Your bike needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly to keep it running at its best. Failing to do so can mean unnecessary repairs and replacement parts. Go Outdoors has plenty of kit to help you save time and money by taking care of your bike at home. This guide will walk you through the essential products you’ll need.
The dirt and mud that sticks to bikes is an abrasive mix that increases friction between moving parts. This friction has two main effects: it wears out these moving parts and it slows them down. Friction also makes these moving parts work noisily. If you hear a bike making a horrible noise as its owner pedals along, that's the sound of friction doing its damage. Keep your bike clean and its components will last longer, running smoother, quieter and faster in the mean time too.
One other important way to reduce friction is to keep moving parts such as the chain properly lubricated. Without lubrication, these parts will still wear themselves out even if they are kept sparkly clean. Your bike will be properly lubricated when you first get it but over time the lubricants will dry out or get washed away in the rain. Reapply lubrication when necessary to keep unwanted friction at bay. Correct lubrication also protects your components from rust and corrosion by creating a seal between them and external moisture.
As you use your bike, natural wear and tear will also cause some parts to require adjustment. Brake and gear cables stretch as they are used, meaning that brakes and derailleurs must be tweaked so they keep functioning at their best. As brake pads wear down, they should be brought in closer to the braking surface to ensure full stopping power. Bumps and vibrations cause bolts all over the bike to wiggle loose and require retightening. Many cyclists chose to let professionals at bike shops take care of these problems, but you can save money by doing it yourself at home.
The number one reason to keep your well-maintained is safety. Leave any part without care and attention for too long and it won't just wear out, it is liable to fail completely. If this happens while you are riding, it could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere without a way to get home. Or worse, it could even result in a serious crash. Look after the bike, however, and it will provide you with years of safe, reliable performance.
So, take care of your bike and it will run better, last longer and keep you safe. And - of course - it'll look nice and shiny too!
Whether you're on or off-road, riding in nice weather or rain, your bike is liable to get dirty. In hot, dry weather dust rises up from the road or the trail and infiltrates hard-to-reach nooks and crannies as well as getting stuck in the grease on your chain. In the wet, mud gets splattered all over your bike and cakes on if allowed to dry.
The best time to clean your bike is right after a ride, before any new dirt has a chance to dry on. Clean your bike regularly and you end up saving yourself time - it's much quicker and easier to rinse of fresh muck after after ride than it is to scrub through weeks of filth! In fact, a build-up of greasy muck encourages even more dirt to accumulate so it's definitely in your best interests to keep on top of things. Thankfully, we have a range of bike-specific cleaning products to make cleaning your bike quick and easy!
Bike cleaners are specifically-formulated detergents that are safe to use on bike components without damaging the delicate finish on performance components. Usually supplied in an easy-to-use spray bottle, they use surface tension to break down grime and make it easier to scrub or wipe off.
The chain is one part of the bike that should have grease on it, but grease often ends up elsewhere too - either sprayed off the chain during wet weather or kicked up from the road by your tyres. Wherever it is on your bike, dirt will find this grease and is particularly difficult to clean once it does. Degreasers break down grease and get rid of any dirt it might be harbouring. Degreasers are particularly useful for cleaning the chain, cassettes and other drivetrain components.
A chain cleaner is small gadget full of sponges and circular brushes. You fill it with hot water and degreaser and then clamp it over your chain. Holding it in place, you can pedal backwards with your free hand, pulling the chain through the chain cleaner. As you do so, the chain is immersed in degreaser mix, dragged through the spinning circular brushes and over the sponge. It does three jobs in one motion that you'd otherwise have to do separately. It's a quick, easy and mess-free way to keep your chain nice and shiny.
Brushes help dislodge tough areas of dirt. A range different cycling-specific shapes and sizes are available to fit inside all the awkward nooks and crannys on your bike where dirt likes to hide. Cycling-specific brushes are also designed to preserve the finish on bike components.
Power or jet washers can help speed up bike cleaning by blasting off stubborn muck, but please be careful when using them. Power washers can actually push dirty water further into parts of you bike where you definitely don't want it, such as inside the wheel hubs. Far from helping with bike maintenance, this can lead to increase wear and corrosion. Be sure to only use power washers on their lowest power setting to avoid this happening.
Cleaning your chain will remove its lubrication so you'll need to re-apply lubricant after cleaning to keep it running quietly and friction-free and to keep it protected from corrosion. As mentioned above, chain lube can also simply dry out or get washed off while you ride your bike depending on the conditions. As such, it is worth topping up your chain lube if you start to hear it making more noise or if it feels a little sluggish even if you've not given it a full clean.
Since chain lube wears out differently in different conditions conditions, there are two main types of lube for you to choose from:
The lighter of the two, offering the best performance in terms of reducing drivetrain friction. Being lighter, it is easier to clean off your chain but also washes off more easily while riding as well. It's not actually dry - it comes as a liquid - but is designed for use in dry conditions.
Thicker and heavier, wet lube lasts longer in wet conditions, but is harder to clean off as a result.
Neither is ideal for all conditions, so it is best to choose which lube to use based on the expected weather conditions of your next few rides. It is definitely worth matching your chain lube to the conditions - it only takes a couple of hours in the rain for enough dry lube to wash off to affect performance.
Some people prefer to let the professionals take care of all their bike maintenance but there are certain tools that everyone should have for minor adjustments and fixes, particularly when you're out riding:
Almost every maintenance job on a bike can be performed with a humble minitool: installing new parts, adjusting brakes or simply tightening loose bolts. The best part is, they're small enough to take with you on the bike in case anything should come up mid-ride.
If your chain should break while riding, a chain tool is all you need to put it back together and get riding again. Also a required piece of kit for replacing an old chain once it has worn out.
These simple tools are used for taking tyres off the wheel to repair or replace punctured inner tubes or replace the tyres themselves once they are worn. Don't set off on the bike without them.
Pump up deflated tyres or just top them up if they've lost a bit of air. Mini-pumps are small enough to take with you on the bike in case of punctures and often come with a handy bracket for mounting them to your bike. CO2 inflators fill your tyre in seconds with no tiresome pumping required!
Give punctured inner tubes a new lease of life by patching up the holes with a puncture repair kit. A great last resort to have while riding if punctures have already claimed your spares as well!
While home maintenance will help improve your bike's life span and ward off avoidable mechanical problems, it's still advised to get your bike examined by a professional at least once a year to make sure that everything is up to scratch. GO Outdoors offers bike check up services in most stores, ask for more information in your local store.