Rubber Side Down | Winter Bicycle Maintenance

With the winter season quickly approaching, it is prudent to have a game plan for continuing your cycling adventures in cold and hostile weather. In a previous installment, I discussed dressing appropriately, but now let’s talk a bit about your bike. Proper bicycle maintenance is important, especially when dirt and grime accumulate quickly due to harsh conditions.

Your cleaning frequency will depend on your frequency of riding. You might dedicate 20 minutes after your Saturday rides to clean away the filth from your bike, preventing it from setting in and harming components. More frequent cleaning will keep your bike running smoother, and also reduce the time necessary to restore your steed to its former glory when major maintenance is required.

01125-1Let’s start with a good cleaner. There are several styles available, including aerosols, sprays and foaming products. Pedro’s Green Fizz Bike Wash is a biodegradable agent that can be sprayed on the bike to loosen dirt for an easy clean, and is guaranteed safe for all frame materials. Simple Green is also an aerosol foam that sprays on and sticks to contaminants. The idea behind Simple Green Foaming Degreaser is that you spray it on, let it foam, and then spray it off. No wiping or scrubbing required.

I’m a fan of Finish Line Speed Clean Degreaser. This aerosol product blasts components clean and dries within seconds. I’ve always had a lot of luck using it to loosen caked on grime. Use it with a stiff bristled brush to clean greasy drivetrain components, including derailleur pulleys and linkages, chainrings, and cassettes. Speed Clean should be used on drive train components only, as it is caustic to paint and carbon frames.

After an initial cleansing, go back over the bike with a clean rag and some cleaner for those hard to reach places. VeloShine Velo Wipes are  great for this step. These wipes contain a biodegradable cleaner that lifts dirt and contaminants without scratching your frame.

If you prefer not to use a foaming degreaser on your bike, gently hose it down to lift dirt and then spray the whole bike with Finish Line Super Wash. This cleans and prevents oxidation of bolt heads and metal drivetrain parts while you work your way through the bike. Be careful not to get any of this spray on disc brake pads. Cover the calipers with plastic, or better yet, remove the pads with the wheels

This waterless bike washing video offers advice about components to be aware of when cleaning your bicycle. It is important to avoid spraying these cleaning products directly into bearings, seals and electrical components. Although these parts are designed for moist environments, the pressurized aerosols can penetrate seals and create problems later on. This video offers valuable advice for protecting disc brake components during cleanings too.

03621-1After a thorough cleaning, it’s time to reapply chain lubricant to protect drivetrain components. There are many different chain lube options available. First, decide between a wet or a dry lube. Dry lubricants contain a wax-based substance suspended in a water-based applicator, and are most effective in dry riding environments. After applying dry lubricant, the applicator evaporates, leaving only a waxy film on the components for protection and lubrication. Wet lubes are oil or plant-based, and are preferred for wet conditions, so you will probably want to stick with one of these during the winter season. Oil or biodegradable-based wet lubricant clings to the chain and doesn’t wash off as easily in rainy conditions.

Some products like Triflow Lubricants or White Lightning Clean Ride Chain Lube are Teflon based. In the same way that Teflon pans prevent grease and grime buildup, Teflon based lubricants keep dirt from sticking to the drivetrain in the first place.

Jerald offers a quick breakdown of different lubricant options in the video below.

After successfully removing all the dirt and grime from your bike, spray on some Finish Line Pro Detailer Polish. It is safe for all frame materials, minimizes UV damage to the paint and provides a Teflon surface protector. With the same properties as the lubricants, the Teflon finisher will prevent the dirt from sticking to the frame in the first place. Again, avoid getting polish spray on your disc rotors, rim brake tracks, and brake pads.

Pro Detailer is useful because it will make your next cleaning a lot easier. If you spend a few minutes with your bicycle every Saturday, a quick spray with a cleaner, a wipe down, some lube followed by a protectorate and you’re done. Frequent winter bicycle cleaning will keep your machine running smoothly for years to come and give you pride of ownership from maintaining your own equipment.

Rubber Side Down is a weekly column dedicated to the fledgling cyclist in all of us. Art’s Cyclery Web Content Editor, Brett Murphy is not a professional cyclist, and doesn’t try to masquerade as one either, but he does love to ride bikes. Whether you are clipping in for the first time or counting down the days until your first race, read on, learn from his mistakes, and keep the rubber side down.