How to best clean and lubricate racing bikes and chains: do-it-yourself and green products

How to best clean and lubricate racing bikes and chains: do-it-yourself and green products

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To protect, lubricate and in general take care of your bicycle they are activities that apparently have nothing to do with "mobility" and the practice of sport itself; often let's face it they are real annoyances that seem to make us waste time.

Only apparently though: there is often a strong correlation between how we treat our objects and how we practice sport in terms of regularity, method and attention to detail. This is even more true during the winter season when those who regularly "go out" with their bikes meet the situationthe most disparate atmospheric which affect all components of the bicycle itself: frame, wheels, rays, pedals, chains, you change, derailleurs levers and joints various just to give examples of some components that are subject to rust and wear.

Whether or not you use the classic "forklift" for extreme cold, humid or hot seasons, in my opinion the substance does not change: care and maintenance of your vehicle remain one of the activities to be carried out periodically to maintain the efficiency and safety of the bicycle. And why not, also to maintain its duration and value over time: spending several thousand euros to have the bike of your dreams and abandoning it to neglect after each use is really a shame beyond your spending and use possibilities. .

Today's post is dedicated to a series of tips to follow in case you want to clean, wash and lubricate your bike, whether it is mainly a racing bike but also a traditional one.

When it is important to clean your bicycle

It is important to clean the bike after each use under certain circumstances because it collects a lot of dust and dirt (on a mountain bike after each ride) Pressure washer yes or pressure washer no this is the dilemma: many today own one; personally I am not an Orthodox one hundred percent averse to use; just do not bring the high pressure lance too close to the parts to be cleaned. Too much pressure is not good for any cracks on the frame but not good for changing the casings and the surfaces of the bottom bracket.

The best method for those who have time and the right dexterity and attention to detail is certainly the traditional one, namely sponge and elbow grease. But remember that you have to touch the surfaces and not attack them. If you have been to a road cycling race or even better a cyclocross race you will have noticed how the team mechanics put the bikes on the stands and use the pressure washers; they do it because they have little time available and because the life cycle of a pro bike is different from that of those who buy it for personal use. As I said before, I am not averse to the use of the pressure washer itself; I find the use of compressed air questionable during the drying phase especially for the gaskets that could be affected; drying by hand with the classic cloth will not take you too long and you will be able to take care of certain details in the best possible way.

Toolbox and service equipment

Before starting the maintenance and cleaning of the bike, you must obtain the appropriate products and tools necessary for both cleaning and drying and lubrication. Briefly we can summarize our toolbox * as follows:

  • Buckets and / or containers for water
  • Cloths and brush with soft bristles
  • Sponges
  • Bike lubricant oil (there are several types)
  • Degreaser suitable for bicycle and transmission
  • Brushes and / or chain cleaner
  • Detergents
  • Products for protection after drying

* At the end of the post you can find useful links to better evaluate and finalize your purchase needs

The phase of cleaning the bike and the transmission components (chain, rear sprocket and front derailleur)

First remove the wheels and if possible, place the frame on a tripod; if you don't have a tripod, just turn the frame upside down to keep it stable.

We can therefore go to the frame cleaning phase: it is possible to use normal detergent or shampoo but on the market there are specific products suitable for bicycle materials (carbon) excellent for degreasing and cleaning. The most frequent mistake that can be made is to use too aggressive products or excessively hot water.

You can then move on to clean the gearbox components (sprockets, front derailleur, chainrings, rear derailleur). A separate discussion we will then do for the chain.

It is good to specify that the chassis and gearbox exist on the market different types of degreasers; a little more aggressive dedicated to the transmission parts and of medium type for the frames that normally do not have particular oils and greases to be removed. Also excellent are some polyvalent degreasers suitable for all surfaces. Cleaning of the gearbox components can be done best if brushes are used instead of the normal sponge to reach the most hidden parts of the transmission.

Cleaning the chain: the chain must also be cleaned and degreased (and then also lubricated as we will see) and brushes and normal cloths can be used as we do with the frame and gearbox components; however, it is probably more convenient and effective to use i chain cleaner which will allow you not to get too dirty while also giving excellent results. A modest expense for a fairly high functional benefit and above all without contraindications.

Obviously this general cleaning phase becomes a whole when we use the classic pressure washer mentioned several times above but which must be said has defects such as aggressiveness and the probability of water permeation even in components where it is not necessary (joints and bearings). Obviously it can be avoided if you also pay attention to the lubrication phase

The phase of drying the bike and the transmission components

Drying is a very important phase, in the same way as cleaning because not drying the damp parts can lead to the fact that the materials are damaged quickly enough due to rust. The good yellow synthetic kitchen cloth and manual drying are irreplaceable in this sense.

Natural oxidation resulting from atmospheric agents such as sun and wind should also be avoided: this is why the various components must always be dried and protected after having been degreased and washed.

After drying, many are also followed by a phase of polishing the frame using specific products for the materials of racing bikes and / or mtb (carbon in primis). Polishing is not a must but if you care about your vehicle it is something we recommend; not only on the frame but also on the handlebars and cranks.

The lubrication phase of the transmission components (chain, rear sprocket and front derailleur)

The lubrication of moving parts is one of the main maintenance operations; the chain must never be too dry; the same goes for the front derailleur, rear derailleur, sprockets, joints, brakes, levers and rear derailleur. The range of available lubricants is very wide and also varies according to the climatic conditions of use of the racing bike and / or mtb. In particular, as you will notice in the links at the end of the post, we can find a whole series of excellent lubricants; remember to calibrate the choice according to your use:

  • Chain lubricants for wet conditions, rain and mud: these products penetrate inside the chain, thoroughly lubricating and protecting against corrosion; compared to other products they offer long-lasting lubrication and protect against rust typical of wet conditions; they can be used both on the chain but also on the gearbox, the gearbox and the levers.
  • Chain lubricants for all conditions: the product penetrates into the joints of the chains, protects in situations of medium humidity and creates a protective film that attracts less dust in dry situations. They are universal products both with good lubricating power but also suitable in dry situations. They can also be used for derailleurs, shifters, levers and all pivot points.
  • Chain lubricants for dry conditions: are products conceived and designed for cycling in dusty and dry conditions. These products contain the particularity of attracting less dust than traditional products: oils and lubricants in general are strong attractors of dust and dust in general. They should be used in the parts most subject to drying such as the chain but also sprockets, levers and derailleurs.

To clean the dirt and lubricate the chain well, you need to follow some simple rules: first of all degrease it manually (or thanks to a chain cleaner) by applying a degreasing spray (also on the crowns) to remove dirty oils from the debris that have accumulated since the last time. After removal, we move on to lubrication with the appropriate products (based on the conditions with which you frequently find yourself using the vehicle). Finally, make sure that the entire chain and also the crowns are well lubricated. How can you tell? Simply when you no longer hear those annoying noises in the transmission and all the gears of the gearbox will enter smoothly.

The secret of many former professionals

You may not know but the best lubricant for chains and transmission components is gun oil; it is transparent and does not mix with dust granules. Especially for dry conditions it is really excellent; on the other hand, its defect is that it lasts very little and therefore must be applied often in order not to have the arid chain as we said at the beginning. Obviously, the specific products are not far behind, however if you are looking for an alternative solution even if a little less economical, know that in terms of characteristics this is an excellent variant.

What to use to clean and lubricate the chain: Clean the chain, degreaser and detergent

WD-40 bike line products for cleaning, protection and lubrication - Source:

On the net it is now possible to inquire and buy all the necessary set to be able to clean and maintain your bicycle; for example on Amazon, by doing targeted searches you can extract a list of products listed by relevance and compare the opinions of those who bought before you:

Let's now highlight how to best carry out a targeted search on this specific e-commerce; I have extracted for you an abundant series of categories where it will be easier for you to evaluate the necessary and the different price and product proposals:

  • bike cleaning kit
  • bike cleaners and cleaners
  • clean chain
  • chain lubricants
  • bicycle lubricants and cleaners: WD40 products
  • bicycle lubricants and detergents: walbike professional products
  • gun oils and lubricants
  • bicycle lubricants
  • bike protectors
  • bike maintenance stand
  • tools and multi-tools for bike maintenance
  • bicycle chain tensioner

Furthermore, after a few thousand km it is also advisable to replace some components:

  • Crown
  • Bicycle transmission chain
  • Cassettes and pinions
  • Air chambers
  • Tires or tires
  • Handlebar tape

Other related articles I wrote on IdeeGreen that may interest you are:

  • Cycle computer and bike GPS: how to choose
  • Tips for winter cycling clothing
  • Bike and cycling lights: LEDs, headlights and lighting tips
  • Bike and Cycling Glasses: guide and models
  • E-Bike, which electric bike to choose: E-Mtb, City E-bike or Corsa
  • Tires, tubeless and tubular: guide and bike tire sizes
  • Cycling shoes for racing or mtb bikes: how to choose them
  • Bike and Cycling Helmet: guide and models

Curated by Tullio Grilli

Video: How to degrease and lube your bike chain (June 2022).


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