Spring Cleaning Your Bicycle
Now that the warm weather is coming up on the horizon it is time to bring your bikes out of hibernation. Whether you are one that rode the entire year or one that that hung up your bicycle until the bitter winter months pass, these tips will be useful to you. All of these tips can apply to both road and mountain bikes.
We will be covering the following topics:
Cleaning your bike
Inspecting wearable parts
Lubing your chain
Checking Tire pressures
The basics about cleaning your bike
The first thing that you need to do is thoroughly clean your bike and especially the drive train Your parts will last 3 times longer if you keep them clean and properly lubed.
It is common for grease or dirt to build up on your chain and it tends to do so faster in the winter because of the wet conditions. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you see built up grit or anything darker in color than the metal the chain components are made of, it means that it is time to give these parts a good cleaning.
Many people use a mild soap degreaser such as liquid dish soap to clean their bikes. However, a lot of riders prefer using bike specific degreasers such as Park Tool Citrus ChainBrite Chain Cleaner or Pedros Oranj Peelz Degreaser.
Get yourself a good small brush to help clean the smaller, hard to reach places (sometimes a toothbrush is a good alternative). We recommend purchasing a cleaning kit that includes the tools and cleaning supplies you will need to clean your bike and drive train.
Use hose water, not a pressure washer as high pressured water can get into wheel bearings, bottom brackets, and other valuable parts causing rust damage.
9 things to check when inspecting wearable parts
It is important to make sure all essential wearable parts are in proper working order before you hit the trail.
1. Inspect all cables and housing. This includes brake cables or hydraulic break lines, shifter cables, and housing. Inspect for any fraying, splitting, or leaks. If any damage is visible on the cables, housing, or hoses you will want to replace them immediately.
2. Inspect chain for any rust or missing chain links. Check gears for any missing or broken teeth. If any teeth are missing or the chain shows excessive wear it is a good idea to replace these parts.
3. Inspect both tires for excessive wear or other damage such as embedded objects such as glass, thorns, etc. It is also important to check your tires for proper inflation. (This topic will be covered in more detail later in the article.)
4. Inspect wheels for any lateral play. This is usually caused by a loose hub which can result in damages to your hub or wheel. To check for lateral play simply place your hand on the wheel and try to move your wheel from one side of the fork leg to the other. This will allow you to feel if there is any movement in the hub. If there is any movement in the hub we recommend taking your wheel down to a local bike shop so they can properly tighten the cones on your hub.
5. Check the tightness of cranks and all other nuts and bolts. (If you own a full suspension mountain bike be sure to inspect and test bolts are tight on all rear suspension linkage parts)
6. Check that your bicycle is properly shifting through all gears. If you need assistance with adjusting your derailleurs we recommend the following instructional videos.
7. Inspect headset for proper tightness. An improperly adjusted headset can damage the headset itself or even your frame. If your headset is too loose you’ll feel a constant knocking sensation through your bars and quickly begin to damage parts. If the headset is too tight your bars will not turn freely and there will be excessive pressure and wear on the headset bearings. The easiest way to check for a lose headset is to place one hand over where your fork crown and lower headset cup meet and use your other hand to hold your front brake. Begin to gently rock the bike front to back. If your headset is loose you will feel a knocking through the hand which you are holding over the lower headset cup.
8. Inspect your grips or bar tape for excessive wear. If there is excessive wear you may want to look into replacing the grips or bar tape.
9. Inspect your brakes to ensure that they have plenty of pad available
Lubing the chain
Lube your chain properly. You want to lube your chain in such a way that it is effective and not a wet dirt collector.
First, clean you chain really well, getting as much of the dirt grime and grease off as is possible. There are many great tools made for cleaning your chain. I personally use the (hyperlink parks tools chain cleaner). Let the chain dry out or blow it out with an air compressor to remove the moisture from the chain. When it is dry, hold your lube on top of the chain as it rolls over the top of the cassette. Next, aim to penetrate the lube inside the little bearings (inside the links) while pedaling the crank backwards. Let the chain to sit for a couple of minutes so as to allow the lubricant to effectively penetrate into the chain. Next take a wash cloth or towel and while pedaling backwards again, grab the chain with the cloth or towel and remove excess lube. Letting the lube soak in over-night is best.
Keep this up at least once a week if you are riding weekly, or two times a week if you are riding daily. Also pay attention to your chain and components: if you went on a really wet grimy ride you will be able to hear the grit grinding in the gears. Make sure you clean it after one of these exceptionally dirty rides.
You should be checking your tire pressure before each ride but now would be a great time to give those tires some air. Watch the tire pressure closely for the next time you fill them up. They will naturally lose some small amounts of pressure, but if they are flat or low within a week you need to locate the leak in your tube or tire bead.
Running your tires at the incorrect pressure can not only rob you of power but also wear your tires faster and make your job of pedaling harder. Everyone runs their tires at a different pressure according to their preferences. If you like the solid speed feel run a higher pressure, if you like a little more cushion lower the pressure a few notches.
The recommended tire pressures will be indicated in the sidewall of the tire on your bike. Each brand and type of tire is different, so inspect your tires’ sidewall to make sure. Just as a general rule, here is what most tires run for pressure:
These are all measured P.S.I. which stands for pounds per square inch.
Mountain: Max = 40
Normal = 35-40
Road: Max = 120
Normal = 110-120
Now that your bike is all clean, inspected, and tuned up, it’s time to get out and enjoy this wonderful warm weather.