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Tag Archive: bike maintenance

Don’t be like Dave Matthews

Our good friend Ken Sturrock pointed out this gem on today’s CNN homepage:

Stranded Dave Matthews hitches ride with fan to show

Basically, singer/songwriter Dave Matthews went for a pre-concert bike ride. He flatted and didn’t have the things he needed for a trailside repair, so he had to hitch a ride from a passing motorist (who just happened to be a HUGE Dave Matthews fan).

Don’t be like Dave, ok? Be prepared for roadside breakdowns! We’ve written several articles over the years that give a good overview into skills and tools you should have on hand when you commute:

Tools for the New Commuter

Tool-less Bike Repairs

Regular Maintenance for the Bike Commuter

Be safe, be prepared, and learn some basic maintenance tasks so you’re ready for anything. If you don’t know how to do your own bike maintenance, now’s a great time to check out your local bike shop for classes or to consult your friendly community bike co-op for lessons.

Review: Cleaning products from Finish Line and White Lightning

I hope everyone has been enjoying their winter commutes…and I hope everyone has been staying on top of winter bike maintenance!

As many of you in colder climates know, road conditions can take a real toll on our bikes at this time of year: from sand to slush to salt and snow, there’s a lot of nastiness we have to contend with on our routes around the city. Regular (meaning at least weekly, or sometimes DAILY, depending on conditions) maintenance makes a huge difference in how our bikes ride over the winter and could mean the difference between pedaling to work or having to catch the bus.

In my neighborhood, I have salt to contend with — as I live near a very high concentration of U.S. servicemen and women, the roads in our area are heavily salted. After all, the military needs to get to work on time in any weather! All that salt is brutal to bike drivetrains, though…a day or two of neglect and you’re looking at a frozen, rusty mess that may not be salvageable.

In the interest of keeping things clean and functional, the good folks at Finish Line and White Lightning both sent cleaning products for us to try out.

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First up is the Finish Line “Starter Kit 1-2-3“, consisting of a small bottle of multipurpose degreaser, a small bottle of Teflon-based dry lube, and a handy cleaning brush. The degreaser is mixed with water and the stiff-bristled brush is used to scrub the chain, cogs and chainrings. Finally, the lube is applied and allowed to set.

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The brush and diluted degreaser made short work of the chain and gears…the bristles on one end of the brush scrub three sides of the chain at once and also get both sides of the chainring, while the long, stiff bristles on the other end reach down into the cogs and derailleur bodies to scrub out embedded grime. The degreaser itself seemed to work quite well in dissolving caked-on crud:

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I should add at this point that I rarely clean my chain in this manner during more temperate months — I’ve long been a user of “homebrew” (1 part synthetic motor oil to 3 parts mineral spirits), which both cleans and lubricates the chain. In the interest of cleaning off the salt and creating a bare, clean chain to try out the Finish Line dry lube, I strayed from my normal maintenance routine. The lube provided in this starter kit seemed to do an adequate job in keeping my chain quiet and smooth, and also seemed to attract less grime than the wetter solution I usually use. That’s a plus when the streets are covered with grit and salt crystals. I could get about 75-100 miles between applications with the Finish Line lube in these miserable winter conditions, so I’m suitably impressed.

Next up is the White Lightning Bamboo Cycle Wipes. I got the single-use packet to try out. Inside the packet is a woven sheet about 5″ x 7″…made of waffle-textured bamboo. It’s saturated with a mild solution to cut grease and grime. Here I am starting with a really yucky bike:

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I gave the bike a good once-over, and it came out quite nicely. These Cycle Wipes were especially effective at cleaning tire sidewalls and the brake tracks on my rims…where so much grossness accumulates after a wet, slushy ride. Here’s what my baby looked like after a good wipedown:

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I was pretty amazed at these Cycle Wipes — they cleaned the whole bike and got snagged repeatedly on teeth and other pointy bits, yet never tore or shredded. The single wipe simply kept on absorbing dirt. Still, I would have liked to have another one on hand to really pretty things up, but hey, my bike’s just going to get dirty again in a day or two!

Here’s the long-suffering wipe after a hard workout. You can see that it survived some pretty rough treatment:

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The Finish Line degreaser and the White Lightning Bamboo Cycle Wipes are both 100% biodegradable, a plus in my book. The Finish Line starter kit retails for around $20.00 — with 3 to 4 degreasings and a whole season of lubing possible with the amounts provided, that’s a decent deal. The White Lightning wipes come in a variety of packages, from a 6-pack box of single packets to a 25-wipe canister. I believe the single packets retail for less than a dollar apiece, and other reviewers report that they can be washed and reused for general purpose cleaning (although I didn’t try that). Keep a packet in your saddlebag for quick roadside cleanup or in your shop toolbox to keep your bike shiny and fresh…the cleaning solution is gentle enough for skin and tough enough for grimy parts.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Chain maintenance – Lube it… in practice

This morning I put into practice some basic chain maintenance. I wiped down my chain. Too many rides through wet and grimy roads and then a few miles on crushed limestone path this past weekend had left too much grit accumulating on my chain.

Per Mike Kaelon’s advice in “Lube it or Lose it,” I followed the advice to “first wipe the chain down, and get it as clean as possible just using a rag.” I know I need to do better in my daily – post-ride – maintenance of my bikes. Unfortunately I usually allow too much time to pass between such maintenance and my chains often end up gunky and worn out more quickly than they should be.

I’m currently using SpinPower Superior Chain Lube and have yet to test the White Lightning “The Trigger” Clean Streak Chain Cleaner. We’ll see how ambitious I feel in pursuing my in-home mechanical skills or if my bikes just end up in the shop.

All the grit that came off my chain just from wiping it down this morning:
chain grit

A bit cleaner:
chain-cleaner?

I still think my whole drivetrain could benefit from a thorough cleaning:
rear derailleur
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Grit still in the cassette:
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Last week I took my commuter to the shop to get looked at since I couldn’t shift. The rear derailleur was so gunked up — just from my lack of regular wipe downs:
toro-drivetrain

It’s time to get tuned up for summer riding! (hopefully this season will be less messy all around)