I made a lot of mistakes in my first years of cycling, thinking my bike was relatively clean when I was missing a few very important areas so I thought I’d pass my mistakes along…
1. Carbon bike with an aluminum saddle post? Remove, clean and grease the post every month or two. There are two things at play here. First, carbon fiber and aluminum don’t exactly play well together (the atomic makeup of the two clash) and this causes the two substances to corrode over time. This corrosion causes the saddle post to “fuse” with the carbon fiber frame. Extricating the saddle tube after this occurs becomes extremely difficult unless you happen to be a professional body builder. Second, if you ride fast enough your sweat will drip off of your melon, blow back in the breeze and land right where the saddle post goes into the seat tube. On my bike it’s almost as if there’s a sweat magnet in the seat tube the way the sweat finds its way to just the right spot. The sweat, especially on aluminum, exacerbates the corrosion problem.
2. Chain/Cassette/Chain rings: I go through a lot of trouble to make sure these three components sparkle after I’ve cleaned them. When I was a kid my mountain bike’s cassette was crusted with motor oil, dirt, leaves and God only knows what else. I expected that this is what cassettes look like after a few years of use when I picked up cycling as an adult. The first time I saw a cassette and chain that still held their normal metal colors I was bemused. I literally wondered how they kept their drivetrain so clean! Well, regular cleaning and proper lubing of the chain works wonders. I don’t ever want to have one of those gnarly chains or cassettes again so I make my stuff sparkle every 250-300 miles (recommended time/distance by Boeshield). A little standard degreaser, a chain cleaner and some elbow grease (and ten minutes) is all it takes.
3. Helmet cleaning: Because I like to push it when I ride, I don’t tool about at 15 mph, I sweat like a bull. A new helmet will be fine for a week or two if you simply allow proper drying time in between rides. On the other hand, if you’re riding every day like I do, the chin strap and the inside of the helmet will become quite repugnant very quickly. You’ll stink like a mixture of sweat and ass if you don’t clean that helmet regularly (let this go long enough and others will notice). After every hard ride is necessary. How to? Simple: Take your helmet in the shower with you. I use one of those plastic “scrunchies” and liquid soap… The best “clean”, fresh helmet I’ve ever gotten was with Tea Tree Oil Hand Soap. The stuff is simply amazing. A lot of folks will recommend using no-sting kid’s shampoo but I’ve found that’s quite unnecessary as long as you rinse the melon protector out well. If you spend a lot of time in that dome cover, clean it regularly, it is most definitely not “supposed to stink”.
4. Tire Pressure: Pump them up before every ride. You folks with the rear tires that have flattened out at the center? Yeah, that’s normal over a decent enough period of time, but that happens to your tires in a few weeks because you don’t pump your tires before every ride. You mistakenly give the tire the pinch test and think you’re okay. How do I know this? Guess. Pinchy, pinchy. Two tires later and I no longer have a flat center section on my tire.
5. Maintain you. You’re cycling regularly, maybe running a little bit for the cross-training, you’re looking good now… The legs look like they were carved out of granite… Take the time to do your manscaping. Many will give excuses, like it’s easier to clean up after you crash, etc. If you’re a triathlete you can even use the “I’m faster in the water” standby – and that one works believe it or not, but the truth is this: Shaved legs make them look awesome once the muscles really pop. It is what it is. You absolutely do not have to shave them for your local group ride. You will not be labeled in any way if you choose not to (at least not in the Midwest). Of course, trimming the hair short with clippers never hurt either if you won’t shave. Yetis do not look awesome on bikes. Ladies, don’t wear makeup on the ride. If you are so self-conscious that you can’t leave the cap on the foundation, tread lightly: If you don’t sweat, you’re not riding fast enough and if you sweat, it’ll run.
5. Black cycling shorts only unless your ass is amazing. Again, if you’re self-conscious, black is slimming. On a personal level, I have a fabulous man-ass but I still wear black – I could probably pull a wide range of colors off but I don’t.
6. UPDATE: A special thanks to Saltyvelo for pointing this one out, I’d forgotten to add it when I thought about the man-ass line and I was chuckling to myself, I simply forgot to add it. If you have a quill stem, take that out, clean it and re-grease it. If you don’t, eventually your handle bars will creak when your pushing or pulling on the bar. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOOSEN THE NUT(S) – THOSE KEEP THE FORK TIGHT AND ARE AT A VERY SPECIFIC TORQUE – NOT TOO TIGHT, NOT TOO LOOSE. If, when you loosen the quill screw (generally on top of the stem), the stem does not move, get a mallet and give the screw a good whack (don’t use a hammer, use a hard mallet or put a wrench handle over the screw and hit the wrench handle with a hammer). The screw should drop down releasing the quill and thus the stem. Remove the stem, clean the whole thing, re-grease and replace.