When you ride your bike in the wet (as at some stage we all do), it will pay to spend a little time looking after your treasured steed post-ride. If you can resist the temptation to simply rack the bike in the garage and reach for a hot chocolate, a small time investment can ensure smooth reliable operation and minimize the chances of more significant gear failure some time down the track. Here are five post-rainy day ride must-do's:
1. Hose it down
When you ride in the rain, wet roads will combine with all sorts of mud, oil, car tire dust, and multitudes of foreign particulates to create a grimy, usually black gunk, that coats both rider and bike. Apart from looking horrible, this road grime concoction will penetrate almost every moving part and frame cavity on your bike and, left un-checked, can be extremely abrasive - significantly diminishing the performance of your bike. So grab yourself a high pressure hose (a household garden hose will do) and hose down the entire bike. Then simply wipe over and move onto job number two.
2. Use some water dispersant
Water is corrosive, so now that you have dispersed the road grime you need to make sure that any water left on the bike after towelling down is quickly dealt with. Spray a water dispersant on the following parts: Cables and the points where cables enter/exit the housings, moving parts of the front and rear gear mechs, moving parts of the brakes, (but NOT the brake shoes), and finally the threads and bolt heads at all points on your bike. Rust is a big problem and can lead to snapped cables and stripped threads, so three minutes spent on prevention can save a big headache down the track.
3. Drain the frame
Water will find a way into every cavity of your bike, so no matter how well "sealed" you think your bike frame is, water will have found a way in. Left to its own devices this water will accumulate at the bottom bracket as this is the lowest point inside your frame when the bike is standing on its two wheels. Over time, water exposure will rust the bearings and potentially seize threads or cups that have been pressed into the frame's BB shell. Most frames have two small drainage holes, normally located near the rear dropouts, so simply lift the front end of the bike until all of the water has drained out of the frame.
4. Clean, dry, and lube the chain
The chain is the main point at which the rider's power is transferred to the wheels of the bike. This means that efficient chain function is vital for optimum bike (and rider) performance. Water will dry and potentially rust even the most expensive chain, so once you have removed all the grime, dry the chain thoroughly and apply a high quality lubricant. This will also help to keep those annoying squeaks and creaks at bay.
TIP: Keep an old rag close to where you store your bike after riding. Run your chain through the rag for a few rotations after riding, even if it isn't wet. This is quick and easy, improves chain longevity and makes the weekly clean a lot easier!
5. Wipe down rims and brake shoes
When you brake in the wet, the residue from brake pads mixes with water to form a black film that generally sits on the rims, sidewalls of your tires, and contact surface of the brake shoes. Once dry this can become very abrasive and create problems such as noisy braking, accelerated wear, and reduced stopping power. To prevent these problems, wipe down the wheel rims, tire sidewalls, and brakes shoes. A few moments spent removing this abrasive nasty will provide piece of mind and ensure that you stop effectively when you really need to.
Although it is always the last thing you feel like doing after a wet ride, spending just 10 minutes on these five basic must-do's will not only keep your bike running smoothly, but more importantly will minimise the risk of more significant future gear failure and increase the lifespan of your beloved companion.