Sunday, April 10, 2011

Keep It Clean--and Quiet

While my cycling friends may be a bit stunned at the title of this blog post, I am talking about your bicycle and bicycling equipment.

With better weather, we ride more and place a greater burden on all our cycling gear--especially when the weather turns hot and we leave a good bit of human and road nastiness building up on and in our equipment and clothing.

Here are some tips and guidelines for keeping it clean and quiet:

• Keep your cycling clothes clean and odor free by putting your shoes, helmet, HR strap, etc., somewhere in the open to dry and breathe after proper cleaning and after each ride. I wipe off my shoes after removing the insoles and rinse my helmet and HR strap under cold running water after each ride. I also wash my cycling gear in an odor-free sports wash such as this one from Penguin (http://www.penguinapparelcare.com/sport.html). Most cycling clothing should be hung to dry--not placed in a drier as well.

• Lubricate all moving bicycle parts that require grease regularly--pedals, wheel hubs, bottom brackets. My first pair of Speedplay pedals died on me because I failed to lubricate them. Everyone should own a high quality bearing grease (see you local shop) and a basic grease gun (http://www.biketiresdirect.com/product/dualco-grease-gun). Regularly spin your wheels, test the tightness of your cranks, spin your cranks and listen to the BB, turn your pedals with your hand and feel for play or grit. Once or twice a month is a good rule, but always inspect after riding in dusty or rainy conditions. (Also, the worst thing you can do for your bicycle bearings is to have a roof rack. Many top mechanics refuse to use roof racks since the high winds play havoc with your grease, so if you use a roof rack, you shoud inspect more often.)

• Check and clean your quick releases often. Take them off, wipe all the contact areas on QRs and frame, and then re-attach--especially if a new noise appears. Many squeaks can be traced to those darn QRs.

• Wipe off and lube your chain every ride. I use Armor All Orange Degreasing wipes religiously (http://www.armorall.com/products/view_product.php?product_id=7). I wipe my chain clean and then apply White Lightning lubrication before every ride (I prefer this wax-based lubricant to the more traditional wet versions.) A clean chain increases the life of parts and reduces noise and poor shifting.

• Wash your entire bicycle regularly--using a wide spray (not a jet-stream) and simple dish detergent. A large soft brush is ideal. Place the bicycle in a stand, and after wetting, simply scrub down all of it--paying special attention to the rim where the brakes contact. The entire bicycle should be carefully and fully rinsed (especially the rims), and if brake squealing occurs, either clean the brake pads and rims with the Armor All Orange wipes or hit the pads lightly a few time with sandpaper (and wipe afterward).
A key to a good ride is clean and well maintained bicycle equipment--from your kit to your ride.

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University

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