As author and activist, Frances Willard, once said –
“I found a whole philosophy of life in the wooing and winning of my bicycle”.
1) Get your bike’s heart Pumping
The fastest way to your bicycle’s heart is through the tyres. To keep safely pumping up those hills, regularly inflate your tYres. Road bikes should be checked before every ride and mountain bikes at least weekly.
Properly inflated tyres make your bike easier to pedal, are less prone to punctures, and reduce wheel damage by absorbing bumps. If you really want to get your Valentine’s heart racing, look at getting a good high-pressure floor (track) pump that has a built-in gauge. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressure (written on the tyre sidewalls). If you are clueless about the difference between a Presta and Schrader valve or need some advice on fixing a flat, then join a local Bike Repair course.
2) A Bottle of Lube
Lube is the champagne of bicycle romance. It can be applied to the chain and the pivoting metal parts on the brakes and derailleurs to keep them moving smoothly and prevent corrosion. The secret with lube is to apply a little, but often.
If you hear a squeaking noise when pedaling, you need lube! But before you lube up check that your chain is not damaged or worn, if it is, it may need replacing.
- There are lots of different kinds of lube around, and it is best to choose one that suits the conditions you ride in (wet or dry, some are good for both). The best lubes are also biodegradable, solvent- free!
- Many lubes work best when applied to a clean and dry chain, so if necessary brush the dirt off or use a biodegradable degreaser to remove the grit. Avoid kerosene-based cleaners or petroleum distillates as they are harsh and can cause damage to your components if not washed off properly.
- Start by cleaning the chain. Lean the bicycle against a wall, or put it on a bike stand to keep it stationary while you work on it. Use a flannelette or lint-free cotton rag and a bike specific degreaser. Spray the degreaser onto the chain liberally and also onto the rag. Grab the bottom section of chain then backpedal the chain through the rag and you will see the dirt and grime start to accumulate. You can also bend the chain into an s-shape as it runs through the rag to get at more of the grime. Change to a clean section of the rag once the current section gets too dirty and continue until the rag comes away clean. Now clean the jockey wheels by wrapping a clean section of the rag around them (being careful not to get it caught in between the chain and wheels) and backpedal.
- Next spray the degreaser onto your cassette and rag. Wedge the rag between the cassette sprockets and rotate the cassette around, so that you can clean each sprocket as you go.
- Once the chain is cleaned it’s time to apply lube. Put some paper down under the bike to catch drips. Drop the lube onto the top side of the lower section of chain with one hand whilst turning one of the pedals backwards with my other hand to rotate the chain. Always follow the manufacturers instructions as each lube has a different application technique.
- For wet lube, leave it on for a bit and then wipe off the excess with a rag. For dry lube, let it dry completely and do not wipe off the excess.
You can also apply a couple of drops of lube to the pivot points on the derailleurs and brakes – i.e. the point where they move. On side-pull brakes, this would be the bolt that the brakes pivot around. Don’t get any lube on the pads and wipe off any excess.
3) A Day at the Spa
If you can’t afford a day at the spa for your bicycle, then grab some rags and eco-friendly cleaners and make your bike glow.
It is a good idea to clean your bicycle whenever it gets coated in thick mud and dirt – a clean machine is a life long Valentine.
The waterless method of cleaning your bike not only saves water (which is great for the current water-crisis in areas of South Africa) but is also the best option for washing your bike if you want to avoid getting water into your bearings, which can happen when using a hose or pressure cleaner. It is also a very convenient method of cleaning your bike if you live in an apartment with no access to an outdoor cleaning area.
- For heavy dirt and grease use a spray on cleaner (e.g. a diluted bike wash solution like Namgear Bike Wash) that is eco-friendly/ biodegradble. Avoid using any petrochemical based cleaners as they are too harsh and can damage the paintwork.
- Spray the solution onto a rag to ensure even distribution then wipe down the frame moving from top to bottom. Thicker dirt may require that the solution be sprayed onto your frame, allowing 1 minute to penetrate dirt before being wiped off. You want to avoid getting the solution on your disc brakes and rotors. Pay close attention to hard to reach areas around the fork, rear triangle, bottom bracket, bottle cages, and brakes. Remember to wipe off the solution completely.
- If your frame is only slightly dirty you can even use baby wipes to clean it!
- Remember to clean your chain, cassette and jockey wheels (see point 2 above) and to re-lube afterwards to prevent rust.
- Give your love a quick touch up: For steel frames, you can touch up paint chips immediately to prevent corrosion. Nail polish makes a great alternative if you can’t find a paint to color match.
If you do decide to wash your bike with water then gently spray off mud with the hose. Spray water from above and don’t ever direct it toward greased parts. Do not blast the water sideways at the bike as this can push water into the hubs, pedals and bottom bracket. For stubborn dirt and grease, fill the bucket with warm water and a bit of eco-friendly cleaning liquid (like Clean-It-All from Enchantrix) and use a soft sponge or brushes to remove. Rinse off the soap by dribbling water from above. Dry off parts with a towel, or air dry.
4) A Night on the Town
Valentine’s day is not complete without a bit of freewheeling fun, so take your bike on an adventure and explore some scenic routes and TRAILS together, you never know what you will find…
Illustration by Tegan Phillips