10 Ways To Keep The Bike Love Alive
Think back to the beginning when you first locked eyes with your bike when it was still in the bike shop. It’s possible that you shopped around before committing. You may even have gone back a few times to see if it was still there; but, eventually, you brought it home! Keep that new-bike love alive with these 10 simple steps to a long-lasting, happy relationship with your bicycle.
1. WASH ME
This might seem like a no-brainer, but keeping your bike clean is important. Here are some tips we’ve found helpful over the years for washing mountain bikes. While dedicated cycling cleaning products are ideal for avid riders, there is no harm in using some warm water with a small amount of Dawn dish soap to take off mud, grease, and grime. While scrubbing with a non-abrasive cloth/brush, it’s best to keep soap away from brake rotors to avoid contaminating them, causing unwanted brake squeal. There are some great brake cleaners on the market, but we also use rubbing alcohol to remove any unwanted oils from the rotors, caliper and pads.
When rinsing the bike, be delicate and do not get carried away with too much water pressure, as this could force water past seals, damaging bearings. After drying the frame, we like to apply a frame-protectant solution to keep dirt from collecting. That way, the next wash is an even smoother process. Running out of cleaner? Luckily, brands like Finish Line have implemented a program known as Lube Experts where consumers receive half-price refills on dry lube, wet lube and Super Bike Wash. This refill program will save cyclists money and help protect our environment by reducing plastic waste.
2. STAYING PROTECTED
Now that you’ve washed your frame and have it looking like the day you first saw it, it’s time to keep it protected from the elements of mountain biking. Cables rubbing, rocks flinging up, crashing, and even transporting your bike all have the potential to cause damage. For full-frame protection, there are custom, pre-cut, clear vinyl kits on the market that are designed specifically for your make/model. While these kits will keep your bike pristine, they can be pricey and rather time consuming to install. Those with a more DIY mindset can purchase an inexpensive roll of 3M clear paint protection vinyl.
We make our templates from paper first and then cut the 3M vinyl into the shape needed to fit onto the area of the frame/component. If making your own is not your cup of tea, there are also some great pre-cut, stick-on rubber protector bits specifically for chainstay, downtube, and cable rub that your bike will be just as happy with. Cable rub is the main culprit when it comes to paint wearing on the frame. While the vinyl wrap helps, it is also worth taking the extra step to wrap the cables themselves with protective rubber where they will come in contact with the frame.
This is a simple step that many riders neglect. Why? We have no idea, because the benefits are worth every drop. A dry chain will let out a shriek and will never quite feel like it is shifting smoothly. Eventually, it will rust, and it could snap mid-ride.
To apply bike chain lube, start with a clean (or at least as grime-free as possible) chain. It’s also worth getting as much buildup off of your derailleur pulleys as possible, too. Brush out the links with a firm brush or even an old toothbrush. Then deposit a drop of lube on the top of each link as you slowly backpedal for a few revolutions so the lube has a chance to work its way in. It is best to use a lube that is designed for the type of weather conditions you’ll be riding in. They are typically labeled “dry” or “wet.”
Finally, wipe off excess lube. If you don’t, the lube can attract more dirt/debris to your chain, creating an unhappy bike (and rider).
4. BRAKING OUT
Six months into the new relationship with your bike, is the modulation in your brakes feeling a bit spongy? It’s likely you are due for a brake bleed, new pads and possibly some new rotors. How often you need this done will depend on your style of riding and the conditions you ride in. While brake bleeds, swapping rotors and changing pads can be simple with the required tools, it does take some mechanical skill. With lots of brands requiring specific techniques and proprietary tools for the job, we recommend popping into a local shop for hands-on brake help.
5. TIGHT BUT NOT TOO TIGHT
There is likely a recommended torque rating indicated on your bar and stem. Your shop should be torquing all bolts to the appropriate spec; however, things can vibrate loose over time, and it is worth checking to see if any fasteners need a few turns. The most likely suspects are your bar/stem, caliper mounting bolts and brake rotor bolts. Why is this important? If bolts are tightened beyond the recommended limit, they can fail. Although carbon is quite strong, there is a limit before it cracks. Likewise, with aluminum there is a limit before dents or bending occur. Invest in a torque wrench and take the time to procure the correct rating for what you are tightening. Your bike will thank you, and you just might save yourself from an unwanted wreck.
6. LOCK IT UP
It always seems that after the weekend we see social media posts about someone’s beloved bike being stolen. While this is heartbreaking, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep from being a victim of bike theft. Properly lock your bike up when transporting it. Some bike racks now come with integrated locking systems. When stopping to eat, we try to park our vehicle within our line of sight so we can keep an eye on our bikes, even when they are locked to a car/rack. If you keep your bike in a garage, it’s worth looking into a proper garage lock and security devices. We typically use a long cable that weaves through bikes, combined with a U-lock and several ground anchors.
While you might be fortunate enough to have a carbon bike frame, there are plenty of riders out there with aluminum and steel bikes. And even if you do have a carbon frame, there are likely metal components somewhere on the bike. In any case, bikes parked in places with a lot of rain or humidity are more likely to see corrosion. If you must leave your bike outside for a day, it isn’t a huge problem; however, after a week, you’ll start to see visible damage. If your bike must be stored outside, at the very least look into a cover and do regular upkeep to prevent corrosion. Even if you are planning a journey where the bike will be on the back of the car, it’s worth looking into a cover for safety and protection against the elements.
If you have multiple bikes or wheelsets and are tired of them being on the ground taking up space (yes, we’ve had multiple bikes in our living rooms/bedrooms), then it’s time to look into some alternatives for storage. There are a plethora of bike hooks and even ground stands on the market to help save workspace. We really like bike hooks that are designed to swing. They give the user the ability to stack bikes against the wall and swing the handlebars inwards as opposed to a bike poking straight out of the wall taking up more space. It’s kind of like treating your bike to preferred parking for the next time you are ready to hit the trails.
Bikes and components can break, but that doesn’t mean your mental state has to. When you get your hands on a new bike, you might think: “It is new. It must be easy to get replacement parts for it.” Unfortunately, due to the current high demand for bike parts, it could be a struggle to get the right parts, new or old. To avoid this, plan ahead.
For spares, we typically keep extra brake pads, a fresh set of rotors, an extra derailleur hanger for each bike (there are too many to count), fresh tires and plenty of spare rotor bolts in the home toolbox. Most of us tend to push parts to their limits, and we want to spend more time on the bike and less time doing maintenance, so we keep spare parts around that often need replacement.
Of course, it’s also important to pack spares (like a tube or even an extra cleat bolt) when you head out on an adventure. Having the right tools and spares for a trailside job can make or break a ride. Show some love and keep spare parts organized just in case they are needed in a pinch.
9. KEEPING A LOG
We know not everyone does this, but it’s worth mentioning. This is similar to documenting the service done to your car. Keeping a log will not only help you learn what settings work best for you, but it is also priceless information for a trusted bike mechanic to have available when working on your bike. Apps that track your mileage and time are handy for staying up to date with service intervals; however, the old pen/paper method is still how we prefer to jot down notes. Some of our test riders also have organized notes on their phones so the information is with them at all times.
When we get a new bike, we’ve got a few sheets that we fill out. The first is a list of torque specs. We check every fastener while documenting what the recommended torque spec is for that particular bolt. This becomes an easy sheet to reference when checking every so often to make sure each bolt is properly tightened.
The next few tables are great to reference for service or when you are changing to different terrain. We make a sheet that details our suspension settings for a particular bike. When in doubt, we can always refer to this guide and update it accordingly when a different setting is needed.
Another list includes info on when we’ve changed any drivetrain components, brake components, tires or when we last refreshed tubeless sealant. These particular lists work best when cross-referenced with a cycling app, so you have an idea of the mileage you’ve covered before each service was needed. If you ride in the same conditions, this list is a perfect test of how your components are holding up to the way you ride. While keeping notes like this is going above and beyond, there are some big advantages to knowing which parts need servicing when and understanding exactly what settings to dial in for how you ride.
10. BACK TO THE SHOP
Is there still a communication issue between you and your bike? Well, it might be time to take your bike back to the shop to address the problem. If you followed some of the steps mentioned above, your local mechanic will thank you and likely have you out of the shop and back on the trail in no time.
Although some of these steps might not be necessary for everyone, it is worth adopting a few of them that work for you. If you do, no doubt you will feel more confident every time you head out for an adventure. A happy bike makes for a happy rider and vice versa.