Bicycles are wonderfully efficient and elegant machines designed to propel a rider over roads and trails with ease. What you may not realize is that a bicycle is designed to function best when it is clean, tuned and lubricated. This is especially true for high-end road bikes. However, unlike your car, a bike drivetrain has little protection from dirt and weather.
When enough dirt or grime accumulates on your chain, crank, cassette and derailleurs, it will negatively affect the performance of your bike. While a regular cleaning and tune-up is a must for serious riders, there are a few simple things you can do to keep your bicycle running smoothly until it's time for a trip to the shop.
Here are five tips to get rid of the gunk and keep your bike performing as it should.
Keep Your Chain Clean
One of the most common reasons for poor shifting is a dirty chain. Dirt and grease buildup on your chain robs you of power, and it contributes to premature chain wear. The black gunk packed in between the chain links interferes with the cogs and inhibits smooth chain transition during shifting.
A seriously dirty chain may require removal and soaking in a cleaning solution. But if you pay regular attention to your chain, you can clean it right on the bike. My favorite method is to use a spray solvent/lube such as WD-40 that cuts the grease and dissolves the grime while leaving a light coating of oil behind. You can use a terry cloth rag to wipe off any excess still on the chain.
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1. Spray the entire chain with a heavy coat of solvent/lube while protecting the frame from overspray.
2. Use your right hand to turn the crank backwards. Pull the chain through the rag that's in your left hand.
3. Do this for at least 20 complete rotations of the chain. It takes a little practice to keep the rag out of the chain ring and to avoid derailing the chain.
4. After a minute or two, the chain should appear clean and shiny. Most of the gunk should be gone. If you make this a weekly ritual, your chain will last longer and your shifts will be crisp and quick.