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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Maintenance Routines

Old 05-25-21, 10:08 AM
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Noonievut
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Maintenance Routines

After being mainly a road cyclist for many years I'm starting to see how riding a bike on gravel requires more maintenance to keep things running well and lasting longer.

Where I ride it has been very dry lately and the gravel roads and trails are coating the bike in gravel dust (good name for a bike!). It's like you go into a house that has wood furniture that hasn't been dusted for years, and you wipe your finger across the surface and reveal this really dark, contrasting wood...that's my bike after an hour ride, every ride).

With respect to cleaning/maintenance, I've always been good with keeping the chain, cassette, chain rings and jockey wheels clean (after every ride), and the chain lubed - so I don't want to 'talk chain and lube' in this discussion.

The bike has a GRX400 group on a carbon frame/fork.

I'm interested to hear maintenance routines of the following, in such conditions (or perhaps the conditions don't impact frequency of certain aspects?)
- Crank (removal, cleaning, lubrication)...I've never done this but after 2k on this bike I'm thinking I should (and more frequently)
- Bottom bracket: it's a pressfit and I've no experience with them - do you leave it be until it acts up, or occasionally remove/clean/lube/re-install...ever?
- Sealant in tubeless tires: okay, has nothing to do with riding gravel, but how often in time or distance do you top up the sealant
- Hydraulic brakes: I've had them as well as mechanical discs on other bikes in the past, and I would only occasionally wipe down the rotors with a clean paper towel with a bit of rubbing alcohol, and inspect pads for wear (never wore them down). Is there more I should be doing?
- Any other component/part I didn't list that you regularly maintain?

And with respect to cleaning...I've washed it, using a gentle setting on the garden hose; and wiped it down with a wet rag. Any worry with the bottom bracket and what a light shower of water during a cleaning (I wouldn't think so, looking at CX races and such, but I prefer to er on the side of caution).

Thanks
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Old 05-25-21, 02:40 PM
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I wash my bike every now and then. Then lube the chain when it seems to need it.

Crank and BB- I will remove this during a winter teardown. Otherwise its cleaned with a spray bottle of dish soap and a hose.
Sealant- I added some once, but it really doesnt seem to dry out on me for whatever reason. I add new sealant during the winter teardown.
Hydraulic brakes- Cleaned with a spray bottle of dish soap and a hose. And the brake pads have been replaced when needed.

I have no concern about a garden hose when it comes to cleaning. Current external bottom brackets from Praxis/Shimano seem to resist water well.
Dust grinds the chain, but it really doesnt seem to do much wear to components. It does scuff up my bottles, regardless of what the cage material is.
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Old 05-25-21, 04:07 PM
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With the dirty conditions you ride it seems reasonable to remove the crank and clean the bottom bracket shell every few thousand miles but I would not remove the press fit bearings unless they needed replacement.

It seems prudent to top up sealant every so often. Most sealants claim to last from a few months to 6 months but I have had it last longer. I use tubes and generally ride near enough to home so worst case for me is a long walk home and I only replace the sealant when I get a flat.

For cleaning I just use a spray bottle of Bike Wash by Finish Line and spray some on a clean rag and wipe down the area to be cleaned. I spray really dirty areas directly to help in removal of dust, dirt or grime. I use Parks biodegradable degreaser on greasy areas like the drive side rear chainstay.

Keeping your rotors clean using a clean rag and rubbing alcohol or Brakekleen will extend the useful life of the brake pads. You could change your brake fluid as preventative maintenance or wait until they need attention.
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Old 05-25-21, 06:53 PM
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2,000 miles - New shift cables, clean / grease BB as best I can (threaded), bleed hydraulic brakes, check freehub body, check wheel true, general once over for all fastener tightness, deep clean bike. That was kinda the routine I got into last year.

Sealant consumption varies wildly based on brand, the tire used, starting amount, temperatures, miles ridden, and loss from seepage / sealing punctures. All I would say is the more you ride, the more you should be checking and adding more, and you should have a good system for doing it quickly unless you want to just be blindly dumping more in.
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Old 05-25-21, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Crank (removal, cleaning, lubrication)
I clean the chainring teeth, but only disassemble if it's making noise.

Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Bottom bracket
I only disassemble if it's making noise. Then I'll grease and re-install it, or replace if it's been a year or two.

Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Sealant
Every couple of months I remove the valve stem core and insert a dipstick (long thin straw). If it comes up dry, I add more sealant through the valve stem with a syringe. Take the tire off annually and clear out any dried sealant blobs.

Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Hydraulic brakes: wipe down the rotors and inspect pads.
That's all. Bleed lines and replace pads annually, or when performance suffers.

Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Any worry with the bottom bracket and what a light shower of water during a cleaning
No worries; just don't shoot water directly at bearings. Spray some Lemon Pledge on a rag to wipe down and lightly polish the exterior of the frame.
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Old 05-26-21, 08:43 AM
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Thanks for the tips!
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Old 05-26-21, 08:58 PM
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I’m squarely in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. I wash, inspect, and lube the chain as my only regular maintenance routines. Other than that, the bikes get a Spring tune-up when I do sealant and tackle deep cleaning and problem areas. For example, spring is when I would pull a cassette for cleaning, and lube or replace cables.

Maybe it’s because my mileage is spread across so many bikes, or that quality is so high these days, but I just don’t find myself with maintenance issues except after many years. Sealed bearings don’t need servicing and bolts don’t seem to come loose, so there’s little to do other than keep an eye on consumables (eg. tires, brakepads).
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Old 05-27-21, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Iím squarely in the ďif it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ camp.
This. Wash your bike, fix things as required.
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Old 05-30-21, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I’m squarely in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp. I wash, inspect, and lube the chain as my only regular maintenance routines. Other than that, the bikes get a Spring tune-up when I do sealant and tackle deep cleaning and problem areas. For example, spring is when I would pull a cassette for cleaning, and lube or replace cables.
100% agree. I don't mess around with anything unless it's truly broken.
I carefully wipe down all my bikes after every ride and fully clean them when they need it. Things I do check:
1. Bolts. Make sure everything is torqued to spec. Don't forget water bottle bolts. I do this every few months. It's not common for me, but I've found stuff can rattle loose on gravel. Especially check the stem bolts.
2. Sealant. I fill it up when I can't hear it sloshing around any more.
3. Brake pads. I pull them out every couple of months just to make sure I have material. I live in a very flat area so my brake pads last forever and I need to ensure I check them.
4. Chain stretch. I have a Pedro's chain checker and keep a stock of all the chains I might need. My chains are inexpensive (I use mostly Ultegra/XT on my bikes), I replace them all the time. (Note: this is yet another reason why I don't wax chains or have some complicated maintenance process...)
5. Freehub mechanism. I have DT Swiss 240s hubs on one of my gravel bikes. About once a year, I'll pull it apart and clean and relube the star ratchet with some special, thin grease that's expressly for this purpose. I don't mess with my other hubs, but the DT Swiss is so easy to overhaul that I take care of it.
6. Tires. I check to see if there's embedded gravel in the rubber after every ride. I dig whatever's in there out with a utility knife. I find stuff all the time.
7. Spoke tension. I check to make sure nothing is coming loose when cleaning the wheels. I've found this to be a problem on cheap OEM wheels. Expensive or aftermarket wheels rarely detension.
8. Pedals: I have Shimano SPDs on all of my gravel bikes. It's super easy to pull them apart and relube the spindles, something I do when the pedal rotates without resistance. It takes at least two years for that to happen, though, so this is a rare service.
9. If you have Shimano mechanical, I would consider replacing your rear derailleur cable once a year regardless of if it's giving you trouble. They tend to shred within the lever body, which can cause them to break during a ride. Also, it's annoying to dig the cable end out of the lever. I no longer have a gravel bike with Shimano mechanical, but I used to and this was a problem.

Last edited by Hiro11; 05-30-21 at 05:26 AM.
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Old 05-30-21, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
100% agree. I don't mess around with anything unless it's truly broken.
I carefully wipe down all my bikes after every ride and fully clean them when they need it. Things I do check:
1. Bolts. Make sure everything is torqued to spec. Don't forget water bottle bolts. I do this every few months. It's not common for me, but I've found stuff can rattle loose on gravel. Especially check the stem bolts.
2. Sealant. I fill it up when I can't hear it sloshing around any more.
3. Brake pads. I pull them out every couple of months just to make sure I have material. I live in a very flat area so my brake pads last forever and I need to ensure I check them.
4. Chain stretch. I have a Pedro's chain checker and keep a stock of all the chains I might need. My chains are inexpensive (I use mostly Ultegra/XT on my bikes), I replace them all the time. (Note: this is yet another reason why I don't wax chains or have some complicated maintenance process...)
5. Freehub mechanism. I have DT Swiss 240s hubs on one of my gravel bikes. About once a year, I'll pull it apart and clean and relube the star ratchet with some special, thin grease that's expressly for this purpose. I don't mess with my other hubs, but the DT Swiss is so easy to overhaul that I take care of it.
6. Tires. I check to see if there's embedded gravel in the rubber after every ride. I dig whatever's in there out with a utility knife. I find stuff all the time.
7. Spoke tension. I check to make sure nothing is coming loose when cleaning the wheels. I've found this to be a problem on cheap OEM wheels. Expensive or aftermarket wheels rarely detension.
8. Pedals: I have Shimano SPDs on all of my gravel bikes. It's super easy to pull them apart and relube the spindles, something I do when the pedal rotates without resistance. It takes at least two years for that to happen, though, so this is a rare service.
9. If you have Shimano mechanical, I would consider replacing your rear derailleur cable once a year regardless of if it's giving you trouble. They tend to shred within the lever body, which can cause them to break during a ride. Also, it's annoying to dig the cable end out of the lever. I no longer have a gravel bike with Shimano mechanical, but I used to and this was a problem.
Great list! Even though I probably should, I donít actually do any of that stuff; I think the cleaning and inspection catches a lot of that before they become problems on the road. I mean, Iíve been carrying emergency repair tools since the Ď80s, but because they get used so infrequently, Iíve whittled those down, in both array and design, to the most minimal I can stand. Choosing emergency kit has become, for me, more focused on design, lightweight, and pack style than tool functionality!

Maybe Iím just lucky, maybe bike reliability has tremendously improved, or maybe Iím onto a decent maintenance routineÖdunno. As I head out for a ride this morning, I only hope that whatever it is, it keeps working!
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Old 06-08-21, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
100% agree. I don't mess around with anything unless it's truly broken.
I carefully wipe down all my bikes after every ride and fully clean them when they need it. Things I do check:
1. Bolts. Make sure everything is torqued to spec. Don't forget water bottle bolts. I do this every few months. It's not common for me, but I've found stuff can rattle loose on gravel. Especially check the stem bolts.
+1 on this right here. My "gravel" bikes see a lot of what many folks consider MTB terrain. I haven't found loose bolts very often, but I have found a few(stem bolts a couple times). Worth checking on the reg for sure.
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Old 06-10-21, 09:28 AM
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Good suggestions here. I'd just add that regardless of how diligent maintenance is, gravel wears out parts quicker. I probably replace chains/cassettes/chainrings twice as often as my road bike, and that can shoot up to 4x-5x as often if I'm riding in wet conditions. Which I don't do any more.

With rim brakes I wore through a set of rims in about 1.5 years on my gravel bike. On my road bike I have literally never wore through rims. My next bike has discs though.
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Old 06-10-21, 11:50 AM
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My bike started creaking a while ago. I thought it was the BB. Shop I brought it to removed all the bolts, cleaned lubed and torqued them, cleaned out the BB area, crank, little door under the bike for di2 and itís much better. Given all the dirt and gravel seems like a logical thing to do every six months or so
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