La Vie Velominatus: Clean Bike Day

La Vie Velominatus: Clean Bike Day

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It seemed so easy, when I was young, to decide who to love and who to hate. These days, life is a complicated web of heroic deeds and dark shadows. As we get older, it appears our heroes and villains get mixed up.

Fortunately for us, Cycling is about much more than bike racing. It is about loving the machine, submitting ourselves to the cathedral of our environment, about wrapping ourselves in the sensations of the ride. For us, it is about La Vie Velominatus, none of which has anything to do with what the Pros are up to when the lights are turned away. La Vie Velominatus is about the love of life as one of Cycling’s dedicated disciples.

Tyler Hamilton spoke of riding clean as riding paniagua – on bread and water. When a Velominatus speaks of riding clean, we speak of riding on a freshly cleaned bicycle – one of the greatest pleasures to be found.

The process starts with the careful removing of the wheels, then cleaning of the frame, the brakes, the fork, the stem, saddle, and seat pin with soapy water. The wheels are cleaned by scrubbing the rims with a broad brush, and the hubs with a cone brush. The soap has to be frothy enough, it has to stand on its own, like when a cartoon character takes a bath. The foam has to fall off in big clumps and threaten to float away in the breeze.

Finally, the drive train gets its turn. To hold the chain in place, I use a special skewer with a cog that was given to me by @roadslave in a drunken fit of brotherly drive-train-cleaning love at Keepers Tour 2012. I fit the chain on its cog and affix the Park Cyclone which looks distressingly like an abstract representation of Gonzo’s head. Apparently, I’m a big enough man not to be bothered by holding a tool by a Muppets schwantz-like nose, provided it does a good job cleaning my chain. The teeth on the chainrings are cleaned with stiff-bristled brush using the residual solvent left over from cleaning the chain, as are the pulleys in the derailleur.

As a final order of business, the handlebars are scrubbed of any residual dirt and the machine is set aside to dry and await its next ride.

The bike can be cleaned in the workshop or in the driveway, or in the back yard on a sunny day. If the bike is cleaned indoors, it is necessary to play a cycling video in the background. Maybe Stars and Water Carriers, the The Road to Roubaix, or A Sunday in Hell. When cleaning outdoors, it is good to be accompanied by a loyal mut. Whether indoors or out, however, it should always be done with both ample time and a pint at hand. This is a ritual which may not be rushed.

The first ride on a freshly cleaned machine is possibly my favorite. It is much better than the first ride on a new bike, as a new bike is yet unfamiliar beneath you. The freshly cleaned steed, on the other hand, runs flawlessly and we respond to each other like the familiar old friends that we are.

There is no day to ride quite like Clean Bike Day. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus // Nostalgia // Tradition

  1. Let’s hear the Tall Tales from the Velominati about how long their components lasted because they kept them clean. I am going on 8000 miles on a bro-set, but have recently put on the third chain in that period, replacing it before the 1.0 wear mark on the Park Tool. The clean drive train still shifts very smoothly, although I’m not sure I can tell the difference between “shark shaped worn teeth” and designed shifting ramps.

    Another money making idea: someone make a wear indicator tool for cassettes and chainrings?

  2. @the Engine

    Suitcase = Chaos. Most definitely.

    Bike bag = Chaos. Never.

  3. @Nate

    @PeakInTwoYears

    Given the cost differential between Campagnolo chains & cassettes, I regularly check for chain stretch with the proper tool and err on the side of more frequent chain replacement. 7k km is about what I get.

    Indeed. Chains are cheaper than cassettes. Change the chain often enough and the cassettes stay happy longer. I missed my window this year and blew about a grand on chains and cassettes. Not a fun way to burn through cash.

  4. @snoov

    @mcsqueak

    @frank

    The best is taking it off and cleaning each cog individually, along with the spacers (Campa riders, only, I’m afraid.) Most satisfying to know things are *that* clean.

    Whachoo talkin bout Willis?

    My Shimano cassettes all have spacers between the larger cogs. The smallest ~three come off in a little group while the larger ones all come apart individually and have little spacers you have to keep track of while cleaning everything…

    This puzzled me also, my largest three cogs come off together but the rest are separate. There are three spacers for the mid range and then the smallest cogs have an integrated spacer. It’s maybe just that @frank doesn’t ever work on Shimano.

    Indeed. I was seduced by the power cone of SRAM that I had just been discussing and forgot that Shimano comes apart, too. Don’t use it frequently enough to remember how they’re put together.

  5. @frank

    @Nate

    @PeakInTwoYears

    Given the cost differential between Campagnolo chains & cassettes, I regularly check for chain stretch with the proper tool and err on the side of more frequent chain replacement. 7k km is about what I get.

    Indeed. Chains are cheaper than cassettes. Change the chain often enough and the cassettes stay happy longer. I missed my window this year and blew about a grand on chains and cassettes. Not a fun way to burn through cash.

    I never understood why people change out a whole cassette. In reality you spend most of your time in 2-3 “pet” gears, and those are the ones that wear. Just replace those. Way cheaper. I don’t buy into the notion that your chain and cogs “wear together” anyway. I go thru about 3 chains for each time I replace shark finned cogs.

  6. As always… Great read Frank!! Even though it doesn’t really need it, I’m inspired to was bike #1 today before I head out to ride.

     

    You guys getting 7500km out of chains… is that unique to Campy, are they particularly durable? I’ve been running KMC X10SL’s forever and only get about 5000km at most before my park chain gauge says it needs replacing?

  7. @frank

    Indeed. I was seduced by the power cone of SRAM that I had just been discussing and forgot that Shimano comes apart, too. Don’t use it frequently enough to remember how they’re put together.

    Damn straight they do. Removing the cassette and scrubbing the cogs in a tub of warm water and solvent is 100x more satisfying then just flossing them with a rag while still on the wheel.

  8. Inspired by the sheer volume of comments on cleaning the bike I went to the Scottish equivalent of an EFADS today and bought some supplies, various brushes and rags and fluids and stuff. The weather brightened up enough this pm to spend a happy hour with the bucket o’ suds and my new bits n’ bobs, result nice shiny steed and then relubed the chain with some genuine offshore chain oil.

    Had to tell Lady Strtahlubnaig to keep her grubby paws off my cleaning kit, strictly for the bikes I said……

  9. @scaler911

    I never understood why people change out a whole cassette. In reality you spend most of your time in 2-3 “pet” gears, and those are the ones that wear.

    As an experiment, I’ve been riding around town locked in at 38×16. Even with the hills around Seattle, there’s very little that can’t be done in that gear. I can understand why some commuters use a single speed for easier maintenance and less wear.

  10. @Nate – Mmmm, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lube. The gold stuff is the shit! The only problem is that – well, until I got my work stand, that is – getting that shit on the wheels means squeaky brakes on your first big descent. (Fortunately for me, that squeaky descent was on Sunday, going down Hicks. I rode the rear brake ’till the squeaking went away and everything was good again…)

  11. @Lepidopterist

    The cleaning ritual is the one thing carbon or black parts can never beat polished metalnon. The satisfaction of cleaning polished crankset and mechs is one that is hard to beat.

    I once asked Mrs L if I could temporarily store the No 1 in the bedroom, “Why not ? Its the cleanest thing in the fucking house ” was the only reply.

    @heinous Lancashire eh ? Near enough my part of the world. It pretty much makes the rain bike and No 1 bike the same thing for me.

    Not to mention an old, lovely set of brake calipers.

  12. @Leroy

    You guys getting 7500km out of chains

    You guys getting 7500km out of chainsI put 7500 or so kms before replacing my 11s Campa chain.  One of the inner face plates got bent so I decided to replace before the thing blew up on me.  No need for new cassette at the time.  I check my chains with one of those stretch indicators.

    Most of you probably know this, but the 2nd level all steel cog cassettes (Ultegra, Chorus) wear better and last longer than the higher end ones with Ti in the big cogs (Record, SR, DA).  Similarly don’t see the point in hollow pin chains.  I’ll gladly take the durability and a few extra grams.

    @frank

     I was seduced by the power cone of SRAM

    Is there something you are hiding from your Campagnolophilic brethren?  Better to come clean now, before things get out of hand.

    @eightzero

    Let’s hear the Tall Tales from the Velominati about how long their components lasted because they kept them clean.

    Frame wore out before my DA 7800 shifters and mechs did.  They still work like new, although they don’t see much use these days.

  13. @Nate

    Similarly don’t see the point in hollow pin chains. I’ll gladly take the durability and a few extra grams.

     

    I wonder if that’s why I’m not getting nearly as much longevity out of my chains… The X10SL series are decidely minimalist.

  14. @eightzero

    Let’s hear the Tall Tales from the Velominati about how long their components lasted because they kept them clean. I am going on 8000 miles on a Bro-Set, but have recently put on the third chain in that period, replacing it before the 1.0 wear mark on the Park Tool. The clean drive train still shifts very smoothly, although I’m not sure I can tell the difference between “shark shaped worn teeth” and designed shifting ramps.

    Another money making idea: someone make a wear indicator tool for cassettes and chainrings?

    Wear goes in the other direction; basically the ramps all help lift the chain onto the next cog; the wear in the cassette is an elongating of the valley between cogs and a sharpening of the tooth – like a sharks tooth. You can usually see the telltale widening horizontally of the wear as it starts to sit in.

    My chains last less long the more I Rule #10 the climbs around here. Makes a significant difference. I roll V-Meter a lot of the time, though, so no clue how many kms wind up in the chains.

  15. @strathlubnaig

    Inspired by the sheer volume of comments on cleaning the bike I went to the Scottish equivalent of an EFADS today and bought some supplies, various brushes and rags and fluids and stuff. The weather brightened up enough this pm to spend a happy hour with the bucket o’ suds and my new bits n’ bobs, result nice shiny steed and then relubed the chain with some genuine offshore chain oil.

    Had to tell Lady Strtahlubnaig to keep her grubby paws off my cleaning kit, strictly for the bikes I said……

    What the holy fuck is EFADS? Translate into ‘murcan, please.

  16. @Nate

    @frank

    I was seduced by the power cone of SRAM

    Is there something you are hiding from your Campagnolophilic brethren? Better to come clean now, before things get out of hand.

    No, no! Never. I was discussing it with my newest Pedalwan yesterday just before posting that; he is looking at a SRAM Red CX machine and the thought of the dome cassette was in my mind at the time.

    So basically, I didn’t inhale.

  17. @Leroy

    @Nate

    Similarly don’t see the point in hollow pin chains. I’ll gladly take the durability and a few extra grams.

    I wonder if that’s why I’m not getting nearly as much longevity out of my chains… The X10SL series are decidely minimalist.

    I’m not sure how the hollow pin would effect chain wear? The pins might break, but I don’t see how they would encourage stretching?

    I think chain wear depends on a combination of how big a gear you push, how much you accelerate (remember, climbing is basically accelerating constantly) and how clean you keep it (grit encourages wear).

    My rain bike drive train gets replaced every year, no questions asked. No gauges, no measurements, no nothing. I know its shot by the time the rainy season ends.

  18. @frank Everything For A Dollar Store … found in most strip malls in The Great White North

  19. I spent 2 minutes looking for a more appropriate thread (i.e., one relating to the track) to put this in but can’t be arsed to look further.  Sir Chris Hoy & Danny MacAskill at the velodrome.

  20. @Xyverz

    @Nate – Mmmm, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lube. The gold stuff is the shit! The only problem is that – well, until I got my work stand, that is – getting that shit on the wheels means squeaky brakes on your first big descent. (Fortunately for me, that squeaky descent was on Sunday, going down Hicks. I rode the rear brake ’till the squeaking went away and everything was good again…)

    Lube on the wheels and brake blocks …. squeaky brakes ? Squeaky Sphincter on a good descent more like !!

  21. @frank

    @Leroy

    @Nate

    Similarly don’t see the point in hollow pin chains. I’ll gladly take the durability and a few extra grams.

    I wonder if that’s why I’m not getting nearly as much longevity out of my chains… The X10SL series are decidely minimalist.

    I’m not sure how the hollow pin would effect chain wear? The pins might break, but I don’t see how they would encourage stretching?

    I think chain wear depends on a combination of how big a gear you push, how much you accelerate (remember, climbing is basically accelerating constantly) and how clean you keep it (grit encourages wear).

    My rain bike drive train gets replaced every year, no questions asked. No gauges, no measurements, no nothing. I know its shot by the time the rainy season ends.

    I don’t think hollow pins wear faster, they are just a bit more prone to fail catastrophically.

  22. @Lepidopterist Me too at the moment – in any case, my fine weather bike is old, steel and wearing tubs. I haven’t the strength to push the enormous gear uphill or the courage to deal with a puncture far from home so it’s basically a project (aka garage decoration) for now.

    I’m in north Liverpool so my rides are almost invariably into the Lancashire hills – it’s basically me and Wiggo out there, whatever the weather.

  23. I’m not a good mechanic of my bike, well actually I can only repair my wheels in case of punctures and nothing more. But while my old masters were very understanding about not being a mech they were adamant about the cleaning of the bike. I think I’ve never rode a dirty bike, simply I can’t.

  24. @heinous Having n+0 bikes(i.e. one bike that does it all) and 2 wheel sets (one commute, one race/training) I experienced issues by running a used cassette on #2 wheelset and new cassette on #1 wheelset with a new chain. The new chain actually placed lips in the teeth of the used cassette, and skipped every now and again. It wasn’t very ‘shark toothed’ either. I changed to a new cassette on the #2 wheels as well, all is well now. The chainrings seem to handle the new chain fine.

    FWIW, without a cycling sensei, I follow this http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html think what you will.

    Also, I’d be happy to consistently change chains too early, rather than too late. I don’t run high end chains because I expect to change them more often having only one bike (rain, grit, commuting and racing), and am a Velominatus Budgetatus. So how long I get out of a chain is less of a concern, than preserving cassettes and chainrings by cleaning and replacing chains more often.

    Still picking up more tips on cleaning, keep ’em coming..

  25. Ah! A friend of mine gave my a copy of a new UK cycling Magazine called Cyclist. Image my surprise when while reading I found the face of Frank on an article about the Rules! Rad.

  26. err …gave me a copy…

  27. @frank

    I was discussing it with my newest Pedalwan yesterday just before posting that; he is looking at a SRAM Red CX machine and the thought of the dome cassette was in my mind at the time.

    Two races this weekend! Saturday and Sunday.

    http://cascadecross.com/races/woolley-cross-deux/

    http://www.mfgcyclocross.com/series-information/magnuson-park-cross/

  28. @frank

     

    I’m not sure how the hollow pin would effect chain wear? The pins might break, but I don’t see how they would encourage stretching?

    I think chain wear depends on a combination of how big a gear you push, how much you accelerate (remember, climbing is basically accelerating constantly) and how clean you keep it (grit encourages wear).

    My rain bike drive train gets replaced every year, no questions asked. No gauges, no measurements, no nothing. I know its shot by the time the rainy season ends.

    Excellent point! I think that’s more than likely my culprit… Lots or short but punchy climbs around here and, with my considerable girth, it’s like a flat out sprint every time the terrain points up, lol. That and I tend to turn a low’ish cadence, 85-90rpm or so.

  29. And all of this about wear & replacement is yet another reason to have a bunch o’ bikes. If you are riding three or four different bikes in a week things are gonna last a long time! (Unless you need to ride the rain bike 4 months a year.)

    I clean my chains every couplea rides, swap tires when needed, but since I ride a few different bikes fairly often I rarely have to swap out chains & cassettes.

    I’m curious to see how long my cross bike chain/cassette lasts. Yup, subject to more wear and tear and muck but I clean it all the time.

    Frank – a grand on chains & cassettes?! OUCH!!

    Am I the only one who wants to punch shop employees who get stuff at cost when they tell you they swap chains every 800 miles? I find this to be ridiculously low. And I don’t think I’ve ever worn a road bike chain in that span.

  30. @Nate

    I spent 2 minutes looking for a more appropriate thread (i.e., one relating to the track) to put this in but can’t be arsed to look further. Sir Chris Hoy & Danny MacAskill at the velodrome.

    Top link.  I’ve jsut watched it at work without sound.  Can’t wait to get home.  Both fantasitic athletes.

    I love taht poc helmet Danny is wearing.  Wonder how that would go as a triathlon helmet, or if they do a more tri opriented version ?

  31. I think they over-geared Danny a bit though.  BIg difference in the cadence they were generating.

  32. @frank

    @eightzero

    Let’s hear the Tall Tales from the Velominati about how long their components lasted because they kept them clean. I am going on 8000 miles on a Bro-Set, but have recently put on the third chain in that period, replacing it before the 1.0 wear mark on the Park Tool. The clean drive train still shifts very smoothly, although I’m not sure I can tell the difference between “shark shaped worn teeth” and designed shifting ramps.

    Another money making idea: someone make a wear indicator tool for cassettes and chainrings?

    Wear goes in the other direction; basically the ramps all help lift the chain onto the next cog; the wear in the cassette is an elongating of the valley between cogs and a sharpening of the tooth – like a sharks tooth. You can usually see the telltale widening horizontally of the wear as it starts to sit in.

    My chains last less long the more I Rule #10 the climbs around here. Makes a significant difference. I roll V-Meter a lot of the time, though, so no clue how many kms wind up in the chains.

    Ah, my master….wise you are in the ways of the Force (and rival and red) but you misunderstand the principle of making a buck off cycling suckers. Don’t tell them how you can see the wear; sell them an expensive (preferably patented) tool to measure it. Profit.

  33. @frank

    @Souleur, @brett

    You guys both get an F for reading comprehension. Where the did you get the idea I do this every ride? That’s insane, and reinforces the notion I’ve got that all that ever gets read on an article is the the title and the posts, with a cursory glance given to the photo.

    @brett

    And wtf is up with that skewer?

    Frame doesn’t allow for the bisection position, though it does allow for Rule #41 compliance with the upward positioning. Moron.

    Frank, i didn’t say anything about you giving me the idea in the article, other than my obsessive compulsions come out after reading it and deducing and the voices they say to Souleur…if clean is clean, and its right….which IT IS, then one should do it every ride.  Dude, its tongue in cheek, here i’ll split my aspirin with ya. BTW, I read every word, religiously.  Strong work

  34. @Ron

    Am I the only one who wants to punch shop employees who get stuff at cost when they tell you they swap chains every 800 miles? I find this to be ridiculously low. And I don’t think I’ve ever worn a road bike chain in that span.

    Don’t hate on shop employees! Those guys hook it up! I haven’t paid retail in like…. I don’t remember the last time actually. A $140 KMC X10SL DLC chain, which shifts better than any SRAM or Shimano chain I’ve ever used, runs me $60 and change… and the occasional six pack of microbrew or safety meeting sponsorship. 

    Make nice with the shop guys… it’s in your best interest!!!

  35. @Ken Ho That looks a bit like an Imperial gunners helmet.

  36. Yes, it does a bit, and a few other things too.

    ON another completely different note, I rocked up to a track night tonight, and now I have a severe hankering to buy a track bike and have at ’em, me hearties !!

    I see a major advantage in the night time nature of it.  Very hard for me to get a decent ride in on day shifts, and night track time seems to make so much sense.  I can even see my road adverse VMH having a go.

    N+1, here we come.

  37. Lifes too short.

    A light spray of water, Add muc off. light brush, rinse off, lube, job done

    + Park tool chain cleaner tool once every 2-3 weeks.

    Occasionally its gets a through strip down and clean usually once before winter, once after winter.

  38. i recently picked up the butter b1 (http://www.wearebutter.com/main/products/) for chain-cleaning-keeping and love it. very very robust tool. expensive, but it’s like Lezyne gear: you can’t wait to use it and you know you’ll have it forever.

    i recently replaced my BB after dishing out too much of the V and one of my BB30 bearings fell apart in the shell. i also replaced the brake pads and gave my bike a good cleaning. it just turned a year old and it’s got ~16000km’s on it. took it out for a spin on its “birthday” (date i got it) and after all this cleaning and maintenance, man it felt wonderful.  like celebrating with an old friend.

  39. While we’re at it, can we argue over the correct hand posture (over vs under) whilst drinking from a bidon?

  40. @strathlubnaig

    Inspired by the sheer volume of comments on cleaning the bike I went to the Scottish equivalent of an EFADS today and bought some supplies, various brushes and rags and fluids and stuff. The weather brightened up enough this pm to spend a happy hour with the bucket o’ suds and my new bits n’ bobs, result nice shiny steed and then relubed the chain with some genuine offshore chain oil.

    Had to tell Lady Strtahlubnaig to keep her grubby paws off my cleaning kit, strictly for the bikes I said……

    You been to Screw It then?

  41. @Ken Ho

    Yes, it does a bit, and a few other things too.

    ON another completely different note, I rocked up to a track night tonight, and now I have a severe hankering to buy a track bike and have at ’em, me hearties !!

    I see a major advantage in the night time nature of it. Very hard for me to get a decent ride in on day shifts, and night track time seems to make so much sense. I can even see my road adverse VMH having a go.

    N+1, here we come.

    Do. It. makes everything else seem slow. And the lack of hills makes my 5-years-from-peaking lard belly less of a handicap

  42. @brianc

    While we’re at it, can we argue over the correct hand posture (over vs under) whilst drinking from a bidon?

    Doesn’t it depend entirely on how you grab the thing from its cage? Simple ergonomics.

    (cf. Frederick Winslow Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management)

  43. @DavidI

    @Ken Ho

    Yes, it does a bit, and a few other things too.

    ON another completely different note, I rocked up to a track night tonight, and now I have a severe hankering to buy a track bike and have at ’em, me hearties !!

    I see a major advantage in the night time nature of it. Very hard for me to get a decent ride in on day shifts, and night track time seems to make so much sense. I can even see my road adverse VMH having a go.

    N+1, here we come.

    Do. It. makes everything else seem slow. And the lack of hills makes my 5-years-from-peaking lard belly less of a handicap

    Yes, I joined a club today to get my race licence.  I joined a club up at Nerang that has track training twice a week and racing every Friday night.  Now I just need to get a bike.   Better, then I will have a further excuse to get a disc wheel.  I have plans to get one before the bike ride that comes after a bit of a rinse off, but before a casual , erm, stumble, cough, cough, at Cairms IM next year.  I’m also doing my first criterium race tonight, for which I will look bloody fantastic.

  44. @Ken Ho word to the wise Kenny –

    1. Your IM disc wont be too helpful (or allowed) on the track… Get something like Zipp 404s that give you a decent IM aero benefit and can also be used for road racing/crits (unless you are really rich – then buy everything).

    2. Refer to the Masturbation Principle regarding the mention of taking a bath before riding.

    3. Get to the front early in your crit tonight and show ’em you mean business. You are a chance to get away and stay away when the others dont know you.

  45. When cleaning your bike…-is it OK to wear gloves? I am a doctor, and I cannot meet patients in the outpatient clinic the following day with ANY black stains on my hands, hope you understand that. So I actually use the finest surgical gloves when cleaning my bike. Doing that, I do not feel much like Rule #9, on the other hand, is it not respectful to the bike to handle it with gloves made for working inside the human body?

  46. @sengelov

    Gloves are totally fine.  There is nothing PRO about having black stains on your hands, however, properly maintained, a bicycle should never get to the point where you’re getting that much grease on you. anyway.  If you give your bike and chain a quick wipe down after each ride (I used baby wipes on the frame, rims and tires, etc. and then a cotton rag on the chain) you’ll be surprised at how little black stuff you’ll ever see.

  47. @VeloVita …..and not forgetting taking the freehub off and re-greasinf the pawls……….mmmmm, quiet!

  48. Ultrasonic bath, and some ‘Simple Green’ jollop.  that will clean your cassette to ultra new shiny level in about 90s.  Apply your favourite lube, and it’s all good!  Unless you are using Ceramic Wax chain lube, and then you lose it all off your surfaces.

  49. Simple Green is indeed, awesome. But the plain green stuff can cause hydrogen embrittlement in metal parts. They make a specialized formula for the aerospace industry that doesn’t do that.

    Simple Green 13406 Extreme Aircraft and Precision Cleaner is what I use on my CAAD. 

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