Author Topic: Cleaning your bike on a long tour  (Read 1726 times)

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Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« on: May 31, 2013, 05:57:24 am »
I am cycling the TransAm Trail starting this July. I have just bought a Surly LHT and I am wondering to what extent I will need to clean and maintain the bike along the trip? In particular, I am thinking about the chain, the sprockets etc... Do people tend to degrease and clean the chain and how often? And if they do, what do people tend to clean their bike with? 

Many thanks in advance.

Offline DU

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2013, 08:42:28 am »
I carry chain lube and rags with me while on tour. I wipe off the chain and lube it about once a week, more often if there is rain. Don't forget about the pivot points on derailleurs and brakes. A new chain made it across the entire transam in 2006. Needed to be replaced when I got home.

I don't clean the bike itself but do occasionally wipe the grit off of the rims and brake pads.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 08:46:52 am by DU »

Offline DaveB

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2013, 09:15:10 am »
 Wiping off the surface grime with a rag or paper towel and relubing periodically is more than sufficient.   

I believe a lot of riders kill their chains with kindness, probably as many as kill them with neglect. There is no need to completely degrease a chain and solvent soaking removes all of the internal lube that you will almost never replace adequately.   

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 09:29:02 am »
The chain is the big thing.  Wipe it down at least a couple times a week; paper towels or paper napkins from eateries are fine.  Gently wipe any other part of the bike that gets so dirty it bothers you.

Relube?  As needed.  When the chain starts to squeak.  After it rains, shake off excess water, wipe it down (it's probably collected extra dirt), and re-lube the chain when it's dry.  "Dry" lubes  need to be re-applied more often than "wet" lubes IME.  Read the directions, and if it says wipe after application, lube at night and wipe down in the morning.  (If you forget, you can build some monumental mounds of sandy, greasy, gunk on the derailer pulleys.)

Chain wear varies with riders.  After 2,000 miles, borrow a steel tape measure from somebody and start checking the chain.  Repeat as needed.  Every bike shop worth its name will have a new chain, so buy one when you need it.

Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 09:36:11 am »
Great - thanks for the replies. Do people ever tend to bother with bike cleaners on tour? Like this:

http://www.evanscycles.com/products/muc-off/trigger-bottle-1-litre-ec005520

Offline DaveB

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 09:36:30 am »
Chain wear varies with riders.  After 2,000 miles, borrow a steel tape measure from somebody and start checking the chain.  Repeat as needed.  Every bike shop worth its name will have a new chain, so buy one when you need it.
The problem with replacing a chain, unless it's really low mileage, is that the new chain is very likely to skip on at least a few of the smaller cogs of the old cassette.  So, either change the chain a lot (as a guess, in less than 1500 miles) or run the chain and cassette together until the chain "stretch" is about 1/8" per foot (12.125" over 24 pins) and replace the chain and cassette together.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 09:44:49 am »
Do people ever tend to bother with bike cleaners on tour?
No. You should focus your thoughts on what not to take, rather than what to take. Bike cleaners are way up there on the "not" list. The fact that you would even consider it suggests that you have the wrong mindset about your equipment list. Try thinking, "what do I need to stay alive?"

Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 09:55:01 am »
Thanks John - You're probably right, I might have the wrong mindset. The problem is, when it comes to maintenance, I don't know what is and isn't essential. I would be really grateful for your views on the following list of spares and maintenance items which I was thinking of taking with me: 

- Wet lube + rag / cloth
- 1x spare inner tube
- Multi-tool
- 1x spare brake pads
- Hand pump
- puncture repair kit
- Spoke tool
- Chain tool

That was about it I think - Do your lists tend to have anything I have left off?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2013, 10:45:11 am »
- Wet lube + rag / cloth Lube--yes. rag--no, you can use paper towels or napkins you get along the way
- 1x spare inner tube Yes, definitely. I'd take two.
- Multi-tool Yes, as long as it is bicycle specific and is has only what you need (i.e., is one of the smaller ones)
- 1x spare brake pads Yes, maybe even two sets
- Hand pump Yes. I prefer one with a built-in gauge like the Topeak Road Morph
- puncture repair kit Yes, definitely
- Spoke tool Yes, although the multi-tool usually has one
- Chain tool Yes, although the multi-tool usually has one

Other things:
 - Something to fix a broken spoke. The minimalist approach, which is sufficient for most problems, is a FiberFix or two. Get a real spoke at the next bike shop you come to, and put the FiberFix back in your kit for later reuse.
 - Tire?? Probably not needed if you start the tour with new, high-quality tires. But if you have crappy or worn tires, you probably want to take a spare.
 - Tire lever(s) to remove tire when you fix a flat. The multitool may have one or more.
 - Spare bolts for your rack
 - Spare cables, one of each brake and derailleur
 - Something to serve as a tire boot, like a 3" piece of an old tire with the bead cut off, or maybe just a piece of Tyvek
 - Spare master link or two (in case your chain breaks or gets mangled)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 10:47:57 am by John Nelson »

Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2013, 11:00:29 am »
Ok great - I've just checked and my multi-tool does actually have a spoke and chain tool. It also has two tire levers. 

The bike I have has come with two spare spokes attached, so I guess that I can use those.

I'll get some spare cables, bolts and spare chain links.

Thank you, John, that was really helpful!

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 01:28:41 pm »
The bike I have has come with two spare spokes attached, so I guess that I can use those.
Maybe, maybe not. Bikes almost always use at least two different length spokes, and sometimes three. The spokes that typically break are the drive side rear, and those cannot be changed unless you also bring something to remove the cassette with (e.g., the Stein Mini Cassette Lockring tool). If you get a FiberFix (about $10), you can temporarily replace a spoke anywhere with no tools. Those two spare spokes attached may come in handy, however, even if you don't have the tools to use them, if you happen to come to a bike shop that is out of spokes in your size.

Offline shannongalinat

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Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2013, 04:52:14 pm »
+1 on taking extra tubes.  I've been on more than one tour where we were low on tubes and couldn't easily find replacements in the little towns we passed through.  I've never been stranded, but I've been low.  One year on the TransAm near Lolo Pass, I gifted an extra tube to a west-bound cyclist who was down to his last, multiple-patched tube.

Extra tubes are your lightest and most-likely-needed repair item.  Take at least two per bike.

Enjoy!

Shan
Shannon Galinat
Boise, Idaho
-----------------------------------------
"You gotta let it riiiide!"  - Cosmo Kramer

Offline John Nelson

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2013, 02:33:00 pm »
Extra tubes are your lightest and most-likely-needed repair item.
Yes, but don't get carried away. On my bike, tubes weight about one third of a pound each. That's not exactly light. Patch kits, on the other hand, really are light, so I take two. The main reason I take extra tubes is so that I can swap tubes on the road and patch in camp. Occasionally, of course, a failure is unpatchable, which is when the extra tubes are critical.

The best way to minimize flats is not to ride too close to the edge of the road (where all the debris is), to ride around road debris instead of over it, and to carefully inspect your tires for thorns any time you take it off pavement. In the evening, more carefully inspect your tires and remove any embedded foreign matter before it has a chance to work its way through.

Offline DaveB

Re: Cleaning your bike on a long tour
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2013, 07:20:49 pm »
]
Yes, but don't get carried away. On my bike, tubes weight about one third of a pound each. That's not exactly light. Patch kits, on the other hand, really are light, so I take two. The main reason I take extra tubes is so that I can swap tubes on the road and patch in camp. Occasionally, of course, a failure is unpatchable, which is when the extra tubes are critical.
Well, some tubes unpatchable particularly if the failure is at the base of the valve (remarkably common) or the tear is too large.  Also, some leaks are "unfindable" along the road.  A small hole may still leak fast enough that a mini-pump won't keep up enough so you can locate it or a very small hole can leak so slowly it takes a bucket of water to find the bubble stream.  Take at least two spare tubes.