Spring Cleaning: A Mountain Bikerís Primer
Spring Cleaning: A Mountain Bikerís Primerby Rob de Luca
Ah, Spring. The snow is melting from the peaks, and the trails are singing their siren song. If youíre like us, youíre already pawing the dirt, planning trips to Moab and southern Colorado. Like us, you canít wait to tip over while still clipped in, stick your hand in a cactus while you poop in the desert, go showerless for three days in a row, attempt to pitch a 6-man tent at midnight in a bourbon-soaked haze, and then complain that itís a piece of crap when it blows over with you still in itóthatís what Spring is all about, besides taxes. Finally (also like us), you probably went to pull your bike out of the garage and found it barely rideable, its frame caked with dirt from your last fall ride, and your chain a black, noisy mess. Maybe you didnít, because you maintain all your gear like precious jewelry. If thatís the case, go sip your Chai latte while you gloat, and hereís hoping you burn the roof of your mouth, ya jerk. But for those of you who are still here, we took some time out of our busy day (yeah right) to work up a little step-by-step resuscitation plan that will have you and your two wheels rolling AFQAP (As Freakiní Quick As Possible). Read on!
Step 1: Get Clean.
If you donít already have a full Pit Kit, hereís what youíll need to get started:
- Two buckets, one filled with ice, one with hot water.
- A sponge or soft brush.
- An old toothbrush.
- A degreasing rag.
- A clean towel. Donít use a monogrammed one from the guest bathroom or youíll be in a lot of trouble.
- A bottle of biodegradable cleaner (we like Pedroís 'cause it smells better than Simple Green, but you can use either)
- A six-pack of tasty beer. Westerners: go here. East Coasters: here.
Second, address the bike: soak it down, and wipe off any boulders or squirrels still stuck in the stays. Once the chunks are gone, spray it all over with the cleaner, wait a minute, and then go to work with the brush or spongeódonít be shy. Now unbolt your seat collar, pull out your post, and drop the front wheel out of the fork. Get the toothbrush into all the black spots until your hands are filthy and the little parts arenít. Donít forget your hubs and rims. When everything shines, rinse down the frame and dry it off with the towel.
Step 2: Degrease.
If your chain is really a rusty mess (it shouldnít be if you kept it lubed last season) youíll need a new one. Otherwise, drip a healthy dose of citrus degreaser on that sucker and scrub away like youíre Lady Macbeth. This will be frustrating, because every time you turn your cranks, more grime from the chainring and cassette will get on the chain. Tip #1: take off your rear wheel and use the rag to go back-and-forth between your cassette cogs, then wrap the rag around your chain and run it through your hand. After this, your hands will look like you moonlight as an auto mechanic. Very cool.
Step 3: Lube.
Grab your all-purpose grease and some chain lube that matches your riding conditions, and put on your leather mask with the zipper over the mouth. Now take the mask off, sicko, itís not that kind of party. The rule here is: if it has threads and it moves, grease it. If it doesnít, lube it up. Hit your pivots (if you ride a full-suspension frame), chain, and derailleurs with lube, and use grease on seat collar bolts and axle nuts. For things like your disc rotors and stem clamp, check the torque settings in the manual and use a torque wrench, or risk stripping threads. If you have a bike stand, you can do all of this standing up, plus youíll look varsity when your friends come over.
Step 4: Check your gear.
So, the entire time you were cleaning all that stuff, you were supposed to be checking for frame cracks, worn parts, stripped threads, et cetera. Did we forget to mention that? Sorryógo back and start over from Step 1.
Just kidding Ö if you didnít spot anything it probably wasnít major, but definitely give your ride a once-over, pressing down on your top tube, looking at welds and joints for signs of weakness. DONíT ride a cracked frame (duh). The same rule applies to your helmet. A crack in your lid means itís shot; get a new one or keep a backup brain on ice at the hospital. We like to replace our XC tubes, and keep the old ones as spares. If you ride DH/FR, check out a new set of knobbies, or at the very least drop in some new tire sealant so your first ride of the season doesnít end up a long hike instead. Tip #2: if you donít know how to tune your fork, shock, or derailleurs, thereís no shame in calling a friend or taking your bike to a reputable shop. Theyíll respect your attention to cleanliness, and tell you if you missed anything while you fondle the latest gear.
Step 5: Pat yourself on the back.
Remember those microbrews in the bucket? Itís time to enjoy. Turn the dirty water bucket upside-down, pop a squat, and crack open a brewski. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Step 6: Ride, stupid
Why are you still reading?