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176 Northcote Road
Battersea London SW11 6RE
United Kingdom

Battersea's first female focused bike shop on 176 Northcote Road, London. PLUS men & kids bikes, bike repairs & maintenance classes!

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Luke's tips: How to keep your bike clean

Alex C

This short blog series will cover the importance of keeping bikes clean to reduce repair costs, maintain brake/gear functionality and Improve the quality of your ride.

Whether it’s your children's bikes left out in the garden over the winter or more commonly getting your bike out of the shed to find the chain has gone rusty, bikes degrade very quickly if left after getting wet. If we try riding a bike with a rusty chain the links won't roll and turn freely, meaning poor gear changes and unsafe power delivery when applying pressure to the pedals. This can be annoying and unsafe especially on hills or in busy traffic.

The bikes inner cables are also susceptible to corrosion as most bikes come fitted with cheap cables are liable to rust quicker than stainless steel ones. These rough, dry cables lose their smooth feel when the brake lever is pulled or a gear shifter is twisted or clicked. This can be even more of a problem for kids who commonly struggle with the brake levers and shifters on  some junior bikes.

Dirt or grit on the wheel rim surface can get lodged into the rubber brake pad and stay lodged in, leading to continuing grinding every time you pull the brakes on. This is very unsafe, especially on older thinner rims.

Lastly if the seat-post is not greased and kept clean frequently, it can seize or fuse in the frame and this can sometimes be un-repairable, your seat-post can get stuck at its current.

Some of you will be using your bikes off road and in this situation the bikes are going to need a more detailed and thorough clean, especially the suspension areas, which are delicate and need careful cleaning. I will not cover this type of cleaning in this section as its quite detailed and specific, but will cover these areas in my maintenance classes held throughout the month at Everyone Bikes

When returning from a wet and rainy road ride, here are the key things you MUST do to keep the chain and running gear free from rust.

Move the bike to an area not too close to anything important that may get sprayed with muck. Now either get a bucket of warm soapy water or use a nearby hose. Ideally we use a general bike wash like Green Clean, and spray this liberally over the rear cassette, chain, tyres and cranks. You can use a soapy water mix but this isn't as effective as a bike cleaner for oil and dirt. Apply liberally.

If excessive mud or dirt has built up over the bike then use a large soft brush to gently brush the larger bits of mud off the edges of the wheels and down tube of the frame. The softer the brush, the less likely to scratch your frame, so beware if it's your pride and joy and keep the brush well rinsed with as much clean water as possible.

If the cables run on the under side of your frame, make sure these areas are brushed clean, the cables run under here and it's a prime area for muck to restrict the movement of these cables. 

For the chain and cassette area, specific shaped brush kits help a lot with this job as they are thin and hard for getting between each sprocket..

Now with the key areas all soapy and most of the mud and dirt off, start to spray water with the hose, bucket dumps or even use your drink bottle to squirt water over the dirty areas, rinsing until the soap or cleaner is all gone (avoid pressure washing as it can blast the grease out of key areas of your bicycle and will actually do more harm than good ). A hose with average pressure is perfect.

With an old rag in your open palm, run the chain through and remove as much moisture and dirt as possible, turning the pedals with your right hand whilst holding the cloth in your left hand is a good way of doing this. It will take several revolutions and probably feel like it will never get clean, but the more you do this the better. Chains can house a huge amount of dirt, but by drying and cleaning we are reducing the possibility of rust considerably here.

After this we must apply a small amount of chain oil back on the chain and cycle the pedals a few times to coat the entire chain and cogs.

Take a stiff brush and clean the derailleurs as much as possible, especially the jockey wheels (the small wheels on the rear derailleur). Don't forget these, as they play a crucial role in gear selection and general pedalling efficiency. Finally, clean the chaining's on the chain set and that's it!

The main aim is to get the chain dry or dry-ish, so if you are in a real hurry, just use a rag and dry the chain as much as time permits before applying some chain oil after. In regards to chain oil, don't put loads on, you only need to cover every other link.

If you do the steps above, you will really save yourself, and your bike, from a real pickle! For more information, please shoot me a message or pop down to the shop.