If you’ve hung out with bike people, especially ones who work with kids, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard the expression: “A clean bike is a happy bike.” If not, you have now.
The real question is, what does this mean? Since I have yet to find a bike that has feelings (at least one that can express them) I think of this quote as: “A clean bike [makes for] a happy bike [rider].” This makes more sense and, it turns out, is true!
First and foremost, it looks good. At least at the beginning of a ride. If your bike is dirty at the end of a ride, that’s okay. But it doesn’t look good to show up at the start of a ride with a dirty bike. And if your bike looks good, you feel better (and faster). And if you feel better (and faster) you ride better (and faster). Seriously. This has been scientifically proven (okay, maybe not).
A clean bike also works better. A dirty drivetrain (chainrings, cassette, derailleur and chain) is less efficient than a clean one. I’ve heard estimates ranging from 15% to 90%, but as eHow.com isn’t necessarily the most reliable of sources, I’ll stick to 15%.Just so you understand how big a deal this is, that’s saying that if your drivetrain is dirty, it’s 15% harder to go the same distance. Or for every 100 pedal strokes you would make on a clean drivetrain, you have to make 115. Let’s apply this to a 1 hr ride I did a couple weeks ago. My average cadence (pedal strokes per minute) was 85. Assuming my drivetrain was perfectly clean, that’s 5100 pedal strokes during my ride (85*60 = 5100). If my drivetrain had been dirty, I would have had to do 15% more pedal strokes using the same gears to go the same distance in the same time. That’s 5865 pedal strokes (5100*1.15), which would have increased my average cadence to 97.75 (5865/60). That’s a BIG difference. The rest of the bicycle also works better if it’s clean. Brakes, shifters, wheels, suspension. And as anyone who has ridden in the clay-like mud of the Southwest knows, mud is heavy, so a clean bike is lighter too. Moral of all of this: clean your bike!
Here’s a quick rundown of how:
- Put your bike in a stand if you have one (the Feedback Sports Pro-Elite stand is killer)
- Pull both wheels off
- Hose it down
- Soap it up (I like ProGold’s Degreaser but dish soap works just fine)
- Scrub your chain (I use the Park Tool Chain Scrubber but any solid brush works)
- Rinse it off
- Dry it off with a rag (or air compressor)
- Lube your chain (with Squirt Lube – yes, that is your only option)