Bike maintenance: washing your bike - First part: what to use and why
We are emerging from the colder days and our bike, like us, has suffered from the bad weather, humidity, rain, and dirty streets. Keeping your bike clean is not a manic habit of those who need to see their bike shine. Cleaning your bike is a simple and important part of bike maintenance. It is without doubt the first step to make sure your bike keeps functioning properly and helps you catch any possible problems early on.
Why should I wash my bike? Because a clean bike is a bike which rides well and does not give any problems. In professional teams the mechanic takes care of washing the bikes, demonstrating that this activity is integral to the general maintenance of a bike.
As in a radiography, any problems reveal themselves once the surface is clean. The off-axis rotation of a wheel, small cracks in the frame, bad alignment of the chain with respect to the derailleur - these can be caught early on when washing the bike, preventing more expensive maintenance work later.
How frequent? There is no clear-cut rule, but some situations necessitate washing your bike. After a ride in severe weather conditions such as rain, mud, snow or similar conditions, the bike should always be washed with care. Rain can oxidize unprotected metallic parts, putting at risk parts such as the chain, the gear cables, the cogset, the crowns of the shift cables and brakes. Humidity and dust can enter the bottom bracket, causing extensive wear with the passage of time, ruining the bearings and making it turn less fluently.
With which products? It is best to use specific products for washing a road bike and not use those you generally find around the house. These products can be too aggressive. Some recent studies have shown that several degreasing detergents can bind themselves to the molecules of the carbon fiber, changing its structure and therefore its properties.
Strong degreaser: for the drivetrain system (gear, chain, crankset, pedals). Avoid contact with other parts.
Medium degreaser: to pass with a sponge over the entire bicycle, after having partially diluted it in water.
A bicycle brush: to reach the most critical parts and avoid damaging the paint of the frame. Do not use paint brushes. They may not be of good quality and lose their bristles.
Synthetic chamois or microfiber cloth: for drying the bike.
Cotton cloth: to degrease the chain.
Wax: to protect the bike frame from the sun, water and dust during a ride.
Cleaner for carbon wheels: if you use carbon wheels it is important to use the right detergent to avoid altering the brake surface.