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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-14-06, 04:44 PM   #1
Roody
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Am I just a sloppy pig?

When I see pics of commuter bikes here, they're all so clean and shiny. My bike doesn't look anything like that! It's usually kind of dusty in the summer and muddy in the winter. I've had it for 3 1/2 years now and I've ridden it almost every day since, even through our Michigan winters. I have never washed it with soap and water, but sometimes in the winter I wipe it down with a rag and some WD-40. Otherwise, it gets washed when it rains, as it sits waiting for me outside work or the store. (It is garaged indoors when I'm at home.)

It doesn't seem to have any corrosion anywhere, even on the steel frame. I've needed a new bottom bracket, and I've had the hubs overhauled a couple times. No problem with the gears or brakes, which I do lube once in a while. And I'm actually pretty good about lubing the chain, but I never clean the chain. I'm on my second chain now.

What I'm wondering is do most of you always keep your bikes so nice and shiny, or do you just wax and buff them before you take photos? Is it really important to the bike to be kept clean, or is it just that most people think a clean bike looks nicer?

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Old 08-14-06, 04:55 PM   #2
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My commuter bike is usually clean because as I've gotten more into bike mechanics I've gotten more and more uptight about keeping it clean. Sometimes it gets caked in dried mud, but usually that causes the chain to get noisy, so I clean it pretty quickly after that and take the time to wipe down the frame with a rag soaked in Simple Green. I suppose I ought to try a different kind of chain lube. Soap and water seems like overkill to me and probably not that good for a steel frame. I definitely only take photos of my bike when it's clean

I ride through the winter too, but Maryland winter is a pathetic 2-week joke compared to Michigan winter. I grew up in East Lansing, and I very much miss the permanent coat of white covering the "beautiful peninsula" from December through March. Here it snows and I get all excited, then by the time I go outside it's a slushy mess and everyone's whining about it and there's gridlock because no one knows how to drive in 2 inches of snow. Happy riding
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Old 08-14-06, 05:36 PM   #3
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I think the color of the bike may have something to do with it too. My beater (silver/grey), which I pretty much neglected, never looked as bad as my new commuter (black) which I clean every weekend. Something about the mixture of sweat, sunscreen and a little dust that just shows up on a black bike frame.
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Old 08-14-06, 05:41 PM   #4
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I squirt/ clean my chain with a toofbrush and WD-40
and if I run down a farm road in the rain Ill blow the cow chunks
off with a hose but thats about all.
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Old 08-14-06, 05:55 PM   #5
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I've been cleaning mine weekly to help out with the drought. It has not let me down yet. The day of or after I wash it we get a decent rainstorm.
It is clean all of a day or less.
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Old 08-14-06, 06:27 PM   #6
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I am an obsessive bike and car clean freak. That’s why my bikes always look so clean. Funny thing is that I’d rather ride my bike in the rain than take my car out if it is clean…drives my wife and kids nuts. If my wife were to crash her van into a snow bank , she and the girls could survive for a week on the food lying around on the floor…
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Old 08-14-06, 06:28 PM   #7
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As with most machinery: If it's not clean, it's not well maintained.
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Old 08-14-06, 06:32 PM   #8
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I now work with a guy who is a bike mechanic, among other things, and I swear, he spends more time cleaning his bike than riding it! He also keeps trying to get me and another coworker to clean our bikes more often. His bike is always super-duper shiny and I mean it: your hands won't get a smudge of dirt no matter what part of the bike you decide to mess with! It's really quite amazing. In fact, to me it's just mind-boggling.

Now, keep in mind that he is only an occasional bike commuter. I, on the other hand, ride my bike every day. And I ain't prepared to clean it every day; I have better things to do with life. I try to keep the moving parts lubed and only partially hidden under a sticky greasy gooey mess. I wipe the frame when I am in the mood, which is not often.

But the bike actually looks the same on pictures regardless of whether I cleaned it recently or not. Maybe it's just the camera.
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Old 08-14-06, 06:40 PM   #9
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The picture I posted of my commuter makes it look clean and shiny, but that's a trick of the camera. You should see the grunge and gunk on the chain/cogs/rings. And from riding in the rain, I have this weird build up on the rim from the brake pads. I'd get rid of it if I knew how, or, more accurately, if I remembered about it any time other than when I'm on the bike.

And I live in Michigan, too. This will (hopefully) be my first winter of bike commuting. Any tips?
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Old 08-14-06, 06:41 PM   #10
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I don't clean anything- Just ask my wife.
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Old 08-14-06, 07:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dickseacup
... And from riding in the rain, I have this weird build up on the rim from the brake pads. I'd get rid of it if I knew how, or, more accurately, if I remembered about it any time other than when I'm on the bike.
I do clean the rims once a year or so. I find that a square green scrub pad, like you use on pans, works quite well. But they just get dirty again......

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And I live in Michigan, too. This will (hopefully) be my first winter of bike commuting. Any tips?
It's cool that we're getting so many members from Michigan! The number of riders here in Lansing has easily tripled in the last year. I have posted lots of tips on winter riding--I just put a couple on a thread called Does anyone split commute?
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Old 08-14-06, 07:43 PM   #12
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Once a week I take whatever bike I'm on and give her a spray at the diy carwash, so each bike gets cleaned about every other week. Every week I clean and oil chains.

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Old 08-14-06, 07:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moxfyre
I ride through the winter too, but Maryland winter is a pathetic 2-week joke compared to Michigan winter. I grew up in East Lansing, and I very much miss the permanent coat of white covering the "beautiful peninsula" from December through March. Here it snows and I get all excited, then by the time I go outside it's a slushy mess and everyone's whining about it and there's gridlock because no one knows how to drive in 2 inches of snow. Happy riding
++. 6 years in grad school in Ann Arbor, now in Maryland, and I don't even need to use my november/march coat, let along my December/February coat.
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Old 08-14-06, 07:53 PM   #14
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++. 6 years in grad school in Ann Arbor, now in Maryland, and I don't even need to use my november/march coat, let along my December/February coat.
Winter in Maryland means little more than, "the part of the year when I prefer to wear pants."
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Old 08-14-06, 07:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CastIron
As with most machinery: If it's not clean, it's not well maintained.
Not necessarily, sometimes cleaning your bike can damage it.
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Old 08-14-06, 08:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roody
When I see pics of commuter bikes here, they're all so clean and shiny. My bike doesn't look anything like that! It's usually kind of dusty in the summer and muddy in the winter.
My bike gets washed about twice a year, if its lucky. The rest of the time, if it looks too filthy, I'll deliberately park it outside in the rain. I do clean the chain about once a month, and at the same time get gunk out of the chain-rings and cogs, but I can't be bothered to clean the rest. It will just get filthy again anyway!

Its a tool. Would you wash a hammer?
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Old 08-14-06, 08:23 PM   #17
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I oil my chain. If I ride in the rain, it gets muddy, and sometime in the next 3 or 4 days after that I'll hose it with the power washer, let it dry in the sun, and reoil the chain. I do not clean the chains other than hitting with powerwasher if they're caked with mud; I've tried cleaning them (several methods including removal and multiple degreaser washings) and not cleaning them, and they last 1800 miles either way. If you oil properly the fresh oil pushes the dirt out of the rollers.

Maybe it's not "well maintained" but it's got 7000 miles on it and I've done nothing to it but replace the chain and brake pads, and everything still works 100%. If everything works perfectly I'm not sure what more needs to be maintained. There is some rust on the deraillers, but hey, they're crap deraillers, they still shift smooth and snappy (I powerwash and oil them at the same time) and I'll just throw some new crappy deraillers on it at 10K miles or whenever they fall apart. If I have to buy a new $50 part every 10K miles that's a better deal than spending an extra hour of my time every week or two cleaning the bike.

I haven't washed my car in several years either. It runs OK too. I really don't care what stuff looks like as long as it works.
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Old 08-14-06, 08:32 PM   #18
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I only take pictures of my bikes right after cleaning. Honest!

Do you use full fenders with a flexible mud flap that goes almost to the ground ? It makes a huge difference in how fast your bike gets dirty and keeps the chain clean longer. It's a big help when it is not actually raining hard but the ground is wet or dirty and you want your shoes and pants clean.
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Old 08-14-06, 08:39 PM   #19
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Would you wash a hammer?
I'll wipe it down with an oiled rag to keep it from rusting, gets done to all my metal hand tools. Spray off my shovels and rakes before they get put up too. The only time I don't clean tools is when I'm using roofing tar, then I buy a cheep trowel and throw it out when the job is done.
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Old 08-14-06, 08:52 PM   #20
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Ever power washed an old car or truck engine and suddenly it starts leaking oil all over the place?

Heh... I don't wash it. Wipe off dried dirt and mud once in a while, and oil the chain.
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Old 08-14-06, 09:38 PM   #21
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I clean the drive train a bit when I am able to go on one of the local club rides. And a damp towel to the rest of it. When it is too shiny I get too much interest from people who make me nervous.
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Old 08-15-06, 12:15 AM   #22
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I'm a cheapskate, so I keep it clean. The more dirt, the more abrasion on parts, and the shorter their life span. I'd rather take 30 mins or so each week and clean, lube and adjust than have to replace stuff too quickly. Plus, I like working on anything with two wheels.
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Old 08-15-06, 03:52 AM   #23
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My bike get's doused in a downpour once a week or so. This keeps the dust and dirt to a minimum. After a good rain the drivetrain gets a good cleaning. The last time I bought a chain the Nickle plated SRAM chains (SR-68 I think) were on sale so I splurged a little and got one usually I get the basic (SR-48). This thing is great it never looks dirty no mater how long its been since a cleaning. It is purely cosmetic, but it makes me so happy to look across my garage and see my bikes drive train sparkling in the sunshine.
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Old 08-15-06, 04:07 AM   #24
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Since you know yourself a lot better than we know you, I assume you already know the answer to your post title question. Now if you mean to ask if WE are sloppy pigs, my answer would be: sparadicly yes. Sometimes I clean, sometimes it goes without a cleaning for awhile.
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Old 08-15-06, 04:49 AM   #25
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Yes, you are. Me too. Gives me more free time.

My bike is 4 years old (so must have done about 12,000 miles on it) and has been cleaned twice. The chain gets lubed bi-monthly and it's on the third one. The cassette has been changed twice, last time i just changed the bottom two slip-on cogs that were the most worn and stopped using the 6th gear. The front derailleur gave up the winter before last, but it froze on the biggest chainwheel so i've never bothered freeing it up. The wheel bearings are knackered and i just snapped a spoke at the weekend, so i loosened the brake cable to allow for the 'wobble'.

The point of all this is ^^^ is (whilst my bike is my only transport) it needs to be reliable every day without needing me to dedicate weekends to keeping it as such. I am favouring a road bike when this one finally gives up, but am giving serious consideration to a bomb-proof fixie (such as an Il Pompino) that requires no/low maintainance year round.
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