How I take care of my cycling kit

If you’re a road cyclist like me, chances are you have at least a small collection of skintight jerseys and cycling shorts in your cycling kit wardrobe. Today I’m sharing a few tips on how I keep mine clean and in good condition.

I have a top-loading washing machine at home, and I typically wash my cycling garments along with the rest of my laundry – same detergent and all. While it’s pretty straightforward washing them, I do take a few specific precautions.

DO THE ZIPPERS UP BEFORE WASHING

Jerseys with full length zippers should be done up before washing. I find that this lessens the chance of them getting snagged on other items of clothing in the same load.

WASH YOUR CYCLING KIT INSIDE OUT

This is particularly important with padded shorts. The chamois pad on your bib shorts is in contact with your buttocks, groin, and taint (perineum) the whole time you’re wearing them or riding in them. While more expensive shorts tend to come with an antibacterial coating on their chamois, you still want to make sure it gets the best chance of being cleaned by your detergent, so turn your shorts inside out to expose the chamois.

AVOID USING FABRIC CONDITIONER

The one thing I avoid using with washing spandex is fabric conditioner. The stuff tends to clog the microscopic pores of the material, making it less effective at wicking sweat away from your skin. (If you use microfiber towels, the same thing applies to them.)

If you keep using fabric conditioner on spandex clothing, I suspect that at some point, you might as well just ride in wet cotton shirts.

USING A WASHING MACHINE? INVEST IN A MESH WASH BAG

These zip-up mesh bags are mainly used for machine-washing delicates, such as underwear. I find they do a great job with cycling garments and helmet foam pads, too, for a couple of reasons.

First, they are an easy form of laundry segregation. Chances are, if you put your cycling kit in them, and make sure the zipper pull is secured before starting the wash, they will help keep all of their contents in one place. This is particularly helpful for smaller items such as helmet pads.

Second, the wash bags with really fine mesh are a great defense against things that can otherwise damage or fray your kits’ bib straps, spandex panels, or stitching. Hook-and-loop closures like Velcro are the most egregious offenders, latching onto bib shorts and not letting go without taking a few top threads.

I have a few running shorts that have pockets with Velcro closures, so any time I have to launder my bib shorts with them in the same load, I make sure I use a fine-mesh wash bag. Not too shabby for something so cheap.

HANG YOUR CYCLING KIT TO DRY

While the spin cycle of a washing machine can remove a lot of the water from your cycling kit, it’s still best to put it on a hanger and clothesline to dry out properly. Due to the properties of spandex, it will dry very quickly, especially in the heat.

Perhaps it’s a little taboo for people with clotheslines visible to the public at large, but I find it best to dry bib shorts with the chamois pad facing outward, too. Fortunately for me, my laundry area is almost completely sealed off, so this isn’t a problem.

 

This is how I’ve taken care of my cycling kit for the past few years, and so far it’s worked out well. If you’ve got more suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Advertisements

It’s a wash

Recently, I replaced Hyro’s Shimano CN-HG54 chain and Tiagra CS-4600 10-speed cassette with fresh ones. The cassette had already seen 14,750 km of action; having meshed against four chains, it was time to replace both.

Shimano coats its new chains with a sticky light grease, which helps inhibit rust and corrosion while the chain sits in storage. Conventional wisdom states that this grease is okay to ride with for about 100 km or so. After a 70-km Sunday morning ride, I decided to give Hyro my usual cleaning.

Keeping your bike clean is the best way to save on maintenance costs later, especially when it comes to the parts of your drivetrain. The dirt and dust your bike picks up from riding can turn into a gritty paste over time that can slowly chew through your chain, leading to accelerated wear on the teeth of your cassette and chainrings.

PREPARATION

Job one is to remove all accessories from the bike: lights, mini pump, cyclocomputer, saddle bag, and cable lock.

Next it’s time to ready my cleaning supplies. I use PowerClean’s water-based Engine Wash Degreaser, which costs around PhP220 per gallon bottle. I keep some of it in an old spray bottle.

For general cleaning, I use Pedro’s Green Fizz, a biodegradable foaming bike wash; for protection, I use Pedro’s Bike Lust, which is a silicone protectant. Both are on the pricey side, but in practice, you don’t need to use a lot, and the bottles can last you a fairly long time.

Above are my cleaning tools. I differentiate them by what they clean; there are those used on the drivetrain, and those used to clean the rest of the bike.

For the drivetrain, I have an old Finish Line chain scrubber I bought from my trip to Japan in 2014, but has since become locally available – which is great, because mine is on its last legs. I also have a flat-profile stiff-bristle brush I use on the cassette.

For the rest of the bike, my main cleaning implements are sponges and rags. I also have a toilet brush (never before used in a toilet!) for cleaning hard-to-reach places such as hub shells and the bottom bracket shell area – an idea I cribbed from YouTuber Clint Gibbs. Mine could actually be a bit smaller and softer-bristled.

I use my trusty Minoura DS-AL30 display stand to help prop up bikes while washing.

If you have a bike with disc brakes, you might want to remove your brake pads to avoid contamination.

CLEANING THE DRIVETRAIN

Open the chain scrubber and pour in some degreaser up to the fill mark, then clamp the chain scrubber over the chain.

While holding the chain scrubber straight, I turn the cranks backward at least 30 revolutions. This will run the chain through the brushes of the chain scrubber and its degreaser bath. Finish Line’s unit has a magnet at the bottom that will collect the debris and worn pieces of chain, keeping it away from the rest of the degreaser.

Rinse out the chain scrubber of dirty degreaser.

Repeat the procedure – only this time, fill up the chain scrubber with water. This will clean the chain of any degreaser that was left inside the pins and rollers.

If you don’t clean the degreaser off, any lube that you apply to the chain later will just get broken down.

Take the spray bottle of degreaser and spritz it on the derailleurs, cassette, and chainrings. You don’t need a lot. Be careful where you spray it; you don’t want it ending up on your hubs, bottom bracket, or brake rotors.

To clean the cassette, I spray the flat-profile brush with degreaser, and run it through the cogs as I pedal forward (in smaller cogs) or backward (in larger cogs).

Last but not least, take a rag, toothbrush, or flat-head screwdriver, and clean the muck off the face of the rear derailleur’s jockey wheels while pedaling backward.

The great thing about degreaser is you can leave it alone while it does its job. Get a cup of coffee and come back to the bike after 15 minutes.

CLEANING THE REST OF THE BIKE

At this point, I spray the bike down with Green Fizz. It’s a good idea to start from the top and work your way down so gravity helps you.

While spraying, take your sponge and run it over the Green Fizz, wiping and scrubbing away dirt as you go. Take care with spraying it on brake rotors; try to avoid it if possible. For tight spots like hub shells, I bring the spray bottle closer to the component to minimize overspray.

Speaking of hub shells, they’re perfect for cleaning with the toilet brush. For rims and spokes, just spray the Green Fizz into a rag and wipe it on.

Wipe down the rims, spokes, and tires. Spin the wheels slowly, and watch the tire tread area for any debris such as embedded rocks, glass particles, and pieces of nail or staple wire. If you find any, pry them out with your fingers or a pick before they worm their way into puncturing your inner tubes.

This is an old photo, but one of few showing me hosing down a bike. You get the idea.

Once done, go over the bike with a hose to shift the Green Fizz and any dirt away. Keep the water at low pressure.

Wipe down the bike dry with a rag or towel. Get the chain dry as well. Sometimes I bounce the bike on the floor a few times to shake out more water.

BIKE LUST TIME

Once the bike is dry, break out the Pedro’s Bike Lust. This milky white liquid imparts a shine to your bike’s frame and parts, while easing future cleaning by making dirt and stains less likely to stick.

As it’s basically a wax, you have to be very careful with this stuff. I like to start using it on the frame. It’s best to spray it in small amounts, and then wipe. This is a great time to check over the frame for any paint chips, cracks, or other such damage.

When I get to the wheels, I spray it onto a rag first and wipe it onto the surface in question. Obviously, you should avoid spraying this on braking surfaces such as rim brake tracks and disc brake rotors, as it can cause contamination and compromised braking. It really does feel slick to the touch when applied to frame tubes.

FINISHING UP

The final step is to apply lube to the chain. Here I’m using Weldtite’s TF2, which is a decent all-around wet chain lube.

One nice thing about wet lubes is that they can be used on many more places than just the chain. I put a small amount on derailleur pivots, jockey wheels, and derailleur springs.

After lube, I like to turn the cranks and shift through the full range of gears, then wipe off the excess. Replace any brake pads removed previously, remount lights and accessories, and we’re done.

Review: Park Tool IR-1 internal cable routing kit

Longtime readers will know that with Hyro, my 2014 Giant TCX SLR 2, I had a couple of trepidations. First, it was designed around press-fit bottom bracket bearings, and second, it routes all but one of its cables internally. After two sets of cranks and bottom brackets, my fears of the former were allayed…but I did not know what to expect from the latter.

Seeing how the LifeCycle mechanics used to wince when I sent Hyro in for replacement of a frayed and broken rear shift cable…I went through the process of discovery in a rather tentative manner. The LifeCycle guys never even touched Hyro’s cable housings, and they stayed in place for almost four years, with only the inner cables being swapped out. I found out for myself the aggravation of swapping Hyro’s rear shift cable for the first time as it ran through the drive-side chainstay. Subsequent inner cable swaps went smoother, but when horror stories abound about how it takes many professional bike shop mechanics at least 45 minutes fishing a cable out of a frame’s routing holes, I was dreading the prospect of having to perform a full cable replacement a little.

While looking for anything to help my odds of a successful DIY cable replacement operation, I came across the Park Tool IR-1, which was launched at the 2014 Eurobike trade show…and I just knew I had to get it for myself someday.

FEATURES

  • Three guide cables, each 250 cm long, all with magnets at one end
    • Threaded barb adapter
    • Rubber sleeve adapter
    • Bare guide cable
  • One guide magnet
  • Plastic carrying case

IMPRESSIONS

The IR-1 is the logical extension of bike mechanics’ tips and hacks when dealing with running cables through a bike frame with internal cable routing: tying cotton thread to an inner cable and using that to pull the cable through, or taking a more direct approach with a strong rare-earth magnet. What Park Tool did is to incorporate these tricks and build them into a dedicated tool.

All the guide cables have a magnet at one end. At the other end awaits either a rubber sleeve, a threaded barb, or nothing at all (just the bare guide cable). You can use the rubber sleeve to grip electronic shift wire or cable housing from outside, or screw the threaded barb into the cable housing’s inner lining and grip it that way, which is my preferred method. These should also work with hydraulic brake hose. The adapter-less guide cable is meant for use in places where the cable routing holes are just too small for anything else to work.

The threaded barb guide cable found the most use with me.

The fourth item is an anodized blue handheld “guide magnet” about 5 cm long…and this thing is pretty strong. The way it attracts itself to anything made of iron or steel, I’d guess it’s made out of some rare-earth metal such as neodymium – traditionally used for applications that require strong magnetic attraction properties.

Generally, Park Tool recommends the IR-1’s guide magnet to do most of the work of routing and navigating either the guide cables or bare inner cable through the frame. Best results involve a push-pull motion, pulling with the guide magnet while feeding the guide cable in. Once that’s through, any cable housing attached to the guide cable can follow suit.

The guide cables are all strong enough under tension. While pulling cable housings through the routing holes of a frame, they were in no danger of snapping…even when you’re negotiating stubborn compressionless brake housing out of a tight cable routing hole.

Using the manual guide magnet to pull the magnet end of the guide cable through the non-drive side chainstay.

Routing the guide cable through the non-drive side chainstay.

This is the tightest cable routing hole on the whole bike. It’s made even more complicated by the general reluctance of compressionless brake housing to bend.

When I replaced all of Hyro’s cables by myself for the first time, it took me about three and a half hours for the whole job – and this is with the IR-1 helping me out. Imagine how much longer it might have taken me had I not had this tool at my side. Six cable routing holes, three sections of cable housing, 45 minutes spent fishing housing from each hole…you can do the math. Had I not had this tool, I may have been permanently put off from performing DIY cable replacement altogether. I can only imagine how much of an investment this tool can be if part of your everyday job requires that you re-cable other people’s bikes with internal routing.

The video below is the final persuasion I needed to buy the IR-1, as the second demonstration bike featured is a 2014 TCX SLR 1 – an identical frameset to Hyro in everything save for the 15 mm through-axle fork.

VERDICT

As Park Tool themselves will tell you, you can’t actually buy the original IR-1 brand-new any more. They’ve replaced it with the IR-1.2, adding a fourth guide cable that they say is better meant for the wires of either a Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS electric-shifting groupset. It also adds around US$10 to the original US$60 price. Frankly, I’m not sure it needed the upgrade, as the IR-1 was already capable of dragging Di2 or EPS wiring through a frame.

If it’s not already obvious, I highly recommend this tool if you’ve got a bike frame with any internal cable routing at all. If you run a local bike shop, and you believe that time is money, not availing of a couple IR-1s is the equivalent of leaving money on the table. I liken the IR-1 to a torque wrench: it can feel expensive at the outset, but it’s so essential at what it does and has very little in competition that it’s easily worth its price.