A clean bike is a happy bike, and a reliable bike. Here's how to make sure your bike is set to roll for a long time to come.
Knowing some of the signs to look out for, and learning some basic repair knowledge will go a long way to keeping your bike running smoother and less prone to mechanical issues.
In our opinion, the best maintenance that you should perform on a regular basis is to simply keep your pride and joy clean. Cleaning, degreasing, and lubricating are relatively easy tasks for most people with half a brain to perform, but they are all extremely effective methods of preventative maintenance.
Just because it’s a mountain bike, doesn’t mean it should remain covered in mud and filth after you’ve finished riding. Developing a healthy cleaning habit also allows you to get a closer look at all the crucial components and junctions on your bike, so you’re more likely to pick up any issues before they develop into costly mistakes on the trail.
Like any form of servicing however, there are right ways to clean your bike, and there are less than ideal ways to clean your bike. Over-washing or using the wrong product can actually have the reverse effect of what you set out to do in the first place.
One brand that knows all the ins and outs of bicycle maintenance is US-based company Finish Line, who specialise in making products for exactly that. We’ve been making use of Finish Line’s extensive range of cleaners and lubricants over the past few months, and so for this article, we’ll be taking you through some of our favourites and how they’ve helped to keep our bikes clean, quiet, and happy.
To start the cleaning process, you’ve got to get your bike wet. But first things first: put down the pressure washer! High-pressure water can be effective at peeling mud off your frame after a wet ride, but it’s also very proficient at stripping grease out of bearings and damaging suspension seals. To avoid damaging your bike, use a bucket of water along with a sponge or a soft brush to gently wash your bike down from top to tail. We’ve also found those hand-pump weed sprayers to be perfect as a low-pressure alternative to a garden hose, and you’ll also use significantly less water too.
- Finish Line Pro Care Bucket ($109.99)
A terrific starting point for any home mechanic, the Pro Care Bucket comes with all the essentials you need to start looking after your steed. You’ll find a Grunge Brush inside, the Super Bike Wash formula, Multi-Bike Degreaser and two bottles of chain lubricant. It all comes inside a handy tub that is ideal for filling with water to begin the cleaning process.
- Finish Line Super Bike Wash ($25.99)
After you’ve watered down the whole bike, get yourself a bottle of Super Bike Wash and begin spraying the bike down. This product is safe on suspension seals, brake pads, and drivetrains, and it’s also biodegradeable too. Leave the foamy residue to sit for a few minutes and work its way into the contaminants.
- Finish Line 5-Piece Brush Set ($36.99)
Don’t piss off mum by stealing the brush and shovel, get the right tools for the job! The Finish Line Easy-Pro Brush Set comes with five different cleaning brushes designed to assist you with the job. The smaller wire brushes are ideal for the drivetrain, while the larger soft brush is great for the frame and tyres.
After agitating the dirty surfaces, rinse the bike with water, using your low-pressure weed sprayer or the bucket and brush. Be careful with the brush though – you don’t want to transfer grease from the drivetrain onto the disc brake rotors, as this will potentially contaminate the disc pads.
If you keep your bike clean and ensure that your chain is properly lubricated (and not OVER-lubricated), you really shouldn’t have to degrease your drivetrain that often. However, over time chain lubricant will attract dust and dirt, turning your once shiny chrome cassette sprockets into black discs of greasy filth. It’s at this point of the process that you’ll want to break out the heavy stuff.
- Finish Line Multi-Bike Degreaser ($19.99)
There are two main types of degreaser: liquid and aerosol. Aerosol degreasers such as the Finish Line Speed Bike Degreaser use a convenient pressurised spray to blast away dirt and grease from the drivetrain. However, we prefer using a liquid option such as the Multi-Degreaser, along with several brushes for getting into the awkward spots.
- Finish Line Grunge Brush ($27.99)
Using the Multi-Degreaser and a brush such as the Finish Line Grunge Brush, apply the liquid degreaser to the chain to help agitate and remove the really stubborn grime. The Grunge Brush is a fantastic tool for this task, and this technique allows you to scrub away the dirt on the outer plates of the chain, without having to soak the entire chain in degreaser.
The longer bristles on the other end of the Grunge Brush also make it easy to get into tight spots between cassette sprockets, while the smaller brushes are ideal for chainring teeth and the derailleur pivots.
After degreasing the drivetrain, use a light spray of water to wash away any remaining contaminants or degreaser that may be left behind. Then using a rag, dry the chain and wipe down the other components to prevent any residue water from potentially leaving rust spots.
With your bicycle clean and your drivetrain degreased, it’s time to lube up. While bicycle lubricant may seem like a simple product, there is as many types of chain lubes on the market as there are different tyre tread patterns. To simplify things, there are typically ‘Dry’ lubes for riding in dry conditions, and ‘Wet’ lubes for wet conditions. Dry lubes are ideal for dusty Aussie trails, as they pick up less gunk than the heavier Wet lubes. However, they don’t last as long, so you do have to apply them more often.
- Finish Line Dry Lube ($10.99)
The classic Finish Line Dry Lube is, in our experience, one of the best on the market. It uses a synthetic formula with an added Teflon fluoropolymer to reduce drivetrain friction, though it’s also useful for lubricating gear cables and derailleur pivots.
- Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube ($19.99)
Our other favourite in the Finish Line range is the Ceramic Wet Lube. It’s more expensive, but it uses boron nitride nano particles that act like microscopic ball bearings in between the metal surfaces of the chain. The result is even lower drivetrain friction, and impressive durability that sees you get 100’s of km between applications. And for a wet lube, it actually runs surprisingly clean.
Ensure that your chain is 100% dry after cleaning and degreasing. Then with the bottle’s nose poised over the lower length of the chain between the chainrings and the derailleur jockey wheel, add a single dab of lube to each individual roller.
Allow the bike to sit for a few hours (ideally overnight), to allow the lube to sink its way into the internals of the chain. Using a rag, clean off any excess lubricant. Lubricant belongs on the inside of the chain, and all it will serve to do on the outside is to pick up more dirt as you ride, while coating the cassette and chainring teeth too.
After you’ve applied your chain lube, it’s time to finish off the job. To ensure all of your hard work hasn’t gone to waste, there are several easy steps you can take that will help to protect your bike’s finish and increase the time between now and your next service.
- Finish Line Showroom Polish & Protection ($16.99)
While it may sound over the top, using an afterwash treatment like the Finish Line Showroom Polish & Protection is about more than just making your bike look shiny. Sure it does that exceptionally well, but it’s also about building up a slippery layer on your frames surface that encourages dirt and grease to slide off. Because dirt can’t cling to it in the first place, your bike stays cleaner for longer. Spray directly onto your frame, cockpit components, fork lowers and rims, then use a clean rag to polish. Avoid spraying onto your brakes.
- Finish Line Max Suspension Spray ($22.50)
With the goal of keeping your fork and shock sliding smoothly between servicing, Finish Line created the Max Suspension Spray. It’s an aerosol-based product that is directly sprayed onto your fork stanchions and rear shock. It’s formulated to reduce any stiction present in the suspension seals, while protecting the surface from contaminants and moisture. While it doesn’t beat a full fork service, it’s a great way to finish off the cleaning process.
- Finish Line Pedal & Cleat Lubricant ($21.99)
One of the newest products from Finish Line, the Pedal & Cleat Lubricant is an aerosol spray that helps to evenly coat all of the friction surfaces found on an SPD pedal. It’s a dry-to-the-touch formula, meaning there’s no wet residue left behind. Because it’s formulated with Teflon, the reduction in surface friction allows for smoother cleat entry and release while preventing corrosion and premature wear.
And there you have it. A step-by-step approach to keeping your bike clean and running in tip-top condition. If you want to check out the broader range of Finish Line products, head to the Velo Vita website to find your nearest dealer.
Phone: (02) 9700 7977