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Cleaning and lubricating your bike

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The maintenance of a bike is a crucial part of owning one. Keeping it clean is great, but you also need to ensure that it is sufficiently greased and lubricated. This will make your bike last longer, and run more smoothly and efficiently.

Cleaning the bike

There are mainly two kinds of bike cleaners in the market. They are general/all-purpose cleaners and degreasers and chain cleaners. There is a great difference between the two kinds and each type does a very different and specific job.  Given below are the differences between each category and what you need to use them for when you are cleaning out your bike.

General bike cleaners

The purpose of a generalized bike wash is to separate the most stubborn mud and dirt from the essential components of the bike and its frame. The idea is to make the subsequent cleaning and washing process easier to do.

The cleaning agents in general bike cleaners do not have the same strength as the ones that can be found in degreasers. Therefore they should be used in the areas where there isn’t any grime or heavy grease. These all-purpose cleaners can be used on the bike’s steering components, wheel frames, tires, saddle or frame.

You should ensure that you have an extensive set of brushes along with your bike cleaner. This is to make sure that you are able to reach all the hard-to-get crevices and get rid of all the muck and grime.

Degreasers and chain cleaners

These are very helpful in shifting the grease and oil away from the drivetrain of the bike. What this ensures is that the components remain clean and keep working efficiently (once they have been lubed again).

Degreasers are far more potent than an average bike cleaning product, so care and diligence should be exercised. You should not apply degreaser directly on cables and bearings. This can actually result in grease that is necessary to be washed away. Degreasers may need to be occasionally used in the case of road bikes. This is especially so around the area of the brakes, after riding in wet weather to get rid of the residue of the brake pads.

If a degreaser is good, it should ease and speed up the job of cleaning the cassette, chainrings or bike chain. If you use a claw brush for cleaning out the chains and sprockets, you will find it easier to reach the gaps between the chainrings and cogs. Using a device that is specifically designed for cleaning chains will make the job far easier.

Re-lubing: Ensuring your bike keeps running smoothly

Lubricants and grease are helpful in enabling the smooth running of your bike continuously after it has been cleaned up. Lubricants and grease play a crucial part of maintaining a healthy bike.

Grease

Bike grease is used for components of the bike that are threaded, along with cables, ball bearings and certain parts that remain motionless (like seat post or headset internals) on the bike. The primary reason for the application of bike grease is the reduction of frictive forces and reducing the probability of components seizing in their places.

Bike grease is a waterproof and heavier form of lubrication that is used in areas of the bike that you usually will not take apart or look at frequently.

Bike grease has two crucial, albeit very different functions:

  • To ensure that key components are moving and free from intrusive water
  • To ensure points of static metal to metal contact do not seize up

In the first case, bike grease is heavily used to ensure that the moving parts of the bike continue to run freely. You will be able to see it in the bearings present in the wheels, headset and bottom bracket. You will also be able to see it in the parts of the gear levers and brakes that move. Bike grease cannot be found in moving parts that are exposed to air. This is because it would attract dirt easily, given its stickiness and viscosity.

In the second case bike grease is used for preventing parts from “cold welding”. This can happen due to corrosion, if the parts are exposed to the atmosphere. Due to the application of bike grease these parts will be protected from natural corrosive forces.

Bolt threads and saddle posts are crucial static areas for the application of bike grease. These components of the bike are in contact with a metal surface for extended amounts of time, under pressure. This can result in them seizing up and hence becoming quite difficult to remove. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to grease any bolt before tightening it into a bike. Apart from that it’s a good practice to remove the bike’s saddle posts, clean them up and re-grease them to prevent them from seizing onto the frame.

Lubricants

Chain lubricants (lube) can be divided into three types: dry, wet and all-round.

Dry lubes

These lubes have a Teflon or wax base; when applied to the chain they dry up and stick to the chain; they leave a layer of lubrication which has a lesser probability of attracting dust. This is why dry lubes are the lubricant of choice in dry and dusty riding conditions.

Wet lubes

Wet lubes are heavier in constitution compared to dry lubes and usually have an oil base.  They are specifically designed for being resistant to muddy and wet riding conditions; they provide a ‘wet’ layer of lubrication on the bike’s moving parts, even if they are overwhelmed with spray.

Ideally you should only use wet lubes when the conditions are like that. They are the ideal lubricant for riding a bike in the winter, but once winter is over, you should clean the chain and revert to using dry lubes.

All-round lubes

All-round lubes are general purpose oils that can be used in all weather conditions. The disadvantage of these lubes is that they are not ideal for extreme weather conditions (e.g. extreme moisture or dry climates).

WD-40 has a product line designed specifically for bike maintenance. The line contains products from all the categories mentioned above. The following products are included:

  • All-purpose Bike Wash
  • Chain Cleaner and Degreaser
  • All-conditions Chain Lube
  • Dry Chain Lubricant
  • Wet Chain Lubricant

Cleaning and lubricating your bike

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