While You Ride

One of the best ways to extend the life of your bike doesn’t require a special tool or a fresh application of lube. All you have to do is be careful when you ride.

Although modern bikes are designed to withstand a significant amount of punishment, try to avoid riding in a way that puts additional strain on your bike or, even worse, increases the likelihood of an accident. Here are some steps you can take while riding, to prolong the life of your bike:

✓ Pay attention to the road in front of you. Your goal is to avoid obstacles like rocks, potholes, and other hazards, which, if impacted, could result in a bent rim or other problem.

✓ Instead of jumping or riding across a curb, dismount and walk your bike.

✓ Shift into your lowest gear before you reach the steepest section of a climb. Trying to shift when you’re barely moving puts a lot of strain on the chain and derailleurs. If the chain springs off the largest cog, into the spokes, the damage will be even greater.

✓ If you have to go over a bump, raise yourself off the saddle and use your arms and legs as shock absorbers as if you were a horse jockey.

This lessens the impact of the blow.

When riding, you should listen to your bike. If it makes awkward noises or grinds in certain operations, it’s time to diagnose the ailment before it gets worse and destroys internal parts.

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Even though you may be ready to relax and kick back with a cold one after your ride, if you take care of a few issues (like cleaning and lubricating your bike), your bike will last longer.

Cleaning your bike

Unless you’re a part of the U. S. Olympic team and are training on an indoor track, your bike is going to get dirty. If you’re like us and you love the outdoors, you probably don’t mind dirt. Hopping on a mountain bike and plowing your way through mud-covered mountain passes and rolling streams may bring back the joy of childhood and your mother chasing you through the house as you left muddy footprints behind.

Your bike feels much differently about dirt and grime, though. Dirt acts as an abrasive and, as it works its way into the internal parts of your bike, it starts wearing out bearings and other components. Even if your bike isn’t covered in mud and grime, dust can build up inside the chain, gears, bearings, and other parts. A bike that you haven’t washed for a while because you think it’s fairly clean may be wearing out unnecessarily with each turn of the crank.

If you could do only one thing in this book to care for your bike, it would be to wash your bike frequently. If you ride in wet, muddy, or dusty weather, we recommend that you clean your bike immediately at the end of your ride. If you ride your bike in normal conditions, you probably can get away with cleaning it every week or two (maybe longer, if you live in a dry climate).

If your bike appears fairly clean after riding, all it may need is a quick wipe — down. Use a damp cloth or paper towels to wipe off any dust or dirt that may have accumulated on the frame, the fork, the handlebars, and the cranks.

If your bike is a dirty or hasn’t been cleaned in a week or two, it’s time to do a serious cleaning. Here are the supplies you need to clean your bike:

✓ Bucket

✓ Dishwashing soap, car cleaner, or a cleaner from your local bike shop

✓ Sponge

✓ Brushes (such as a toothbrush, bottle brush, and a bathroom cleaning brush, or a specialized brush designed to clean hard-to-reach places on your bike, such as between the sprockets)

✓ Degreaser

✓ A clean rag

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✓ Car wax

If you have a bike stand, use it to clean your bike. You’ll be able to rotate the cranks to clean the chain and you’ll have easier access to other parts of the bike, such as the rear derailleur.

To clean your bike properly, follow these steps:

1. Fill a bucket with warm water and a cleaning agent.


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2. Wet your bike with a hose without a spray nozzle.

Avoid spraying water directly at your bike, especially toward the hubs or bottom bracket. This may force water and dirt into your bearings and break down the grease in which they’re packed.

3. Use a brush or sponge and soapy water, and brush off as much caked — on mud or dirt from the bike as you can.

Brush in between the sprockets to remove any dirt trapped inside (see Figure 16-1.

4. Spray degreaser on the freewheel, derailleur, chain, and chain ring (see Figure 16-2).

Allow a couple of minutes for the degreaser to penetrate the parts, and then brush it off with a brush.

5. Use a brush or sponge to wash down the entire bike.

Make sure you dig out dirt between the cogs and wherever else it hides. A specially designed brush (available as most bike shops) is useful for this procedure (see Figure 16-3).

6. Rinse the bike with a hose.

7. Dry the bike using a clean rag.

You can use a rag or a strip of cloth to wipe away water from between the sprockets (see Figure 16-4), beside the hubs, and around the derailleurs.

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Figure 16-2:

Degreasing various parts of a bike.

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Figure 16-3:

Digging out dirt between the cogs.

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8. If you have time, apply car wax to the frame and remove it using a clean rag.

9. Lubricate your bike following the steps in the next section.

While You Ride

When you remove grease on your bike by cleaning it, you’ll need to lubricate its parts afterwards. Washing and lubricating your bike go hand in hand — if you wash your bike, you should be prepared to follow it with a lube job.