A Clean Bike is a Fast Bike
By David Alden -
Twin Cities SportsChances are if you went
mountain biking this summer, you came back muddy at some point. And if you came
home messy, then you also came home with a dirty, muddy, grimy bike.
A dirty bike can look cool, and people may
think you are hardcore, but the reality is that dirt, sand and grit can shred
brake pads, ruin shifting and destroy drivetrains.
They will also mess up just about any
bearing surface they contact, and if there is enough dirt on your bike, it can
even mean extra weight. Add it all up and youve got a slow bike.
The smart thing to do is to clean your bike
after any muddy or messy ride. For some rides it can be as simple as wiping
your rig down with a rag and cleaning/relubing the chain. Other times, you have
to do a little more.
If your bike is really a mess, the
first thing to do would be to remove any large debris, like sticks, leaves or
clumps of mud, says bike-cleaning expert Karl Weidemann of Pedros,
a cycling tool, lube and accessory company based in Massachusetts. Then
spray the whole thing down with a good cleaner/degreaser.
But make sure it is a degreaser that is
approved for plastic and rubber, warns Weidemann, as some citrus-based
degreasers can eat though parts of your bike.
It helps if you can put your bike in a work
stand (if youve got one) and take your wheels off while cleaning the
bike. This will let you get at some areas that you might not be able to with
the wheels on. If you don't have a work stand, you can use a trunk-mounted bike
rack or other rack, or just lean the bike against a wall. In the latter case,
you'll have to lay the bike down when you remove the wheels.
Use rags, sponges or scrub brushes to gently
remove any stubborn areas of mud. Dont scrub too hard because sand is
just sandpaper without the paper, and it can ruin a paint job.
Its important to get your chain and
your rear cassette clean, as grit will wear these parts down fast. Several
companies make chain-cleaning machines that clamp down around the chain and use
little scrub brushes and cleaner to get the chain looking like new. They are
definitely worth the money.
An alternative to the chain-cleaning gizmo
is to rinse the chain with water and scrub it with a brush as it passes over
the rear cassette. Then back-pedal the chain through a rag soaked with
Regular scrub brushes are good for cleaning
Once the bike is all soapy and clean, you
can rinse it down with a hose.
Use a very gentle shower of
water, Weidemann says. Do not use high-pressure hoses like the ones found
at car washes, or even at your home. High-pressure water can work its way into
the bearings, and even into the frame, and can cause rust and damage in the
long run. For this same reason, also be careful not to spray directly into your
If you spray water into bearings, even into
sealed bearings, it can force some of the grit that you are trying to get rid
of into the bearing surfaces. Soon after that you can say bye bye,
If you hear any crunching sounds in your
headset, hubs or any bearing surface, it probably means youve got to do a
more detailed cleaning with more disassembly.
With all of the gunk gone, its time to
dry the bike and apply some lube to all of the moving parts.
Lube your chain, pivot points, derailleur
pulleys, brake bosses, cables, levers and shifters. Wipe off any excess lube,
otherwise it will attract more dirt and grit.
It's also a good idea to regularly grease
the metal-on-metal contact points on your bike, such as the seatpost/seat tube
and the threads of your pedals where they screw into the cranks. You'll need a
pedal wrench to remove your pedals, which you can buy one at most bike
During the drying and lubing part of this
process, take time to inspect your bike. Finding frayed cables, loose bolts or
even a cracked frame now is much better than finding it when you are out on a
Taking a little bit of time to take care of
your bike will make it ride better, last longer, and in the end, be faster.
- Chain cleaner
- Various scrub brushes
- Lubricant: both grease (for
metal-on-metal areas like the seatpost/seat tube and threaded parts like the
pedals/cranks) and liquid lubricant (for the chain and other pivot points)