Duh, clean your bicycle

I took my bicycles to Sunshine Cycle Shop after the Memorial Day events. My plan was to get things set up so that I would have one TT bike and one road bike. Well, the whole process has opened a can of worms… or should I say corrosion.

Up to this point, I had been keeping both bikes as road bikes until I decided to do a TT. When a TT was coming up, I would convert the Felt. The Giant would then be my training bike.

The Felt AR was my primary bike because it had the power meter. It isn’t necessarily because I like the Felt over the Giant TCR Advanced. For more technical riding and climbing, I actually prefer the Giant.

The Felt AR will soon live life as a dedicated TT machine

Finding myself doing about a many TT races as any other kind, I figured it would be best to let the Felt AR go back to its roots and live out its life as a dedicated TT machine. I would move the SRAM Red components along with the Quarq CinQo power meter to the Giant. I would take the SRAM Force components and couple them with the SRAM Red TT shifters on the Felt.

Confused? Well, we all were as we tried to figure it all out. However, we finally arrived at what we needed and the guys got down to work making the switch. That is, until I swung by the morning to check on things.

“Man!” said Clint as I walked in. “You sweat!” Turns out I was pretty much destroying my bikes with my bodily fluids. It was especially the case with the Giant. The bearing in my head tube were stiff to the point where you could hardly turn the bars. The various levers and bolts on the brakes were also sticking. “You need to wash your bike more often.”

The soon to be rejuvinated Giant will become my primary road machine

Well, I do clean my bike. I clean it very often. However, I learned something important about cleaning. It takes more that just a spray with bike cleaner and wipe down. You need to get water flowing inside some of those spots where cleaner doesn’t go. A fastidiously clean bike on the outside might be coming apart on the inside.

Ironically, I had avoided water in order to keep it out of the inner workings of the bike. I didn’t want water to get in there and rust anything. However, I was ignoring the fact that I was sending salt and other minerals along with water into those very spots. The water evaporates leaving a fine power of minerals. That can end up “welding” parts together or slowly grinding them down.

You’re better off getting the water in there to wash out the minerals and then allowing it to evaporate. Use of the bicycle and not keeping it constantly wet will take care of any concerns about rust. Obviously, it doesn’t hurt to have an occasional disassemble clean.

At first I didn’t understand why the Giant was giving me so much trouble suddenly with the gunk. I really hadn’t been riding it that often. It had sat for several months with little use. Things seemed to be pretty much fine as I took it out for the weekend. Then suddenly, on Wednesday, I could hardly turn the handlebars.

What I came to realize is that as long as I was riding the bike and sweating down into the headset, things were being “lubed”. However, when I let the bike sit all the gunk began to “set”. In this case, under use exposed the issues sooner than later.

Not treasure from the bottom of the ocean -- headset bearings

Learn from my mistake (or maybe I am the only idiot) and use water — even soapy water followed by a rinse — to clean your bike ever so often. No need to power wash it! Just turn your hose setting to mist and let the water get in those spots that need some good irrigation.

It might help you avoid having to order new headset bearings from your bicycle manufacturer.

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About Jonathan Pait

Jonathan started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990s. After discovering the ride can start at the end of his driveway, he moved to the road in 2006. Little did he know that first pedal stroke would lead him on an adventure that has become much larger than the bicycle.