Wet Weather Bike Maintenance
We get it. When you get home from a commute in the rain, you aren’t thinking about the loving care you’ll give your bike when you get home. You’re thinking of showers, soup and doing anything but biking. Winter is the unfortunate season where your bike needs your attention the most. Funny how the season your bike needs the most maintenance is also the season you are most likely to arrive home wet, tired, and ready to throw your bike in the garage without a second glance. But wet weather bike maintenance is important to us here at cycle Portland, we’ve talked about it in the past and we’ll talk about it again. We want you and your bicycle to last through the soggy season.
Braving the Soggy Season
If you’re anyone with a penchant for a clean back and legs while riding, you probably already have fenders, if not kudos to you. Dirt tends to build up on the inside of the fenders, so take off the wheels and just wipe it down. Taking a few mins to dry off the bike after coming back from a ride will do you wonders.
Rid of the Gunk
Start off by taking off the gunk that’s built up, use a sponge or rag and soapy water. Have a bucket nearby to dunk it. Wipe starting from the handlebars, up and down the frame, not to forget the underside of the saddle where majority of dirt will end up if you don’t have fenders. Or you can be super quick about it and spray it all off with a water hose. Be careful to avoid spraying into parts that have bearings as the grease inside can be washed off. Headsets, bottom brackets, wheel hubs. Everything else is game though, just remember to wipe it dry after and not let it sit. Otherwise you’re back at square one with a rusty everything.
Lube it Up
Chain is important, probably the most important thing on the bike. So obviously it takes a beating when the rain starts getting in between all the rolly bits. Dirt and grime build up on the drivetrain wears it down faster, leading to more parts needing replaced = mo money spent 🙁 A good way to avoid that is using chain lube and not just any lube, wet lube works best in the wet season. Want to use dry lube? Good luck because that’ll wash right off in the rain leaving it vulnerable to the elements. Wet lube is hydrophobic, it repels water but at the cost of picking up more dirt. Otherwise you’ll be using it all year amirite? A common misconception is spraying WD-40 as a lubricant would work just as well, it doesn’t; it’ll actually rust faster since it’s a water displacement. When adding your lube, make sure to get in between the pins and rollers of the chain, since those are the parts that actually make contact with the cogs and such.
Rid of More Gunk
After this, run through the gears and wipe off excess, super simple. Another important thing to keep in mind is to check the dirt buildup on the jockey wheels, and while you’re at it, check over the entire drivetrain for any signs of buildup. Use a flat head screwdriver or something thin and flat to get in between the cogs of your cassette to squeeze out all the grime stuck. Lube any moving part with a few drops, derailleurs especially. More dirt = less efficient shifting and faster wear. Better to lube too much than too little.
Check for Wear
Check brake pads for wear since they tend to go quicker riding in wet seasons. Try using dual compound ones for that extra grip and saves you money in the long run when you won’t have to continuously buy more pads. Additionally, exposed cables can rust and pick up dirt leading into the housing itself. If your shifting is a bit gummy or slow, try running lube down the cables into the housing and shifting up and down. Same for brakes, lube the springs and barrels so they don’t corrode. Don’t forget to wipe down spokes if there’s any dirt or buildup, rusty spokes will pop and break if it’s corroded too long. It really saves you a bunch of headaches in the future. If you like your bike squeaky and generally not fun to ride, ignore this post.
Year Round Care
We say its for the soggy season, but realistically, it’s important to do these things throughout the lifetime of your bike despite the weather. Bikes are susceptible to corrosion, wear & tear, and most importantly that schmutz. Upkeep of your bike will make your life easier, your bike happy, and the best part is you won’t have to spend all o dat money on new parts just to keep it riding smoothly. Do your best to keep your bike inside whenever possible as many of the issues mentioned stem from leaving it outside for extended periods of time. If you ride often or commute everyday, I’d recommend having a tune up at your local bike shop at least one to two times a year. But if you practice solid wet weather bike maintenance, you won’t need a tune up for a good while!
TL;DR – LUBE EVERYTHING (if possible, but don’t lube things that aren’t needed)