What’s the first thing you’ll do when you’ve finished your cycle?
- Have a recovery drink ?……good idea,
- Have a shower ?……..a very good idea,
- Maybe you’ll put your feet up for a while now………you’ve deserved it.
Don’t worry, these are all the right things to do, but there’s one thing we all tend to forget………our bike! It gets throw in the corner of the room or maybe back into the shed. The cycle is over now so there’s no need to worry about the bike….? Wrong! It is very important to keep your bike in good working condition and this begins with cleaning it regularly. Now this doesn’t mean a full service every time you finish a bike ride, but a quick clean every time will make those trips to the bike shop a less regular and a less costly experience. Depending on the time of year and weather conditions this could take as little as 5 minutes or a worst maybe 20 minutes, its time well spent. The other mistake many people make it to think a bike clean is just a rub of a cloth on the frame, sure that’s all that you see anyway….? Its takes a little more than that to do it right. The chain and gears are the most important component to keep clean. This is where all the wear and tear takes place, and a clean lubricated chain will both perform better and last longer. There are 3 main areas to concentrate on;
- Chain / gears
Frame: It’s the biggest surface area on your bike and it does need regular cleaning. If the weather has been dry its possible this will only take 1/2 minutes. It’s only in the winter months when the roads are at their worst that you’ll have to be more vigilant .Most of the dirt will gather on the under-side of the frame and in all those awkward areas that are hard to reach, and that’s why we tend to let the problem build up. Using warm water or a bike cleaning solution, wipe down all tubes on the bike to remove any dirt. You may need to turn the bike upside down to reach the under-side of the bottom bracket and inside the front forks, but get stuck in……it only gets harder the longer you leave it. Most of the time this work is just ‘cosmetic’ but it also gives you the chance to study your frame up-close. So look for any scrapes or cracks in the frame, these could be a sign of an underlying problem and may need further scrutiny.
Chain / Gears: Now this is where you really have to be pro-active to keep all parts in good working condition. All the dirt and dust from the road will stick to the chain and gear sprockets so no matter if it’s a beautiful sunny day your chain may still need to be cleaned. Using an old rag rub the chain to remove any oil and dirt. You can also spray some chain de-greaser or WD40 on the rag to help remove that dirty oil/lubricant. Once cleaned it is advisable to use a specific chain lubricant rather than Wd40 or 3-in-1 oil…..there is a difference. The rear derailleur can also be an area which needs constant attention. The oil, grease and dirt with build-up in the cage and flywheels and this can make a big difference to how smooth and accurate your gear changes will be. A top tip is to use a small brush along with some cleaning fluid and poke / prod around to remove the packed in dirt. All the time keep spinning the chain around and maybe a spray of oil if it’s really bad. The front derailleur usually doesn’t cause as much problems as its used much less but even still it deserves attention.
Tyres: How often do you check your tyres? If you’re like most people the answer is not enough. Think about it, your tyres are the two contact points between you and the road. They are the thing that connects you and your lovely clean bike to the harsh tarmac. When cleaning your bike don’t forget to clean and check your tyres. Cleaning them isn’t a hard job as they often aren’t that dirty so a wet cloth and some elbow grease will bring them back to life. Your main focus should be on checking the tyres for any slits/cuts caused by sharp stones or those damn potholes! Sometimes small pieces of glass can become lodged in the soft rubber and they are a puncture waiting to happen. Even a new tyre can be subject to an unlucky cut/slit but don’t panic, you can still get some more use out of it. A top tip is to fill any cuts with some superglue. When dried it fills the gap and will prolong the life of a good tyre. Now obviously this will only work in certain examples and if the inner-tube is exposed through the tyre there’s no quick fix, only a quick trip to the bike shop. Check the tread wear to see if they have gone bare. If the core threads of the tyre are coming through then it’s time to change. Inspect the side-walls which can be damaged from that little stone you may have clipped. Also when buying new tyres be aware of the different types designed for winter or summer riding conditions, it can make all the difference. It seems an obvious point to make but if you look after your bike, it will look after you.