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Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Clean Bike

Our guide to a clean bike will have your ride look good as new

Everybody knows that when you go for a ride, your bike is bound to get dirty. Whether it’s grease from your indoor trainer or mud and dirt from your ride on the trails, we know how hard it can be to keep your set of wheels clean with all the craziness of training season. Prolong the life of your bike by giving it the TLC it needs with our 7-step guide to a clean bike. Pro tip: download the PDF below to print out our guide to a clean bike!

Follow these steps

  1. Put a little degreaser on the chain. Not too much, a little goes a long way. Let it sit on the chain for about a minute or two.
  2. Give the chain a light scrubbing and rinse it off with the hose/sprayer.
  3. Prepare the Simple Green solution. We recommend a 3:1 ratio of water to Simple Green.
  4. Take your big brush along with the solution and wash all the major components of the bike (i.e. frame, fork, wheels, cranks, and derailleurs). Save your smaller brushes for tighter areas. To avoid missing any spots, start at the back and make your way to the front of the bike.
  5. Spray your bike down with water completely. Wash your tires while you’re at it. It will give you a chance to inspect for any damages your tires may have.
  6. Let it dry. Either air-dry outside or hand-dry it with a towel.
  7. Once completely dry, you can then lube the chain so it’s ready to go on your next ride.

Go the extra mile and wash the bar tape, saddle, and tires. These parts tend to get forgotten and they can get pretty gross if they stay dirty.

Consistency is key. Using our guide to a clean bike will ultimately improve the way your bike handles, as well as extending the life of your bike. Remember: happy bike = happy life.

By: James Balentine, owner of City Limit Cycles, an Austin, Texas-based mobile bicycle repair company that comes to you. Balentine began working with bikes in 1990 when he was 12. He began racing mountain bikes in 1991 and BMX in 1992, winning 12 national championships before turning pro in 1999. He has worked with USA Triathlon as a mechanic for Team USA since 2004. Since 2013, Balentine has worked with the US Paratriathlon team and is their sole mechanic.

What’s That Noise?! How to Fix a Squeaky Bike

Fix your squeaky bike with these quick steps

You manage to get ready, on your bike, and ready to zen out for some miles when all of a sudden you hear it – squeak… squeak… squeak… AND IT IS SUPER ANNOYING!

Many of us have been annoyed by having a squeaky bike from time to time. The question is, what is it and how do we stop it? There are a few things we can re-tighten and re-grease that make a world of a difference.

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Jack’s Generic Tri 2016

First, check your pedals. They do come loose and will make a creaking noise. You should re-tighten and re-grease your pedals periodically, especially if you travel or ride in the rain. Using a bike specific pedal wrench will make it easy to get enough leverage to tighten the pedals properly.

Second, check your shoes and cleats. They may need to be lubed and tightened. Loose cleats can not only lead to annoying squeaks but can also be the cause of pain while riding. Speedplays are notorious for having noisy and “sticky” cleats and pedals when they are not lubed properly.

Third, your brakes and wheel alignment. Check both your front and back brake to make sure they are centered. Realign the brakes by pushing them with your hand. If you find your wheel leaning to one side, simply release the quick release lever and let the wheel center itself.

Forth, your chain. Rub your fingers along your bike chain. You should have a light amount of chain lube come off on your fingers. While it may have some color to it, it should not be gritty or thick. If it is, it’s time for a bath or possibly a new chain. If it is dry, be sure to get some chain specific lube on it.

Fifth, your saddle. Check the railing on your seat. If your seat is broken or the railings are loose they will move each time you pedal. If this is the source of your squeaky bike, then don’t keep riding. A loose or broken seat can be dangerous.

Last but not least, check the bolts on your crank arms and cranks. They do come loose and need re-tightening and re-lubing from time to time. If you are uncomfortable with tightening any of these, just stop in your local bike shop. The mechanics are happy to help with a quick safety/squeak check.

Bike transportation is a big culprit when it comes to stuff getting knocked loose. Take your time when loading and unloading your bike. It is also a good idea to do a pre-ride safety check each time you ride. Also, lube is your bike’s friend and it’s not a bad idea to add it to your saddle bag.

Now you can stop the squeaking and enjoy your noise-free ride.

Two Reasons for Skipping Chains

Learn what causes skipping chains and what you can do about it

There are two main causes for skipping chains. The most common cause is the misalignment of the rear cogs and the chain itself. The second most common cause of skipping chains is wearing on the chain, cassette, and/or the chainrings. Read below to see what causes each and how you can prevent chain skipping and extend the life of your bike.

There are several things that can cause the misalignment of the rear cogs and the chain.

  • Improper cable tension. When the tension is incorrect the chain does not sit inline with the corresponding cassette cog and it is trying to jump to the next cog.
  • Dirty cable. The dirt prevents the cable from moving like it needs to.
  • Slightly bent hanger for the rear derailleur. Can affect the alignment.

Learn what you can do about skipping chains on your bike.Skipping chains will wear on the chain, cassette, and/or the chainrings. The chain is the most likely to wear out first since it is made entirely of small, moving parts. Those parts tend to wear out faster when they are dirty or ridden dry. Chains on most modern drivetrains usually last anywhere from 1500 to 2000 miles. This can change depending on your riding style and how well you maintain your bike. If you keep your drivetrain clean and you tend to spin at a slightly higher cadence then you will get more mileage out of your chain. Follow these six steps to clean your drivetrain.

When the chain wears, it no longer sits evenly on the cassette cogs and chainrings. As this goes on the chain will eventually start to jump since the chain wears much faster than the cassette and chainrings. If you let your chain go too long it will start to wear down the teeth of the cassette first and then the chainrings. If the chain is replaced before it is too worn the cassette and chainrings will outlast the chain many times over. You’d much rather want to replace your chain than the cassette and chainrings.

Use this bike tool to measure chain wear at home. You can also call James Balentine at City Limit Cycles. He can measure it for you and make any necessary adjustments and/or fixes.