For my first year of cycling I was pretty regular with cleaning my bike, cleaning and lubing the chain and make sure that everything was in good working order. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that I wasn’t quite doing enough so I decided to put together a few of the items that have given me fits – to hopefully save you the same grief. This list, by the way, is in addition to the standard, normal maintenance items.
1. If you have a quill stem remove it, clean it, grease it and reinstall it at least every six months max (I clean and regrease mine once every few months). If, while you’re riding – up a hill in particular, when you’re putting some stress on the bars, if you hear (and feel) a creaking noise coming from the stem/bar area, this is the likely culprit. You’ve got metal on metal and those parts have to be adequately greased to keep from creaking. To do this, loosen the bolt on top of your stem… You do not loosen the headset nuts! If your stem doesn’t loosen up, bang on the bolt with a mallet – rubber mallets will not work if it’s really stuck, go with one of those rawhide dealios, or if you don’t have one, place something on the bolt to absorb some of the blow of a regular hammer – don’t directly hit the bolt with a steel hammer… Too many bad, expensive things could go wrong, because you’re probably going to have to give it a pretty good whack to shake things loose. Remove the stem and lube all of the parts, including the stem shaft, and reinsert it and tighten it back down. You want a very healthy tight – but to be specific, consult your owner’s manual for the correct torque. Personally I don’t use a torque wrench, I just tighten the hell out of it without stripping it, but I’d be an idiot to recommend you do that only to have you sue me because you tightened it too much and broke your bike.
UPDATE: Important note – once you get the stem out (you may have to loosen the brake cable to do this), DO NOT try to clean out the tube with a towel and your finger – there’s a 75% chance you’ll get your finger stuck in there and once it’s in, it ain’t coming out… I was 30 seconds from walking my bike out of the spare bedroom, through the living room and dining room, into the kitchen – finger stuck in the steerer tube – to get a stick of butter. I was not laughing (though you probably are). All I could think of was, “holy shit, Matt’s gonna laugh his ass off if I have to call him about this”…
2. Remove your seat post, clean it, grease it and reinstall it. Carbon bikes with carbon seat posts are different – this is for alloy/aluminum frames and/or posts. If you have a CF Frame and a CF Post, there are other products you use but if you have an alloy post and a carbon frame (as I do) or vice-versa, and the post fits snugly, grease it. This is the cause for fretting all over the internet – many folks believe that it is bad to grease an aluminum post that goes in a carbon frame. If you’re heading to the comments section, please hang on a second… I’m going by what Craig Calfee says – and I guarantee he knows more about carbon fiber than you do. Here’s the problem – at an atomic level, your alloy/aluminum post is charged differently than your carbon fiber frame – this difference causes corrosion to occur. Throw in some sweat that drips down (or salt water for short) onto the post during a ride (if you’re riding fast enough it will get a good dousing as the wind pushes the sweat drops back – happens to me all the time) and you’ll be lucky to extricate your seat post with the jaws of life. If you find that after you’ve lubed your seat post that it slips, clean the grease and search the web – there are remedies posted all over the place. The general rule is if your post is snug going into the tube, use lube… Loose? Skip it. No pun intended…
3. Once a year (or maybe twice) disconnect your brake cables and clean out the zerts on your frame. Your shifter cables shouldn’t be too big a deal as long as you’ve taken care of them throughout the season.
4. Clean your brake pads. That’s right, your brake pads. Slivers of aluminum can embed themselves into your brake pads under normal riding conditions. They will wear out your rim over time. Remove the pads and use a sharp pointy object (I used a safety-pin and a good set of tweezers) to get the aluminum bits out of your brake pads. Also, if you happen to use the back brake more than the front, it doesn’t hurt to rotate the pads from time to time.
That does it for the easy oddities – there are a couple of other issues that I find when I ride with other folks that get surprisingly little attention… If you’ve got a nice bike, it deserves these:
5. Clean that nasty lookin’ cassette when you clean your chain. This is a photo of my cassette just before I’m due to clean it again (Friday). If your cassette doesn’t look this good after you’ve cleaned and relubed your chain you are doing something wrong. Cut it out.
6. Wash your bike and lube the exposed cables every time you clean and lube your chain (every 250-400 miles depending on the lube you use). If you don’t feel like going through the effort, at least wipe it clean with a damp towel. If you happen to be single and wealthy, it is always best to hire hot women (or men for the ladies) to do this – as shown here:
If you are married, let your imagination run riot, mate – try to get the wife out there in a bikini, there’s no telling what that might lead to. Now, if you’re of the fairer sex, and are offended by this, fear not! I regularly wash my wife’s bikes in only shorts or swim trunks – she get’s the glistening biceps, pecs and the whole nine yards, while getting her bikes cleaned… That’s right folks, I give too, and that’s the idea. If you need bike cleaning tips, I just happen to have written about the subject a time or two. For winter cleaning – I cheat… Being a master of the universe that I am, I have a warehouse at my office that I clean my bikes in.
A clean bike is a happy me.