Bicycle Maintenance

Cycling Tips: How to Clean and Maintain your Bicycle

Written by Benjamin Ling

Ask anyone who is passionate about cycling and they will tell you that the bicycle is the classic 19th century invention that triumphs almost everything else developed during that period and is still as cherished and very relevant in the 21st century. One of the best things about a bike is that it wears its major mechanisms on the outside, making it more flexible and easier than ever to keep it in perfect condition and to maintain its top performance condition.

You have already spend a fortune purchasing your bicycle, so how do you go about squeezing every ounce of pure bliss and joy out of it? What preventative maintenance and cleaning processes do you carry out regularly or infrequently to ensure maximum longevity and exceptional performance of your two-wheeler?

Cleaning your bicycle can be a very time consuming and exhausting task. At this point you might want to decide on whether you’re going to do all the cleaning yourself or hire some help. You could bring your bike to a workshop or hire a domestic cleaning service if you don’t have a workshop near you.

And without further ado, here are the top seven tips you need to know to make your work easy, fast and to keep your bicycle maintenance and cleaning fun while keeping every part working at its peak.

1. Clean your bicycle thoroughly after use
The number one secret of extending the life of your bicycle is to clean regularly and ensure that it is always sparkling before storage. The best way to clean your machine is to buy a biodegradable cleaner and use a sponge, towel, and an old toothbrush to clean everything—the frame, pedals, chain, seat, cassette and difficult to reach areas such as chain rings. You do not need to use buckets of water; a gentle spray does a good job of rinsing the soap and dirt away. For a thorough clean, remove the seat post and add a little grease while re-installing it.

2. Inspect and clean the brakes
The brakes are a vital part of your bike. It is imperative that you ensure they are in good working condition and properly adjusted. This can mean the difference between flawless maneuvering corners with exceptional control and accidents that could lead to serious injuries.

Take the time to scrutinize the brake system—especially the metallic/rubber surface that actually touches the rim. Brakes wear down with time, and the system may need adjustments over time to keep the brakes functional. While cleaning your bike, ensure that there is grease or soap left on the brake pads or the rim where the pads touch because they reduce friction, rendering the brakes ineffective.

3. Pay close attention to the wheels

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The wheels (rims and rubber tire) that hold the frame of the bicycle in place are also responsible for providing stability as well as smoothness while riding. While cleaning your bike after use, you should make it a habit to check and properly tune the wheels to eliminate any wobbling or sections of the rim rubbing against the brake.

While cleaning the bike, lift it up or position it upside down then spin the wheels. Both wheels should spin smoothly. You can adjust any wobbling and inconsistent contact between the tires and dirt using a spoke wrench. A simple adjustment shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes.

4. Inspect and clean the drivetrain

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Clean and inspect your bicycle’s drivetrain including the chain ring and the chain, pedals, derailleur and the rear wheel cassette. It is very important that you clean the drivetrain after every use session because the efficiency at which it transfers power generated by your legs on the pedals to the rear wheel depends on it.

For proper inspection and tune-up, raise the rear wheel and spin it to check every gear, Ensure that each gear shift is smooth and that here are no dents, missing teeth, excessive wear, or scrappers that hamper the drivetrain’s performance. If shifting is not as smooth as it should be, and regular cleaning and greasing do not fix, consider getting your bike repaired by a professional.

5. Check both tires
Cleaning your tires is easy, it is actually the part that most bike owners like to spend time cleaning. As a part of regular maintenance, you should also check to make sure that the pressure on is ideal depending on the terrain you are riding. Air escapes from the tires naturally; it is, therefore, good to make it a habit to check the pressure before storage and before riding out.

While cleaning the bicycle’s tires, be sure to use an environmental-friendly soap and wipe the shiny metal surfaces dry to prevent rusting while in storage. Check both tires for cracks, splits, tears, and wear particularly on the side-walls. While at it, also check for uneven and excessive wear of the tread and avoid dangerous situations on your next ride by repairing or replacing tubes and tires that are likely to burst.

6. Do not overlook the cables

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The cables on your bike are made of either tightly coiled metal wires or just oil caged in a plastic tube. These cables are important because they connect the brakes and shifters on your handlebars to the derailleur and the brake pads. Be meticulous when cleaning the surfaces of the cables and inspect every cable and the surrounding housing (often made of rubber) for signs of rust, cracks, dirt, and looseness.

Proper adjustment of these cables makes shifting and braking smooth, thereby increasing the bicycle’s performance and your enjoyment. If the shifting and braking is not optimal or some cables are badly damaged, you should get it looked at by a professional. Typically, cables replacement on a bike should be scheduled every 3 to 5 years depending on use. If you ride every day all year round, you may want to have the cables or oils changed annually.

7. Lubricate moving parts
Finally, as the last stage of cleaning, apply a coat of lubricant on the various moveable parts on your bike including the drivetrain, gears, and bolts among others. A good lubricant not only eliminates friction that causes metallic parts to chip and scratch, but it also helps the parts to last longer and work more efficiently. Lubricating also reduces the accumulation of grime and dirt, which greatly improves the performance of the bike.

Gradually apply lubricant evenly along the chain while gradually rotating the pedals counter-clockwise. Apply the lubricant on the brake levers, any exposed cable wires, and seat springs if necessary. You can also fix minor rusting spots and dents by applying a little grease and rubbing it with a steel wool. Once done, remember to wipe off any excess oils, especially on the chain, with a clean and dry rag or towel.

Use your bike
The worst thing you can do to your bike is dragging out of the shed and letting it take a beating from the elements for weeks—even months—without riding it. Taking your bike out on a ride a couple of times every week is the surest way to keep moveable parts moving and to diagnose any problems there may be. With these tips, you are set to keep your bicycle clean and in its best working condition after every use.

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About the author

Benjamin Ling

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