When the sun comes out after a long day of bike touring in the rain, give your bike a little love and attention to keep it running smoothly.
It takes less than half an hour to clean your bike up. For your efforts, you’ll get to ride without any annoying squeaking or grinding noises.
Better yet, you’ll extend the life of your bike. Grit from rainy weather will wear down the chain, gears, brakes and rims if not cleaned off.
Start your bike clean-up by turning the bicycle over and standing it on its seat and handlebars. Now you’ll have a better view of all the dirt underneath the mudguards. Also look between the cogs and the derailleur.
Take a rag and slowly go over the bike from top to tail, removing as much grit and mud as you can. Any grit you leave on the bike will act as an abrasive against the different parts so this is important. Go over the mudguards, gears and derailleur, then wipe down the chain and the rims. Open the brakes and get the grit out from between the rims and the brake pads.
Next, return to the chain. Give it a vigorous rub with the rag to get as much grime off as possible. If you have an old toothbrush, you can use that to help clean between the links. In an ideal world, you would use a cleaning solution to help get dirt off but on tour that is not usually an option.
Apply lube to the chain once you’re done cleaning it. If you’re going to be riding a lot in rain, or on long-distance trips, a wet-weather lube is a good option. We used Finish Line Wet Lubricant ($8 from REI) most of the time and also T9 Bicycle Lubricant ($10 from REI).
A little lube in other places isn’t a bad idea either. Start with your brake and gear cables. Even if they are covered in a plastic casing, cables can get stiff after wet riding so drop a bit of lube in and keep them sliding freely.
Follow that up with some lube around points like the pivot point on the derailleur and any exposed springs on your clipless pedals.
With these basics covered, you should be ready to go. But if you ride a lot in the rain, and find yourself with a few hours to spare, you might also consider cleaning and re-greasing your hubs. This is a job that should be done once or twice a year. It isn’t hard, but it is time consuming.