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Cycling, Gear

Bike 101: Clean and Happy

My poor bike.

Thanks to the rainy conditions at Saturday’s race and the fact that transition was in a grassy field, my Felt was less than shiny and sparkling. I was way too tired to do anything about it that afternoon, but priority number one on Sunday morning was to give it a little bit of TLC.

So I packed up my supplies and headed out to the alley behind my building — the only open and traffic-free space available, since cleaning inside my tiny apartment absolutely would not work.

In the kit:  Simple Green all-purpose cleaner, Finish Line degreaser, ProLine chain lube, isopropyl alcohol, a towel, paper towels, cotton balls and a bucket of water.

Now, before a few months ago, I’d never cleaned a bike in my life. My road bike went essentiall yunridden for seven years, so I had no reason (for the most part) to relube the chain or wipe down the frame or anything. And when I started riding regularly last year, I had someone who knew everything and more about bikes to do all that for me. This season, it’s all me, and with a $3000 investment I sure as hell better know how to take care of it. Thanks to a little bit of research and a quick tutorial from the awesome guys at the Bike Rack, I think I know enough to do basic cleaning and maintenance (which includes brake adjustments and tire changes — wahoo).

So first things first. Because I don’t have a clamp stand to hold the bike — I WISH — I flip it upside down onto the seat and bars. Carefully.

Then I give it a quick rinse with water — using a cup to pour since I don’t have a hose — spray it down with Simple Green and gently wipe with a wet rag. I try to get in all the grooves between the frame and the wheels, which would be easier if you took the wheels off but for a basic clean that’s excessive.

Next up is degreasing the drivetrain — chain, cassette, derailleurs. I use Finish Line, which you spray using a small straw onto the area and then rinse with water to activate.

I rinse, hold a towel lightly around the chain and pedal my back wheel backward to remove all the pent-up grease. The towel will quickly turn black but the chain certainly looks clean! Then wipe down the rest of the drivetrain to get all the remaining grease.

Next up is relubing the chain. I put a single drop on each link while pedaling backward and then shift through all the gears to ensure each piece of the rear cassette is covered. Then I lightly wipe off the excess, again while pedaling back.

One extra step you can take is soaking a cotton ball with isopropyl alcohol and wiping down the rims of each wheel. This is good if you’ve been on a particularly wet or dirty ride. Also check the brake pads to make sure no gravel or other debris is caught, which could affect your ability to stop.

Finally, turn it over, give it one last gentle wipe-down and it’s good as new!

If you’re a bike expert, feel free to tell me all the things I’m doing wrong. And if you have doubts about what I do, there are plenty of YouTube videos and how-to articles on this stuff. I’d rather do it right and have my baby in great shape!



5 thoughts on “Bike 101: Clean and Happy

  1. Thats some good info. I just use either a damp cloth or baby wipes to clean off my bike after a dirty ride, but I never really really clean it. My bike could use a little TLC.

    Posted by Beth | May 17, 2011, 4:11 PM
  2. Only comment I have…that’s a BA bike. Very nice setup.

    Posted by Mack | May 17, 2011, 4:23 PM
  3. Gorgeous bike! I want a new one so bad but can’t seem to bring myself to spend the money at the moment. Ugh, you should have seen my bike after the Kinetic Sprint! It was by far the dirtiest it’s ever been. This is a good tutorial! I just have kind of been making it up, but I need to be better. I also keep meaning to take a basic bike maintenance class! I can change a flat…but that’s about it…:/

    Posted by Erin @ untilyoutri | May 17, 2011, 9:17 PM
  4. i need to learn to degrease/relube, i always just wipe down. my poor bike.

    Posted by katie | May 18, 2011, 10:07 AM


  1. Pingback: Boozy Cupcakes and A Dinner Party « Speed Laces, Amazing Races - May 17, 2011

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