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Cleaning The Bikes After The Rain…


April 2013

After a log slog in the rain on the road bike you will be left with somewhat of a mess depending on where you live. In Michigan, we have dirt, lots and lots of dirt to contend with. With dirt everywhere, after a long ride in the rain, on top of the water washing most of the grease out of where you deposited it to keep the parts working properly, you end up with dirt in its place.

Now, allow me a caveat or two before I begin: First, I don’t have to ride in the rain very often. Normally I can just skip rainy days after May because we don’t get many – I might end up with a day off every two weeks, so when I did bump into a long, soaked ride I went a little overboard and treated it as my quarterly cleaning. Second, if you haven’t given your bike a good cleaning in a while, these steps are probably necessary and from what I understand if you ride in the rain a lot, then all you have to do is clean it well more often.

Now, I have some pretty nice equipment. My bikes were all purchased used, as was my wife’s and I don’t want to afford new rides, at least not yet, so keeping what we have in good working order is exceptionally important.

After the Dawn Farm Ride For Recovery, a 3+ hour slog, my wife and I immediately wiped the bikes down before packing them in the van, concentrating especially on the steel parts (bolts, cables, screw heads etc.) or the things that can rust and the paint job.

Once we got home I brought them inside and got to work. First, I cleaned off the paint, then the metal components. Next I took off the wheels and cleaned them up. I checked the bearings to make sure I didn’t get any grime in those bearings then cleaned the brakes, brake pads and the impossible to get at places when the wheels are on. I cleaned off the skewers and re-greased them. Next up was the seat post which I marked, pulled out, cleaned, re-greased and replaced. Then, because I have a quill stem on my bike, I pulled it, cleaned all of the pieces, re-greased and replaced the stem (there was quite a bit of water trapped in there). Finally I cleaned the chain, cassette and the derailleurs and re-lubed everything. Then I helped my wife do the same to her bike. Then we took a fabulous Sunday nap.

Yesterday I ran into something unanticipated…  About a mile into a slow recovery ride I noticed that my bike wasn’t shifting properly – it was way off, both on the way up and down the cassette.  I stopped several times over the next few miles and tried to fix the problem with the barrel adjuster but couldn’t get it quite right.  Eight miles in I resorted to my multi-tool as I’d figured out the cable was too loose – and still couldn’t get it.  After that I stopped by the shop on the way by and had Matt look at it…  The culprit was the rear cable housing.  The rain had washed out all of the lube and the cable was getting hung up on the bend to the derailleur.  A nice dose of bike lube and resetting the tension and I was on my way.  I never saw that one coming so keep it in mind should you ever have problems getting the derailleur tuned in correctly.

So, was all of this necessary? Probably not, with the exception of the stem – had I left that alone I could have had some serious ramifications. But, I like having nice stuff and I don’t want to have to replace it so taking care to make sure it stays in fantastic working order is a priority. As my wife pointed out when we were done, you can’t even tell we had them out in the rain…

You can call it overkill if you wish, but you can’t argue that our bikes aren’t better off for the effort.


  1. You can get away with just cleaning the important parts, but a full wash-down should be part of your regular post-ride plans. Take the wheels off the bike and wash everything, beginning with the underside of the saddle and working downwards.

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