Commuting on your bicycle is ace. It has health benefits, it’s better for the environment not driving a vehicle and it’s free. However, commuting on city roads is hard on your bike. Tonnes of broken glass on inner suburban roads, lots of oil build-up on roads can leave your trusty stead’s tyres slashed and lots of crud clinging to the drive train (the expensive part of the bike).
Your bike is an amazing machine with lots of moving parts that run smoothly when cleaned and aligned. Most bike shops are pretty shady when it comes to what they call a ‘basic service’ because they assume most customers know nothing about bike mechanics. They’ll charge anything from $50-120 to essentially wash your bike, apply lube to moving parts and tighten a few bolts. You can do this yourself, here’s how:
The above pictures show my bike cleaning and basic servicing kit … and my trusty Cannondale
- Car washing detergent
- WD40 (or any degreaser)
- Park tool and/or Allen Key
- Bike Lube (Teflon or waxed-based ones are cleaner and last longer). You can use 3 in 1 oil or Singer sewing oil if you want, but they work half as well and the chain becomes gummy again quickly.
- Tooth Brush (for chain, cassette, cogs)
- Bucket & sponge
- Hose preferably with a high powered nosel
- Towel or rags
How to Clean Your Bike
Chains, chain-rings and cogs collect dirt and grit. Not only does this slow you down, the grit clinging to your chain will grind your expensive drive-train components.
First up, you’ll want to degrease the chain and drive-train. This is what the WD-40 is for; WD-40 is NOT a lubricant so DONT lube your chain with this stuff or it will wear QUICKLY.
Turn your bike upside down so it can stand on its handle-bars and seat. Soak the chain and drive-train in the WD-40 and let it sit for a minute and soak in. Now, using the toothbrush scrub the chain-links whilst turning the crank-arm backwards slowly.
Move down to the rear-mech (derailleur) and a scrape of any thick, caked on crud off the small cogs, Scrub the inside and outside of the cogs with the toothbrush.
Make sure you soak the chain and cassette in WD40 before scrubbing off the crud with an old toothbrush
Use the hose to blast off degreaser and grime, Pay particular attention to the rear cassette and chain. The chain and cassette should be fairly clean by now. However, cold water from the hose will kind of freeze excess degreaser and grime onto different parts of your bike. You’ll need warm water and soap to melt this off.
Use a bucket, sponge and truck wash to thoroughly wash your bike. Rinse soap off to finish.
LUBE AND ADJUST
Now your chain is clean keeping it lubricated is one of the easiest and best ways to keep your bike running smoothly and extend the life of components. It will also ensure crisp shifting when changing gears.
Gently squeeze lube onto each chain-link (see picture at left for demonstration). This is time consuming compared to just drenching your chain in lube, there are two reasons for this:
- You want each connecting part of the chain link to absorb the lube, rather than it sitting on the surface of the chain.
- You definitely DON’T want a big greasy chain ring mark on your leg, using excess lube will almost guarantee this happening.
Last Minute Check Overs
Use the Allen key to tighten any bolts as they can gradually loosen over time due to road vibrations.
Finally, inspect tyres for embedded glass and remove with something pointy. Glass fragments will work their way through your tyre (and Kevlar belting) and puncture your tyres over time. This only needs to be done every couple of months.
All bicycle helmets look ordinary but wearing one is better than breathing through a tube in the hospital. ALWAYS be careful and aware around motorised traffic. Most importantly … enjoy your ride