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.