TOA Bike 101: Inspecting, Cleaning, and Lubing
Wanna be fast? Ride smooth? Or just take good care of your stuff?! Then it's essential for good bike maintenance! This includes inspecting your bike, cleaning it, and ensuring it stays lubed. While you can do a tune-up* and deep cleansing yourself, I always take mine to the professionals for that. But in between tune-ups I conduct pre-ride inspections, check and secure bolts, and clean and lubricate key components.
*If you ride regularly, take your bike in for twice-yearly tune-ups to ensure that complex, hard-to-evaluate components such as spokes, bearing surfaces, derailleurs, and cables are inspected and serviced. These bike parts should always be serviced and adjusted by experienced mechanics.
Inspecting Your Bike
The best defense against loose components or bike failure is a routine inspection before every ride. This will help you catch potential problems before they develop into safety hazards and leave you stranded 20 miles away from home! Most pre-ride inspection adjustments can be made with a simple bike multi-tool...
But what am I inspecting!?: The ABC’s: Air, Brakes, Chain & Securing Bike Bolts
A is for Air: having properly inflated tires helps prevent flats. Check the sidewall of your tire for the recommended tire pressure. While you’re checking the air, take the opportunity to ensure your quick-release levers are properly tightened as well. Then, before you ride, make sure you have your Oh Shit Bag* with you!
B is for Brakes: squeeze your front and rear brake levers to make sure that the brakes engage properly and smoothly and that the brake pads aren't rubbing on your tires.
C is for Chain: look at your chain and all the gears. Keeping your chain lubricated and everything clean will ensure your bike shifts easier and the drivetrain (made up of the front chain rings, rear cassette, rear derailleur and chain) last longer. Plus, clean chain = faster ride!
*Your Oh Shit Bag should be filled w/two new inner tubes, 2-3 air canisters (CO2) and inflator, tire levers, a multi-tool, and I like to keep a latex glove in there.
Bicycles are held together by dozens of nuts and bolts. Maintaining a "tight ship" is important because loose (or improperly tightened) bike parts can lead to serious wear and tear, cause poor performance, and create a safety hazard.
When tightening bike bolts, consult your owner's manual for proper torque specs or often, it's printed on your bike near the bolt. Over-tightening can lead to component damage or failure.
p.s. if you don't own a bike torque wrench, Christmas is right around the corner!!
Cleaning and Lubricating Your Bike
A regular schedule of maintenance (monthly, weekly or more often depending on your type of riding) is important. If you spend a lot of time riding in wet, muddy conditions, or if you ride hard, fast and often, plan to clean your bike more frequently.
Keeping your bike parts properly cleaned and lubricated is crucial for good performance. Lubrication protects moving parts from excessive wear caused by friction, prevents them from "freezing up," and helps keep away rust and corrosion.
Be careful, though, over-lubricating can lead to poor performance and component damage (excess lubricant will attract dirt and other abrasive particles). As a general rule, excess lube should always be wiped away before the bicycle is ridden.
What to Clean and How
Most dirty bike components can be cleaned by wiping them carefully with a damp (or dry) rag. Other components require occasional brushing, scrubbing and relubrication.
Your drivetrain (front chain rings, rear cassette, rear derailleur and chain) deserves the most frequent attention.
The chain: your chain is your bike's most "at risk" lubricated part. Clean and lube it frequently to slow the rate of chain wear. To clean chains that don’t have too much built-up grime, simply use a rag and degreaser. For really dirty chains, you may want to use a chain cleaning device which is more thorough and a lot less messy.
After the degreaser has dried, apply drops of lube slowly onto to the chain, getting some on each link. Let the lube dry, then wipe off any excess lubricant so it doesn’t attract more dirt.
In general, lubricate your chain whenever it squeaks or appears "dry." Lubing after wet rides will help keep your chain from rusting.
Front chain rings and rear cassette: scrub the surfaces with a brush and degreaser while turning the pedals. If there’s a lot of built-up grime, use rags to wipe away any remaining dirt and “floss” between the gears.
Brake and derailleur levers and cables: apply a drop or two of lube to the lever pivots and the barrel adjusters periodically to keep them functioning properly. Check them frequently (especially in wet conditions) and re-lubricate occasionally so they can effectively function.
Brake and derailleur assemblies: these consist of a number of small moving parts. Keep an eye on their arms, wheels and pulleys so they don't bind up or become rigid. Apply lubricant to the pivot points.
Don't be afraid of your bike! A few rags, water and a degreaser, and a lubricant are all you need! Maybe a small scrub brush if she's really dirty. But basically, if it looks dirty, clean it!
Get to know your bike, get comfortable with your bike, and take good care of it!
You will see AND feel a difference!