How to care for your bike

September 11, 1998

A lot of people do more damage to their bikes washing them than they ever could do not washing them. However, a 10-minute scrub and lube is recommended for your bike after every ride

Just any wash won't do.

Pressurized water, soap, solvent and lubricants are potent stuff. A carelessly directed high-power water spray is capable of propelling trail grit past sealed-bearing surfaces. And a sloppy lube-job is a dirt magnet.

Find something to suspend your bike.

The bike shops use bike stands. Try spiking your seat onto a fence post or the end of an outdoor bench. By getting the rear wheel in the air, you'll be able to shift gears easily as you clean. Turn on the outdoor hose. A multisetting, pistol-style hose sprayer is ideal. Fill a bucket with sudsy water (use gentle dishwashing detergent). Thoroughly rinse the bike. Use a stronger setting for the frame and rim sidewalls, a low mist setting for the front and rear hubs and crank (where the sealed bearings are).


Liberally soap.

Use a long-handled, natural-hair bottlebrush for the bigger, easy-to-get-to surfaces, and an iron-shaped scrub brush with stiff bristles for the drivetrain. Detail with a clean rag or a plastic, thin-bladed gear brush to get between the cogs on the rear free-wheel. The rim sidewalls should be especially clean. Gunk has a habit of glazing onto rims and not only sabotaging your braking, but prematurely wearing out the brake shoes.

Next, inspect the chain.

A dirty chain gums up everything in the drivetrain. You have two options. Either buy a chain-cleaner kit or remove your chain, laying the bike on its side so that the rear wheel dries with the cog-set side down, which encourages any residual grit to dribble away from the bearings. Whatever you do, don't stow it without lubing it.

Try a dry, wax-based lube for the chain and cables.

Conventional ''wet'' lubes gunk up quicker. To apply: Shift to the smallest rear cog. Drip a generous amount of lube on the chain (at the rear cog) as you hand-crank counter-clockwise. Remove excess lube by scrunching a rag around the chain as it exits the derailleur.

Dab some more wax-based lube on any cables you can get to, including the rear brakes, front brakes and derailleur cables. Finally, drip a Teflon-based lubricant on the brake and derailleur pivots.

Job done.

Your bike is clean, lubed and on the road to a long, healthy life.

- By Sports Afield

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