Let the riding begin! We are looking forward to a nice long season racking up miles on our trusty two wheel steeds. As you collect miles throughout the season, bike cleaning becomes more critical. Regular cleaning extends the lifespan of all parts on the bike. Cleaning can reveal problems before they reach an irreversible state. A clean bike looks great but more importantly; it runs better without all that grime spinning around on its surfaces.
There are several areas that require particular cleaning techniques and tools. Gathering a few tools and supplies is the first step. A repair stand frees allows greater efficiency compared to balancing the bike while working on it. A collection of brushes such as the Park tool GSC1 set is a good starting point. These brushes are specifically designed to clean the frame, cogs, and many other areas. A good set of moderately stiff-bristled brushes would suit, too. Don’t forget a sponge to accompany your bottle of degreaser and a bucket of warm, soapy water. Finally, consider adding a chain cleaner such as the Park Tool CM-5 to your tool collection.
Step 1: Drivetrain
Remove the wheels. A good place to start cleaning is the cassette or freewheel (the set of cogs located on the hub of your rear wheel). If there is greasy sediment built up between the cogs, use the toothed hook of the Park GSC1 or a stout brush to dislodge it. Then, a rag soaked in degreaser or a brush can be employed to floss between the cogs to remove what is left.
Reinstall the wheels. Before cleaning the chain, inspect the chainrings and clean them as needed with a rag and degreaser. A coarse brush or even a pick of some kind can dislodge build-up from both sides of each ring. Use your CM-5 chain cleaner or similar implement to scour the chain using degreaser. Most chain cleaning tools clamp around the chain and allow you to pedal the chain through a series of brushes that help whisk away grime. If the chain is excessively dirty, it may take a couple cycles of changing the degreaser before the remaining grime loosens up. The more material is allowed to build up on the chain, the shorter its life expectancy. Once the chain is free of residue, wipe off excess liquid with a rag.
Step 2: Frame and Wheels
Use a sponge and rag to clean the frame and wheels with soapy water and rinse everything off with water. Avoid spraying pressurized water into the bearings and cable housing. Part of this exercise involves looking over the frame and rims for damage and wear. Examine the brake pads. Check them for wear and make sure they are free of metal shards that wear away at the rim each time the pads contact. Also look for excessive rim wear or other damage. Using a soft, dry rag, dry off the frame, wheels and chain. Be on the lookout for worn paint, cracks and other suspicious irregularities. Once everything is dry, lubricate the chain and derailleur pivots and shift through the gears.
Cleaning your bike a few times per season will help preserve all parts on the bike. It will also show problems that can otherwise develop over time but remain undetected until it is too late.