Dirty bikes don’t look good, they look poorly looked after in fact and they don’t run well. Most people who ride DCR wheels are conscientious with their bikes and want to keep them in good running order. We want that for them too, although we like to build wheels that can also take abuse. Although selling lots of wheels is great, more than anything we want our wheels to offer a good service life. We do not want you requiring a new set prematurely.
If you apply a lot of chain lubricant, you will probably find that a lot of dirt is picked up from the road. In addition, the chain itself is wearing away, that produces a black paste in itself. That paste can get everywhere and does need to be cleaned off. What that can lead to is end users and sometimes over-zealous cycle shops covering the drive in a strong degreaser to make it all shiny and new, then re-applying some fresh lube so the bike runs like a dream…for a bit.
The problem is, most bikes are covered in sealed cartridge bearings now. You will find them in your headset, bottom bracket, jockey wheels, pedals and – most importantly for us – your wheels. If you introduce a penetrating cleaner or a high pressure water cleaner to a bike, the water and degreaser gets inside the bearings, behind their sealing, stripping them of the lubricant that they require to run well.
We see quite a lot of wheelsets that have knackered rear bearings but front bearings run like new. That is consistent with aggressive cleaning of a drive. The benefit of a sealed cartridge system is that you can remove these bearings and install fresh ones, removing all play and noise. The wheels will run like new again. However, often, this maintenance can be avoided. So, steps to run through for careful cleaning:
- Dry clean. Not always a solution but sometimes a dry rag can remove dirt and grease, if it is fresh and new, without the use of any sort of product at all. Saving your bearings and your money. This may be all that is required.
- Just use water. If you clean regularly, water alone is often enough when a dry clean is not. You may use a rag or a brush as well. It is generally only the caked on dirt that requires products. There are some care products that can be used to protect a frame – applied when the frame is clean. That will also make cleaning easier. If you use water, just running water. No pressure washers, do not put your thumb over the end of the hose either.
- Use a gentle cleaner. If you need to take it up a level, sometimes a product is required. It will improve results on a filthy frame. I am not going to recommend or advise against any specific products here. We prefer to see the use of environmentally friendly products if possible. What I will also say is that if a cleaning product manufacturer sponsors a professional team it is neither an indication that they make a good product nor that they extend the life of your components. Also, a product that cleans very effectively may also be shortening your component’s lifespan.
- Clean your drive with lubricant. If you use a fine lubricant, like the Wickens and Soddestrom chain lube, it will draw a lot of the dirt out of your chain. So, apply a healthy amount, run the chain round and round, it will turn black and horrible. Then remove the excess leaving a nicely lubed chain. It isn’t a good solution for a very bad chain but it can avoid the need for a degreaser.
- Degrease only the components that need degreasing. A cassette can be easily removed from a wheel. Most chains can be removed with a quick link and if not, once broken, can then normally be re-installed with a quick link. If you isolate the chain and cassette from the rest of the bike you can go nuts with the degreaser you use. Paraffin actually works very well as a cheap solution but there are lots of options and we would always prefer to see the use of an environmentally friendly cleaner. Just make sure that degreaser is gone completely by the time you refit the chain/cassette. Ensure the chain is the right way round, free running and ensure the cassette is done up to the correct torque setting – normally 40nm. If you cannot remove the chain or are reluctant/under-confident in doing so, you can use a dummy rear wheel or even just an old rear wheel that you do not care for anymore to save your nice wheels from the degrease. We sell/stock the Birzman frame spacer for this purpose for £12.
You can find out more about cleaning and lubricating your chain specifically in this article from Bike Radar