An Equal Opportunity Offender

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Friday, January 20, 2012

PSA #2. How to Fucking Clean your Bike

I've seen a lot of creaky bikes with rusted out cables and hubs that won't turn to save their lives. I also happen to live in the desert. There is not a lot of rain, humidity or salt floating around. This isn't Hawaii. Remember desert means there isn't a lot of water. From where do all these fucked bikes come? You've all seen the photos, the rusted out bb's, the housing with orange radials hanging out the sides and the dumbfounded look on the owner's face when you tell them they need some new stuff. Well, in my case, of living in the desert, it comes from the method used to clean the bike.

Over the years, we have noticed a significant trend for bikes that are shiny clean but are rusted out. Bikes that should be dirty, we know they are being ridden regularly, but when they come in for service not a spec of dirt can be found. Of course, Lake Bottom Bracket is there. If you push down on the suspension you can hear the bearings grinding against each other causing that awful creak we all want to avoid. Shifting is always sub-par and often creates a similar sound as the suspension linkage.

Oh, we know exactly what happened. You fucked your bike. You took it to the car wash and paid to destroy the thing. Sure it looks clean but let me show you what is inside.

What's to be done? Well, let me teach you how to clean your bike...



The Right and Wrong Way of Things


There are always two options when you are doing a job. You can do it the right way or take the half ass route and let yourself be lazy. The latter usually is accompanied by some excuse that equates to efficiency or time saving. What it really comes down to is laziness, half ass efforts that on the outside give you the same result but inside leave you rotting.

The half-ass method to wash your bike is to take it down to the car wash. Drop in some quarters (or swipe the cc if you have one of those fancy types of car washes in your neck of the woods). And then you spray the shit out of it. Thinking that you are doing yourself a favor, you really get into those nooks and crannies making sure every spec of dirt/mud/grime is removed by the brute force of the water. Then you smartly put the bike back on your carrier device (we all know you didn't ride your muddy bike to the car wash) and drive home with hopes that the ride will bounce/dry the poor beast. The bike is removed from the car and stuck in the garage. This method is sometimes called Riding it hard and putting it away wet.

Then there is the quarter-ass method which tends to occur after you have been berated by your local bike wrench about the effects of the half-ass method. They said, "power washers are bad, don't use them." You listened. Instead of taking your bike to the car wash, you go home, pull 'er off the car (again, if you're still in the ass method category we know you didn't ride to the trailhead). The bike is plopped on the front lawn and the hose, without any spray device attached, is used to extricate the mud. No spraying, that would violate the decree you received from your all mighty bike wrench. Once the muck has been extricated, you wipe your love down with a rag and hang her in the shed. Smiling and thinking to yourself how cool you are.

We all know that if you take steel, add water and then let it sit you get rust. It's a simple equation. If this is so simple then why do we see people dowsing their bikes in water. Or worse yet, power washing the poor thing after every ride. Water is not your bikes friend. A clean bike that has been blasted with water to get the job done will never be the same. Sure it looks good but give it a couple of weeks and the thing will feel like total shit. Why? Rust.

The proper method, the no-ass at all way of cleaning your bike (did you notice how I used clean instead of wash there. For some reason people equate wash with water and I kind of wanted to avoid that), is to hang the poor beaten machine in a repair stand (oh for shit's sake, just buy one already) and drop the wheels. Now you are going to use brushes or rags to remove the dirt and grime. Using a wiping motion instead of water pressure to remove the trail that you took home with you. By wiping you are moving the dirt away from the bike in place of pushing it into the bearings/suspension/bb shell/cables/housing... Once you get all that stuff off, take a bike wash of some sort, I prefer Pedro's Bike Lust (which I am pretty sure is the exact same thing as Armor All so you can use that in a pinch. God knows I have), spray this bike wash on a clean rag and polish, yes polish, your ride.

There are several brushes that I like to use. Pedro's Tooth Brush works great on cassettes and chainrings. If you use a wax-based lube, Park's tooth brush has a plastic end that helps remove build up between cogs. Park and Pedro's also offer a set of brushes for bike cleaning. These range from soft to hard bristles and are great for getting dirt off. But you don't really need any of this, a rag will do the same thing. Want to get between the cogs, cut strips of the cloth and run them between each one. The idea is to get the shit off the bike and not drill it into the bike.

This method will take a little more time. I know you were all trying to save time by spraying the thing off, but in the long run you are screwing yourself over by doing so. When you are done you can put your shiny bike in the garage knowing that there isn't a lake forming in your bottom bracket and that your love is dry. All that grease that was so painstakingly applied to your bearings, is still in place and uncontaminated.

Trust me, this is the only good method.

5 comments:

  1. Loving this one and the chain cleaning. While I have occasionally had to pull out the hose after nasty rides through cattle grazing areas I try to avoid it, definitely no solvents anywhere near my chain.

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  2. This cruiser is what happens when you mix a classical-styled bicycle with a vibrant color pallet Hermosa Beach.
    beach cruiser bicycles

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  3. I LOVE THIS! I have had all manner of people argue this fact with me...From new hybrid riders to pro road racers...One guy actually used a pro mechanic as an example of someone using a hose (granted he was cleaning a teams worth of bikes) and I argue that he was wrong for using the hose. Most of the time I win the arguement by showing them my mtn rig which is ridden3-4 times a week in muddy wet New England and works flawlessly without the use of water.But some folks can't be swayed...You can't fix stupid!

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  4. As an added bonus, the no-water wash works indoors. When you are dealing with your beater commuter bike in the midst of a Vermont winter, is a plus.

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  5. Use the fucking water!

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