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Daily Archives: August 13, 2014

A Photographical How To: Clean Your Bike After a Ride in the Rain

Many cyclists, myself included, keep a rain bike.  Unfortunately, every now and again the good bike ends up out in the bad weather, it’s just a fact of life.  Rain plays havoc with the moving parts of a bike and if not properly maintained after a wet ride, all kinds of bad things can happen, including rust.  It just so happens, on our way home from Georgia (USA), we drove through a few thunderstorms of Biblical proportions.  It was gnarly.

On arriving home, everything on the bike worked fine, the chain was a little gritty, but quiet all the same… I still set to stripping it down and cleaning everything.  Now, when I say everything, I mean everything, including every single metal bolt on the bike and relubing all of the important parts – the whole process took about hour and a half.  This is how it went…

I removed the chain and set it in a mason jar filled with degreaser.  Then I removed the crank and wheels (the bottle cages came off right after this photo was snapped):


Once everything was stripped from the bike, I cleaned the entire frame with a soft, damp cloth.  With all of those parts off, you should be able to get at every nook and cranny.  Then I went about cleaning off all of the metal parts, the bolts, brakes, derailleurs, everything.  While cleaning the bolts, I took a small (2mm) Allen wrench, wrapped a shop rag around it, and dug into the recesses:

IMG_4860With the wheels off, it’s easier to get at the brake pads, so make sure and clean them off and inspect them for imbedded grit (if any is present, remove the brake pad and dig the grit out):


Next up, I put a few drops of Boeshield T-9 on a towel and wiped it on all of the metal parts.  In the process, when I came to Allen bolts, I took that 2mm wrench and towel approach and applied some oil to them as well:


 No more road smutz:


Once every metal piece had been wiped clean, I moved on to the wheels.  I started with the tires and worked in…  Wipe down the tires and rims with a damp, lightly soapy towel, then the spokes, then the hubs.  After the second wheel I went back and hit the ends of the hubs with the oil doused towel to protect the metal:

IMG_4866 IMG_4867

Next I went to work on the cassette.  I took a clean(er) towel out to the mason jar full of degreaser and dipped a corner in it so I could go to work:

IMG_4868No more grime, clean as a whistle:


Next is the crank and if you’re riding your bike enough, it’ll be a little gnarly:


Because I never do anything related to cycling half-assed, I went whole hog and took the chain rings off, cleaning and relubing the nuts and bolts – taking the assembly apart also makes cleaning the chain rings a snap…  Just make sure to line up the chain rings to your crank spider properly.  My rings have notches to show where they align to the crank arm:


See the notches?



Relubed and assembled:


Now all we have left is to clean the cages, the cage bolts, relube them (yes, even the cage bolts) and reinstall them.  Once that’s done, head over to your chain, dry if off and wipe it down and reinstall it.  Apply your chain lube of choice to the chain and a drop on each of the derailleur pivot points…

And, Bob’s your uncle.

Showroom clean and good to go for another six months, or the next deluge...

Showroom clean and good to go for another six months, or the next deluge…

Now there are a few final notes.  With an internally routed bike, the maintenance on the cables is minimal.  Normally I’ll take the cable covers off and clean out the frame before reattaching them once a year but they were clean so I didn’t worry about that this time.  Also, the astute observer will note that I did not disassemble the front end.  Normally, had I ridden in the rain, I would have but because I was simply hauling the bike behind my vehicle and I’d just had the front end completely cleaned and relubed two weeks ago, I opted to inspect it first…  It was clean as a whistle so I simply put everything back together as it was.

Now, this might seem like a lot of work to go through just for a simple splash through the rain and it is – while I take decent care of my rain bike, I go the extra mile to make sure that this bike is spot-free.  This is the “A” bike after all.  It gets the best care because I don’t have $4,000 sitting around for a new one.

UPDATE:  A fellow who goes by the nickname Fossil Cyclist, from over in Scotland, pointed out that there’s no way he’d ever get out if he did this every time he rode in the rain…  A great point that I could have pointed out in the first place…  I am lucky enough to live in Michigan, USA.  Not exactly the sunniest state in the US (in fact we’re somewhere in the middle if I remember), but we know when the rain is coming – and it’s usually pretty rare through our cycling season after spring.  For someone who lives in a place, such as Scotland, where there’s always a 50-50 chance of rain popping up, going to the lengths described above every time the a raindrop hit the bike would be near impossible.