You want to get out there and hit the road (or trail) but you never got around to preparing your bike for the new cycling season.
I know, you got busy, distracted, moved house, had a kid. Whatever it was, the bike prep just didn't get done.
Fear not. I'll help you out.
In the past I've had to invest a great deal of time and shop rags to get bikes of all ages to get back in riding condition.
This always involved the degreasing and degriming of the drivetrain.
Let me tell you how I go about it.
First of all, remember that keeping the drivetrain (anything that involves the chain) clean and free of road gunk, will improve the function of the entire system and lengthen the lifespan of all the associated parts.
In other words, a clean system works better and lasts longer. This in turn, saves you money.
Let's assume that you have not been riding in muddy conditions and that there is just a small amount of road dirt adhering to the system aided by a bit of sticky lubricant. In cases like these I will:
- If possible remove the chain and soak it in a can of degreaser or Varsol while I do everything else.
- If greatly dirty, remove the rear cluster and pair it with the chain to soak. (If not, I will scrub it in place)
- Scrub the rear derailleur with degreaser-soaked rag. If necessary I will take the derailleur off and also soak it in degreaser or Varsol.
- Clean the front chainwheel assembly. I do this using rags and fine tools such as toothbrushes or pointed tools to remove gunk that is wedged in tight spots. (If really bad, it comes off and is taken apart for cleaning)
- While parts are soaking, I will clean the frame along the chainstay and bottom bracket area.
- When parts come out of the degreaser, they are scrubbed until all gunk is gone.
- If the derailleur is very dirty, the pulleys are removed, cleaned inside and out, greased internally and reassembled.
- The chain is removed from the degreaser, dried, scrubbed if necessary and re-lubricated and put back on the bike.
- Once all the drivetrain has been cleaned, lubricated where necessary and re-attached to the bike, the cables are re-attached (or replaced) and the system is set up again.
- If along the line it seems that the derailleur cables are rough, frayed or kinked, they will be replaced.
These are the general steps in getting a used bike back into proper riding condition during a tuneup.
You may have to do all of these steps or maybe just a select few. It depends on the severity of the dirt/grime/grease that you are dealing with.
A quick story; I have a client who thought it a good idea to cover his drivetrain with candle wax (to prevent winter rust). Granted, there was no rust, but the entire drivetrain had to be replaced.
Can you guess why?
The wax (being sticky) attracted a vast amount of dirt which then worked its way through the system and ground down the metals and plastic derailleur parts. This resulted in a $300+ repair.
Keep your drivetrain clean. (and stay away from the wax)