Many of you have a couple (or more) road bikes. In my case, my primary/race bike is a steel frame model. It's not the old lugged style frame of years past, with chrome and/or primer protecting the steel, but a thin walled model who's only protection is the paint. As a general rule of thumb, once the first salt hits the roads (hasn't happened yet here in Massachusetts, but it's mid November so it's coming soon) the A-bike gets replaced with the b-bike until the spring. Nothing is nicer than the first ride of the season on the A-bike after months of riding the dirty b-bike. Here are my tips for keeping that race bike in showroom condition.
- Frame. Warm soapy water and a brush is all you need. Nothing fancy, it's just like washing a car, except you don't want to blast it with a high pressure hose. I will rinse the bike of with a hose (no nozzle, I just let the water fall on the frame). A bucket of clean water with a sponge is fine too (along with the bucket of soapy water). I make sure to get the brush in all the nooks, and make sure any of the built up grime is washed clean. I also remove the cable stops and front derailleur clamp as these are areas that can build up dirt. When the frame is completely clean and dry I spray a little Pedro's Bike Lust on it for that nice shine and added protection. While cleaning the frame I'll look for chips in the paint, and touch up accordingly.
- Wheels. Remove cassette, tires, tubes and rim strips (optional) and apply the same concepts as with the frame. A scrub brush and warm water. Make sure that you drain all the water out of the rims before adding the tires, tubes etc. Depending on the hubs, this may be a good time to regrease the bearings. While cleaning the wheels, inspect the rims for cracks and make sure the spokes are evenly tenioned. I will also apply Bike Lust to the rims and hubs for a little extra shine.
- Drivetrain: I periodically remove the cassette and chain throughout the season to soak in degreaser, and the same logic applies to winter cleaning. I replace the chain at the end of the season (or earlier if it stretches), Cassettes, I'll inspect for excessive wear on the teeth. Do not replace the cassette without replacing the chain. Nothing wrecks a brand new cassette faster than a worn chain. With the chain, I soak for a few hours and then rinse it off and wipe it clean with a rag. The cassette, same thing, soak rinse and wipe with a rag. You can use a brush if it's a solid cassette, but for the loose cog design, you can clean the cogs each by hand. Tip: if using a loose cog cassette (campy), make sure each cog is placed back in the proper order and slot (hard to mess up becaus the freehub body's are designed to only fit one way). The cassette spacers may be different shapes and sizes though. I always save the paperwork when I buy them, for proper installation, but if you tossed it, jut remove them in order, and pay attention to how they came off. Make sure to clean the lockring and threads too. A little grease on the threads will aid in the removal later on. If you are really anal, you can remove the rear derailleur jockey wheels for cleaning. Campy uses a bearing here, so if you want to soak the jockey in degreaser, pop the bearing out first and DO NOT soak the bearing. Personally, I find just a little degreaser on a rag is sufficient. If you don't feel like removing the jockeys, an old toothbrush will work fine and it's easy enough when the chain and wheels are off. Crankset and BB. Unless your BB is creaking or in need or replacing, I would leave it alone. The threads were prepped during installation, and when installed properly it's a pretty solid link, not really prone to collecing grit. BB shells usually have a drain-hole as well so this area should be trouble free (kind of like a headset). If it aint broke, don't fix it. An improper bb installation can trash yor frame. Cranks. If they're installed with grease, I would remove and regrease. If installed with lock-tite, leave it be. Make sure though to clean the teeth and that all the chainring bolts are clean and tight. Remove and regrease pedals as well.
- Cables: Inspect for rust and fraying, especially at the pinch bolts. I try to get two seasons out of cables. When installing, I apply light grease to the cable that is underneath the housing, to keep it rust free and smooth. Do not add grease to the exposed cable since it will be a magnet for dirt. If cable show sign of excessive wear, replace them. You don't want to discover that your brake cables are junk halfway down a long downhill.
- Brakes. I remove the calipers, clean the hardware, regrease and reinstall. The recessed nut in most carbon forks is a magnet for dirt and water. I clean this area out thoroughly and inspect the hardware before regreasing (threads only, and keep the grease off the carbon) and re-attaching. Inspect brake pads for wear as well (most have some form of wear indicator). If worn, replace.
- Bar/Stem/saddle/post. Time to regrease the stem bolts as well as the seatpost hardware (hardware only, DO NOT GREASE a carbon post). Nothing fancy, just remove, clean with a rag, add a spot of grease and re-attach. I'll pull the stem off and inspect the steerer tube for cracks or scoring. Use sound judgment here. If your not sure, bring it to a shop. I will remove the seatpost and pull off the seatclamp and clean the frame underneath (this area is also a magnet for dirt. With handlebars I will check for cracks, and add some fresh cork. Your hands will thank you next year and your now-showroom-worthy bike deserves it.
I also spray some bike lust on the saddle and rub it in with a clean rag, to add a little protection (it's essentially Armor-All). This is my routine. Please feel free to share your own personal tips and suggestions.