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Winter Grit and Maintenance

Old 01-10-14, 03:52 PM
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jralbert
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Winter Grit and Maintenance

So I'm riding 40km per day commuting in the climate most would identify as "Pacific Northwest" - moderate temperatures, scads of rain and wind. There's a lot of debris on the roads and trails - road grit, traction sand, lots of leaves and needles blown down from trees in storms - and when that stuff gets wet it absolutely coats the bike and rider. I'm running full coverage fenders, and I still have to wash the bike basically every single time I ride - even to the point where I've built up a wash-down kit at work so it doesn't have to sit all day covered in crud. Even so, I'm having to do a full wire brush job on the chain, chainwheels and cogs every week, plus scraping the derailleur jockey wheels and springs. I do not do this because, as my family has suggested, I'm obsessive-compulsive about bike cleanliness; if I don't keep up this schedule, the drivetrain doesn't function. I'm putting in between two and four hours a week on cleaning and maintenance!

This all feels a bit excessive, and I'm inclined to wonder if I'm missing something here. Hardcore commuters of BF: how much maintenance and cleaning do you have to do on your foul-weather bikes? Do your fenders keep all the crud off, or is getting dirty just part of the winter commuting experience? I'm curious what others' experiences have been.
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Old 01-10-14, 04:02 PM
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Fenders keep a lot of crud off; add a mud flap in the front, and it'll keep more off.

I wipe my chain down for a few days after oiling it, and after rainy rides. Every week or two, I'll wipe the rims (and sometimes the spokes, 'cause I like shiny spokes) off. The rest will wait for spring.
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Old 01-10-14, 05:01 PM
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Might want to try a dry film lube or wax on the chain if your needing to wirebrush off all the debri thats sticking due to a wet lube. Im just guessing you are using an wet oil lube of some sort.
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Old 01-10-14, 05:19 PM
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Mud guards and An IGH here + my location is close in.. & paved .. seems OK for a month or so , oil chain an wipe of excess..

took the cable disc brakes off and cleaned them .. his week replaced the pads , sooner than completely worn down..
only about half.. in 3 years ..

Last edited by fietsbob; 01-10-14 at 05:25 PM.
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Old 01-10-14, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Mud guards and An IGH here + my location is close in..
+1 For me you can't beat a IGH, internal roller brakes, fully enclosed chain, spats, etc. Really cuts down on maintenance problems like you're experiencing. I'd really recommend the N360 IGH for your length of ride.

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Old 01-10-14, 05:28 PM
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same climate here. Almost 2hrs/day commuting. Your symptoms sound like me last year. (rider and bike coated in grit)

This winter I (mostly) modified my route to minimize crushed gravel paths and bought full fenders that are very close to the tire (crud roadracer).

I wash 1x/week. The bike, that is. It sounds like your fender system needs tweaking. Longer mudflap? Lower profile (less clearance) on the fenders?
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Old 01-10-14, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by DEW21 View Post
Might want to try a dry film lube or wax on the chain if your needing to wirebrush off all the debri thats sticking due to a wet lube. Im just guessing you are using an wet oil lube of some sort.
Yep, just generic MEC (Canadian REI equivalent) teflon wet lube. I had been given to understand that dry lube wouldn't survive contact with wet weather - not so?
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Old 01-10-14, 05:31 PM
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Even more trouble free ..S-A drum brakes ,, Havent done a thing in 25 years to those..
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Old 01-10-14, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by timvan_78 View Post
same climate here. Almost 2hrs/day commuting. Your symptoms sound like me last year. (rider and bike coated in grit)

This winter I (mostly) modified my route to minimize crushed gravel paths and bought full fenders that are very close to the tire (crud roadracer).

I wash 1x/week. The bike, that is. It sounds like your fender system needs tweaking. Longer mudflap? Lower profile (less clearance) on the fenders?
I'd recently gone to the SKS RaceBlade, which are excellent for attaching to a low-clearance frame like mine, but required some ingenuity to achieve full coverage - which is a jazzed-up way of saying I cut up a big plastic bottle to make a seat-tube-mounted fender extension to below the bottom bracket. However, I think you're right that a further tweak is required: there's a very distinct line between the clean and dirty vertical regions of the bike, and the crud appears mostly to be flung from the front wheel, so I suspect that the mudflap that came with the front RaceBlade is not descending low enough, and will require a generous application of trimmed plastic bottle.
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Old 01-10-14, 05:56 PM
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I modified the Cruds too, and they aren't perfect but miles ahead of 'nothing'.
So we spend obscene amounts of money (for a fender anyways) and still need to screw around with plastic bottles and dremel tools. Awesome.

Lots of opportunities for tweaking and testing though. In fact it's raining right now, and I'm about to ride home! (At least you don't have to shovel it.)
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Old 01-10-14, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
I'm running full coverage fenders
Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
I'd recently gone to the SKS RaceBlade, which are excellent for attaching to a low-clearance frame like mine, but required some ingenuity to achieve full coverage
Saying Raceblades are full-coverage is like saying Mylie Cyrus is fully clothed when twerking.

To give you an idea of what full-coverage really means, I have SKS P-45 Longboards on my disc-brake studded-tire commuter. The front fender extends out 21 cm from the fork crown. This points the leading edge down in front of the tire. The back of the front fender extends down to 17 cm above the road. But, the mudflap takes it further, down to 5 cm above the pavement. It's this coverage that keeps the drivetrain clean(er).

I learned early that there's little that will mitigate the wear and tear of the salt and sand used on the roads here. Full-coverage fenders help, but they don't prevent grit-caused wear. Cleaning helps, but it too won't prevent grit-caused wear. And for the record, my bikes get hosed down every night since they live in the living room at home.

If you're commuting in the winter you also will need to accept that come spring, you'll need at minimum a new chain. Possibly jockey wheels on the RD and possibly a cassette. That's just the way it is. The alternative is to hang up the bike until spring.

I put a lot of miles on my commuters this past year. The chains on them both were worn past the 1% mark in November. I did not replace them because I still would have had to put new ones on in March, and I know they'll need new cassettes this spring (I was able to skip that last spring). That's something I accept as part of the winter commuting package.

The best I can do to contain the damage is to buy wear parts on sale and in quantitiy. The place I buy my parts from (ribblecycles.co.uk) runs their big drivetrain parts sale every January. (Through January 17, use the coupon code SALE12 for an extra 12% off.)

This weekend I'll be placing my annual maintenance order for the three bikes--two commuters and one roadie. It will start with three Ultegra 6700 12-23 cassettes, two 105 5700 12-27 cassettes, four or five 10-speed chains, three sets of jockey wheels, five meters each of brake and derailleur housing, a bunch of inner cables, and bar tape. (Oooo, crap. Forgot about tires. They'll both need tires this year, so put me down for six 28mm Conti 4-Seasons.) They don't carry the brake pads I like (KoolStop).

In all, I'll spend the equivalent of about one car payment. Or so I'm told, since I haven't had car payments since 1992 or a car since 1999.

Last edited by tsl; 01-10-14 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 01-10-14, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
there's a very distinct line between the clean and dirty vertical regions of the bike, and the crud appears mostly to be flung from the front wheel
When I was looking at fenders a BF member, that I believe almost without fail, said to draw a line from the front tire contact point to the pedal at its low point to estimate how far down your mudflap needs to reach.
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Old 01-11-14, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Mud guards and An IGH here + my location is close in.. & paved .. seems OK for a month or so , oil chain an wipe of excess..

took the cable disc brakes off and cleaned them .. his week replaced the pads , sooner than completely worn down..
only about half.. in 3 years ..
Even though fietsbob finds a way to suggest an IGH in every single post, drive train related or not, it seems, this time I agree with him. You could be a very good candidate for one. You could also consider single speed or fixed gear depending on your route and riding style.

The other option could be simply to accept the fact your bike will be dirty and drivetrain need replacing more often than most people. It hurts a lot less if you use parts that are more affordable like 8 or 9 speed.

Other things you can do that helps, as suggested above, the draw a line from the bottom of your tires contact point to your pedals to see if your fenders do in fact have enough coverage could be a good start. You can make mudflaps for the bottom of your fenders pretty easy if they do not go low enough, anything from an old plastic bottle to a scrap of leather could work.

Do not forget to make sure you have a lube that is up to the task of such harsh conditions, that is a massive can of worms (almost as bad as discussing religion or politics) if you get people discussing that one though so just do a search and form your own opinions after reading the different ideas on the topic.
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Old 01-11-14, 11:31 PM
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I bill myself as the worlds laziest mechanic, and my attitude about bike cleanliness reflects that. I don't wash bikes, ever. I long ago decided that if riding through rain gets my bike full of crap, then by golly, rain is going to wash it back off. (I've internionlly let it outside in an overnight rain to get rinsed properly).

Decent chain lube keeps the chain protected, and decent grease in the bearings protects them as well. The one concession I've made, is no leather saddle for a zero-maint. commuter bike.

I developed my trust in zero-maint when touring, where we'd ride 1,300 miles at 75-100 miles per day, rain or shine, and never stop to care for the bike.
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Old 01-12-14, 12:46 AM
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In the PNW winter, I wash my daily commute bike about 1x per two months. I relube the chain a little more often. The bike gets washed when/because it looks like hell, not because the gray schmutz and filth are really affecting its operation. The chain gets relubed when/because it gets noisy, not because I am worried about chain wear. 7 speed chain and freewheel, not expensive to replace. I think I could probably ride the entire winter without washing or relubing, if I didn't mind a filthy and noisy bike and buying a new $10 chain every now and then. Sometimes I wish I had an IGH bike with a full chaincase, but I'd still have to wash it as often, it would simply be faster to do it.
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Old 01-12-14, 12:50 AM
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I've been commuting this winter in Vancouver as well and I don't think there is much you can do other than keeping your chain lubed and expecting to replace it more frequently than normal. I also have race blades but they don't go all the way around in the back and don't extend out the front. I was thinking of getting a different bike that could fit full fenders but from the sounds of it that won't solve the problem so perhaps I won't bother.

I don't spend as much time cleaning though. I often hose it off after a wet ride, wipe the chain with a WD-40 soaked shop towel and re-lube. I think I had a new chain at the middle of Oct but it needs replacing now after less than 3,000km.
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Old 01-12-14, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
In the PNW winter, I wash my daily commute bike about 1x per two months. I relube the chain a little more often. The bike gets washed when/because it looks like hell, not because the gray schmutz and filth are really affecting its operation. ....
So, I'm not the only one, except that for me looking like hell still isn't enough to warrant a wash.
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Old 01-12-14, 04:25 AM
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Interesting stuff. I remember in my first year or so of commuting that I used to rinse my chain (and bike) after each wet ride.. Well, it doesn't take long figure that's no fun. My solution was to get the most expensive chain out there, and I plan replace the mid chain ring and cassette every two years, and lube the chain with a towel rag saturated with high viscosity oil every two weeks (no direct oil application).
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Old 01-12-14, 07:35 AM
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I don't ride in the rain that much (except my week in Seattle when it was every day), but when I do I just hose the bike off and dry off. I would run the chain through the rag a few times and dry lube it. It doesn't take that long, except that I had put the hose away for the winter and I had to drag it back out, then empty the water from it when done. That was a messier job than the bike as the hose itself gets dirty.

Before the real riding season starts up again in spring I'll do a thorough cleaning job.
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Old 01-12-14, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
I bill myself as the worlds laziest mechanic, and my attitude about bike cleanliness reflects that. I don't wash bikes, ever. I long ago decided that if riding through rain gets my bike full of crap, then by golly, rain is going to wash it back off.
I long ago found out that......................(FTFY)

There is a store down the road that has a long puddle that forms behind it after a rain (delivery truck ruts in the pavement). I ride through it on the way home, it does a great job of cleaning grit off of the machined strip on the rim to prevent excess wear. I lube the spoke nipples with 3n1 every other month or so. That's the extent of rain/winter extras.
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Old 01-13-14, 12:25 PM
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Great advice all around, thanks everyone! Mostly I just wanted to hear that I'm not the only one with these woes, and it sounds like that is indeed the case. Lots of different strategies here, bu I think for me it's gonna be "do a reasonable amount of maintenance and cleaning, and be prepared for fairly regular component replacement." An IGH is interesting but requires significant up-front cost and re-configuration of the bike - plus I'm just not sure that my range of climbing would be comfortably doable with any smaller gearing range than is currently available to me. I'm picking up a used set of fenders today to cut up for parts to make extensions for the race blades that will hopefully cut down on the spray a bit, and I'll get busy ordering parts for the inevitable replacements...
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Old 01-13-14, 12:50 PM
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I usually just wipe crud off the chain and lube it every few hundred miles, or less if it is noisy. Occasionally I will wipe down other parts but not really based on performance. I use Chain-L which discourages a clean looking bike anyway.

My most winter-specific bike (studded tires, 26") is 7 speed and still has the original chain from 7 years ago, but I don't ride it a lot (<500 miles a year). The replacement chain will be cheap. I do need to change the front shifter cable on my CX bike though - I suspect due to wear from riding in last winter.
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Old 01-13-14, 01:00 PM
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Kind of with FB... the bike gets a fresh water rinse, outside,
while I'm inside socializing with my Friends

put a new chain on in the spring (less frequent now than when the trip was 4 miles rather than 0.4)
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Old 01-13-14, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
In the PNW winter, I wash my daily commute bike about 1x per two months. I relube the chain a little more often. The bike gets washed when/because it looks like hell, not because the gray schmutz and filth are really affecting its operation. The chain gets relubed when/because it gets noisy, not because I am worried about chain wear. 7 speed chain and freewheel, not expensive to replace. I think I could probably ride the entire winter without washing or relubing, if I didn't mind a filthy and noisy bike and buying a new $10 chain every now and then. Sometimes I wish I had an IGH bike with a full chaincase, but I'd still have to wash it as often, it would simply be faster to do it.
Since carbon fiber is impervious to PNW winter weather rinsing off the bike is all about aesthetics for me too. (Summer, of course, causes delamination and spontaneous asplosion.)

I clean the crud off my drive train every 3-4 weeks because it does improve spinning efficiency a little. In particular, I'm pretty religious about removing build up from the jockey wheels.
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Old 01-13-14, 01:43 PM
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When I cycled in Vermont, I finally gave up on geared bikes in the winter and went with a fixie and the most base/crappo single speed klunker you could ever imagine.
I couldnt keep up with the devastation the caustic sploodge was doing to my drive train. Salty slush with all manner of small cinder chips and scrap steel mixed in ~
It tore whole bikes up
Bathing the drive daily with WD-40 and kero forestalled the insidious process momentarily.
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