Spring sprang a couple weeks back. The occasional April shower is going about bringing the random May flower, and as such, the shop is brimming with bikes rescued from a winter of non-use. We’re busy and it feels good. With all of this repair work though, I have become increasingly aware of an epidemic in cycling. One that should be taken care of—nipped in the butt, as it were, before our city’s mechanics are sent to therapy, driven to the brink by the endless stream of sugar coated tri-spaceships, muck-covered MTBs, and road bikes covered in some kind of black road sludge I don’t even want to talk about. Clean your bikes! There was a time when a clean, well-maintained bicycle wasn’t a rare bird, but a badge of honor that most would be embarrassed to be without.
Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe the bike mechanics of the world haven’t done a good job explaining it to people. Well if that is the case let me be clear beyond any doubt: Keeping your bike clean is the single most important thing you can do in maintaining your ride. So many issues—from slow shifting or bad bearings to creaks and rusted cables—can be wholly avoided by keeping your bike clean and dry. It’s not hard. It doesn’t take any special tools. It doesn’t take any special skills—in fact, if you can operate a spray bottle and move your hands back and forth in a basic wiping motion, then I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you would probably make a good bike cleaner.
So that’s our soup de jour: Dirt, mud, sports drink, and road grime and how to rid your ride of them.