go a few weeks before cleaning and performing any maintenance work. If it rains for example then it is a good idea to wash and clean your bike very soon after riding. This is because there will be lots of road grime in your drivetrain (rear cluster, front chairing’s and chain) which, if left uncleaned will lead to a decreased life span of these key components. Just a small amount of grit in your drivetrain will act like sandpaper wearing down the metal on these key components.
What is process of a proper bike wash and maintenance routine?
The first starting point is the wash. Set your hose on a gentle spray and wash off any of the surface dust and debris. The next step is to degrease your drivetrain using a good degreaser product. There are some great products on the market today that are also very environmentally friendly, which will also make the task much easier. Using a fine bristle brush (a paintbrush or old toothbrush works just as good as any bike brush you can buy) work the solution into the rear cluster, chain and front chain rings and then rise off with a gentle water spray. If your drivetrain is particularly dirty you might find that you need to repeat the process. Removing the rear wheel will also help you to clean the rear cluster easier and more thoroughly. Once the solution is all washed off, along with all the dirty grime then you can use a soapy solution of your choice to clean the entire bike and other components. The final step is to completely dry off the bike and all components to ensure that there is no water left on the bike. This is very important to do as it will prevent any water sitting in the tops of bolts, which can lead to rust. Use a dry towel to run through the drivetrain to remove water before applying a small amount of chain lube to the chain. Turn the pedals over a few times to run the bike through the gears before using another cloth to remove any excess lubrication.
My bike is now shiny and clean, now what?
Once your bike is looking amazing it is a great opportunity to check all the components and look for signs of wear and tear that might need replacing. Take this opportunity to go over your entire bike and components in detail to look for any potential issues. Check the frame for damage, drivetrain for wear, cables for lost tension and tires for damage. The key is too identify problems early so that you can sort them out now and not have to deal with them mid ride when an issue occurs.
Does a clean bike really make me faster?
Some studies have suggested that a clean drivetrain with a properly lubricated chain will in fact make you faster. In addition to this a well maintained bike will also give you more confidence when out riding knowing that every component is in tip top condition and working at its peak.
SCODY Professional Triathlete Sam Betten shows us how he cleans his bike