Spring cleaning for bicycles


Now that spring has officially begun, a lot of you are probably wondering how to get your bike ready for the road, since you’ve left it in the garage or chained to the porch all winter. When it comes to bicycles, most of you are probably not as crazy as I am. I was like the US mail – neither snow, nor sleet, nor hail could stop me. That left my bike in need of a spring clean-up.

I tracked down Jamie McDonald, the owner of Sunrise Cyclery, to show me what’s probably broken or rusted through over the long winter.

rust The first thing to go, he said, is your inner tubes, followed by rust on your brake and shifter cables. If you left your bike outside for any length of time, it would probably look like mine. Now that’s going to need some steel wool and new grease, and I’ll probably need to replace the cables.

As we went over all these potential problem spots, I got the distinct sense that most bikers don’t take care of their rides to Jamie’s satisfaction. When we got to the seatpost and stem (the post that holds your handlebars), Jamie got a slightly sour note in his voice as he explained that when you don’t take these parts out every month or two, to scrape the corrosion off and re-lubricate them, they end up freezing into your frame. Apparently, trying to remove these parts to clean them sometimes destroys them because someone like Jamie has to wrench and pry them from the jaws of corrosion.

The next thing to watch out for is your chain, Jamie said. If you don’t have a quick link, then you’ll need to do it with specialized tools, the old-fashioned way.

Most folks don’t realize that cleaning your chain every season is kind of like changing the oil on your car every 3,000 miles, but keeping it well-lubed and clean keeps it rust-free, and will help it last two years. I’ll bet Jamie will roll his eyes at me the next time I bring my bike in for a tune-up if it still looks like this. My chain is so rusty and salty, though, I’ll need to let it soak in a bucket of de-greaser overnight, and seriously scrub each link with a rag to get all the little bits of rust out.

Lastly, Jamie says I need to wipe down my entire frame and wheels with de-greaser, or maybe just take out my garden hose, and rinse it down. This, he said will keep salt from corroding my frame any further.

James Sanna (james.sanna@gmail.com) is a freelance writer, who frequently covers education issues.