Ah, February! The month where we take some time to show our loved ones a bit of extra love and care. If internet memes are any indicator, bike riders love their bikes just a few steps below family members and friends, so why not show your bike the love with these 5 steps of key maintenance and care. Whether winter has your bikes stashed waiting for Spring to reopen your trails, finally getting super hero dirt to ride, or pushing pavement miles no matter what mother nature has in store, these tips will help to keep your mountain or road bike running right and giving you the joy of riding on two wheels.
The best place to start showing your bike the love, is with a thorough cleaning. Dirt and grime from the road or trails can cause the various components of your bike to not run smoothly and can even cause parts to wear out prematurely. A good cleaning will make your bike look great, last longer, and improve performance. Additionally, a dirty bike can hide scratches or cracks that may need addressing to ensure your bike is functioning properly and is safe to ride.
Having the right tools to clean your bike makes the whole process a quick and easy task. We recommend a brush kit that has a variety of brushes for the various parts of your bike. You’ll want a soft brush that is gentle on your frame’s paint job, a detail brush for the hard to reach spots, and a bristly brush for removing grime from your drivetrain. Another very useful tool is a chain cleaner to ensure that you get the most life out of your drivetrain. In addition to these brushes, you’ll want to use a mild-degreasing soap or cleaner. This video from Park Tool gives a comprehensive guide on the best way to clean your bike from end to end.
Keeping your components and pivots properly lubricated will greatly improve efficient, reduce noises, and extend the life of these parts. After cleaning and degreasing your bike, you’ll need to reapply any grease or lube that needs to be there to keep everything running smoothly. With a basic bike wash, you will likely only need to lube your chain, but you’ll want to check any pivot points, as well, to be sure that they are not making noise or running roughly. If they are, pull them apart, apply the proper lube or grease, and retorque any bolts to spec.
When it comes to lubing your chain, remember too much of a good thing can be bad. Start by ensuring that your chain is clean and dry using a clean rag. Then, apply a drop of your favorite chain lube to each roller of the chain. You do not need to douse your chain in lube. Allow the lube several hours to fully penetrate throughout your chain, then thoroughly wipe the outer surfaces of the chain with a clean rag to remove any excess. Lube coating the outside of your chain doesn’t help anything and this will ensure that the lube doesn’t attract dirt that can cause premature wearing of your drivetrain.
Now that your bike is clean and lubed, it’s a great time to give it a thorough examination. You’ll want to check out every bit of your bike from front to back, giving extra attention to any areas that have moving parts. Keep your eye open for any scratches that may affect the free movement of your suspension, any areas of your drivetrain that may be worn out or broken, and any major damage to your frame. Cycle your suspension up and down several times, checking for smooth action and no excess oil weeping onto your stanchions. While you're at it, we highly recommend grabbing a torque wrench and checking all the bolts on your bike are properly tightened.
It’s also good practice to listen to your bike. Run through the gears on your drivetrain while pedaling to ensure you have crisps shifts and no grinding or clunking noises and no over/under shifts. If you hear any of these noises, your drivetrain may need a quick tune up to properly align everything or you may need to replace some key items like your chain, cassette, or cables. Spin your wheels to listen for any brake rubbing, look for wobble from a bent rim, and quickly check that no spokes are loose.
No matter how nicely (or not) you treat your bike, components eventually wear out or need maintenance. With your clean and fully inspected bike, you can now evaluate which parts still have some useable life in them versus those that need replacing. The key areas to most closely watch are your drivetrain, tires and wheels, and suspension as these are moving parts and are more likely to wear out and need maintenance or replacing. Plan on replacing your suspension’s wiper seals and oil a minimum of 1-2 times per year to ensure a long life and stellar performance.
The one item that we highly recommend monitoring and replacing the most often is your chain. A worn out, dirty, and stretched chain will cause your cassette and chainring(s) to wear out prematurely. IF this happens, buying a new chain could cause your drivetrain’s teeth to be out of sync with the new chain and can lead to skipping or slipping while pedaling. A complete drivetrain can be very expensive, but a new chain is rather affordable and replacing it regularly will greatly extend the life of your other drivetrain bits. So, pick up a chain checker tool and chain cleaner, and make it a habit to check, clean, and replace your chain before it causes bigger issues.
Sometimes you may not “need” new parts because they haven’t worn out or broken yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time for some fresh upgrades. Often, upgrading some part(s) on your bike can breathe new life into the way your bike performs and the way you ride. We think new tires are one of the most notable upgrades you can make. Tires matched to your terrain can greatly enhance your confidence and you can often shave a fair bit of weight by going to a high-performance tire. Since this is rotating mass, it has a much more tangible effect and feel when you’re putting the power down.
After tires, we think it’s best to dial in your contact areas. Upgrades to pedals/shoes, saddle, grips, and handlebars can really personalize your bike to you. Dialing the fit of these areas in will allow you to ride farther, faster, and in more comfort and confidence. While these upgrades can save some weight, we’d emphasize personal fit and comfort over weight, as this will keep you riding more. One other upside is that these areas often come in a variety of colors and graphics that will make your whip reflect your style.
We may just be cyclists and not relationship experts, but sometimes your relationship with your current bike has reached its natural end and it’s time to find a new two-wheeled partner. Or better yet, it may be time to grow your circle of love with a new companion. If you find yourself yearning for another bike in your quiver during this season of love, we’re here to support you on this new adventure. Our wide line-up features everything from pro-level bikes from lust-worthy brands to smart money builds that find the perfect balance between price and performance. Check out all of the incredible bikes in our range and don’t forget, our expert team of Gear Advisors are always here to help you find your perfect match.
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