Bike Maintenance Made Easy
Maintaining your bicycle is essential to its long-term durability, your safety and minimizing breakdowns on the road or trail. It is easiest to separate the tasks into groupings of Cleaning, Lubricating, Detailing and Bike-Specific. Dividing the large task of bike maintenance into smaller chunks makes it clearer what needs to be done and helps give you some order and process to your to-do list. Divide and Conquer!
This section refers to mechanical cleaning and maintenance of your bike’s drivetrain. You know–the really gritty, gross, black-hands work that is easiest to delay or ignore. The good news is that, when done, this work reaps the largest benefit for your bike! As this is where all the “action” of a bike happens, it is also where cleanliness equates to smoother shifting, greater efficiency and increased longevity of the parts.
Modern degreasers work GREAT! There are a wide range that include citrus based, biodegradable, foaming, aerosol or squirt-on styles. Most any will work well for any of the tasks below and all of these will be safer than using a coffee can full of flammable liquid like Grandpa did. Additionally, there are bike-specific brushes and tools that can really make a difference in how quickly and how well you can do a clean-up job.
Cleaning your Chain
Instead of the old fashioned kerosene or turpentine in a bucket method for cleaning your chains, use a modern degreaser and cleaner tool. Put the degreaser in the tool, snap the tool on your chain and backpedal your way to a clean chain. Remove the cleaner box and wipe chain with a rag to finish. If chain is not that dirty, a splash of cleaner on a rag to wipe chain down may work fine, too.
Cleaning your Crank and Derailleurs
Thin, stiff-bristled brushes fit into small places around the crank’s teeth and can be used “dry” to remove the heavy stuff. To do a more thorough cleaning job or if the crank is really cruddy, dip brush into degreaser and scrub away.
Cleaning your Cogs
Getting the cogs on the rear wheel clean can be tough. Start by using the same stiff brush as above to clear out the bigger chunks and loosen things up. Once this is done, you can now clean your cogs easier and faster than ever with a floss for your bike. This tool is perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach areas. Its microfibers attract and hold grit and grime for an easy cleaning job. The bike floss doesn’t snag and catch as badly as rags do.
The cleaning removes the dirt and grime from the various parts of the drivetrain and leaves you with clean metals. Lubrication is important to reduce the friction caused when the various parts mesh and contact each other.
Choices in lubricants are even greater than those for degreasers–far more. You only need to know two things about drivetrain lubricant for what this article is discussing anyway. One–lubricate your drivetrain with oil, not grease. Two–most any oil will work better than no oil. Next time you are in Yorktown Cycles, please ask one of us to help you select the best type of oil for your bike. Differences in where you ride, how you ride and your general approach to maintenance (you love it, right?) will lead us to a product that works as best possible for you.
Keeping your chain lubricated is one of the ways to ensure ease of pedaling, ease of shifting, and to prevent squeaking. To keep your bike running right, keep your chain clean and well lubricated at all times with chain lubes. Make sure all links get lubricated and wipe off any excess lube with a rag. More is not always better and excess lubricant is the main ingredient in black, greasy chain crud.
Your derailleurs work hard with every shift of your bike and are key to keeping your drivetrain wear to a minimum. By lubricating your front and rear derailleurs you can keep shifting both quietly and smoothly. Just a drop of oil on any of the pivot points will suffice. No need for a top-to-bottom spray down!
The Brake And Shift Levers
The working parts on your brake and shift levers also need to be kept clean and lubed for optimal braking and shifting. Apply a dry lube to the pivot points while running your levers through their range of motion. Also, apply the lube to the adjusting barrel threads. No need to lubricate inside the shift levers–it may do more harm than good.
Making your bike sparkle is the fun part of bike maintenance. This light cleaning and application of a protective layer really makes your bike look great. It is also a good opportunity to look at different parts of your bike with a critical eye and check for odd wear, cracks, chips and other damage.
Give your bike a wash
After a long ride, or a long winter in storage, your bike needs a full wash. Washing is fast and easy with the right product. The right cleaning agent will quickly break down the dirt and grime that accumulates on your frame and components.
Revolutionize your cleaning with brushes
A sponge or rag can do the job, but cleaning becomes much easier with the right set of brushes designed specifically for the task of cleaning your bike. Special brushes make cleaning the frame, wheels, tires, and hard to reach places a cinch. Not only do the brushes get into small places to do a better job of cleaning, it is easier on your hands and fingers, as well as faster.
Make your bike shine like new
A polished bike not only looks amazing, but it even seems to ride better. Modern frames and components are made to shine. Beyond aesthetics, polished frames and parts stay clean longer as they resist dirt and moisture. Waxed and polished frames and parts also resist the accumulation of dirt and road grime, as it can’t stick as well.
Other Bike Specific
Here are some other simple maintenance tasks you can do, though they are not as universal as what we’ve just detailed above. Some bikes will need these, some won’t. If you have any questions about whether you should or shouldn’t do any of these, ask one of our Yorktown Cycles mechanics. They will point you in the right direction.
Grease Your Seatpost
Simply removing your seatpost every few months and applying a thin layer of grease to the part prevents corrosion and makes it easy to raise and lower your seat. If you ride in the rain much, you will also want to mop out the seat tube from the road grit that gets sprayed up from rear wheel.
Lube Your Suspension
It’s important to keep the seals, O-rings and stanchions on your suspension fork or shock unit lubricated. In addition, most shock makers recommend having the shock oil replaced with new oil once a year, which is far different than what you are likely used to with your car or truck. Most shock units are reasonably easy to change the oil on, whether you have Yorktown Cycles’ shop do it or do it yourself.
Cleaning Your Caliper Brakes
It’s important to keep the rims clean of any rubber deposits from the brake pads and clean of grime and dirt, too. A good degreaser is perfect for this task. After the rims are clean, check your brake pads. Glazed, hardened or dirty pads can cause a loss of braking power and squeaking noises. Clean them by scrubbing off any debris and hardened glaze with sandpaper. If pads are close to their wear limit, don’t bother cleaning them! Put some new pads on instead.
Cleaning Your Disc Brakes
Disc brakes offer impressive stopping power, but to maintain this power, you have to keep them clean. A name brand degreaser will easily remove both dirt and glaze off the rotors. Just be sure to replace the pads if they get chipped or contaminated with grease and grime.