It’s springtime in Texas and that means there’s lots of organized rides to participate in. I have some favorites and one of them is the Shiner GASP. As I was thinking about the things I needed to prepare for this ride, I decided that I really needed to clean my bike, including the chain. Last year I got a little lax on my chain cleaning. It’s a good idea to periodically clean your chain with some degreaser or your components will wear out pre-maturely. In reality, however, I was embarrassed by how dirty my bike was. Regardless of what motivates you to do it, thoroughly cleaning your bike before a big ride is a good idea for a number of reasons.
First, it washes away the dirt buildup on your bike’s moving parts. Your bike accumulates all kinds of dust, road grime, sweat, hydration fluids and who knows what else while you’re riding it. While modern lubrication products are designed to clean while they lube, there’s only so much they can do. Eventually, most lube products actually begin attracting more dirt and grime. If you let this accumulate long enough, you’ll begin to notice your shifts become less crisp and your cables will not move as smoothly. A citrus-based bio-degradable degreaser from your local bike shop is all you need to get all this off. Be sure to rinse your bike off with a gentle water spray and let it dry completely before re-applying lube. Make sure you clean every nook and cranny. I was amazed how much grime had built up and I vowed to clean my bike more often instead of waiting until it looked too dirty.
Of course, while you’re cleaning your bike, you might as well perform an inspection. This is actually a great time to do this. Begin by checking your wheels to make sure they are true. Before the Shiner GASP, I found several of my spokes had loosened on my rear wheel, while which I found when I was washing my spokes. These were easy to fix on my truing stand. If you don’t have a truing stand, try tightening your brakes to the point where there’s just a little bit of clearance and use that as your guide. Be sure to back them off again and do a quick test spin to make sure the brakes are properly adjusted. I also wash my tires at this point. Before last week’s Hill Country Armadillo Classic I discovered that my rear tire was worn so badly that the threads were beginning to show. I’m glad I picked this up before heading out for a 63 mile ride. The last thing you want is a tire failure on an organized ride that you paid for. This is also a good time to check your derailleurs. I usually shift through all the gears on both the front and back before I re-apply lube. Don’t forget to inspect your cables either. It’s no fun to tackle a long hilly ride with a bike that shifts poorly.
It always seems like my bike rides better when it’s clean. I’m sure it’s mostly psychological. I feel the same way when I wash my car. Routine cleaning doesn’t have to take very long so you don’t have to worry about how much time it takes. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and give your bike a good cleaning and inspection, you’ll feel like you’re riding a new bike.