Powerwashing

Winter is here, and in the Netherlands that means one thing... instant bike destruction.

If you've ever ridden a bike for even a moment in the wet winters of the Netherlands, you'd know how sandy a bike can get. Throw into the mix a few long training hours or a group ride or two, and your bike may be more sandcastle than bike.

By now you've probable already heard plenty about power-washing your bike, or you've already done it enough to have a few experiences yourself. This can be an important tool for keeping your bike running well.

We here at the Parallel Handbuilt Bike-Cleaning Division strongly endorse power washing. But, there are some caveats... read on to learn what is going to make your bike clean, and what is just going to void your warranty on everything.

1. Not all car washes are created equal
Find a good one. Take your time and ask around where they are and plan it into your route. What you're looking for is simple. In the photo below you'll see a few usable options. Schuimborstelen (shampoo brush) and vlekvrij naspoelen (spot free rinse) are the two options you're looking for. The shampoo brush will clean up brake dust and other nasty stuff while the spot-free rinse will shoot a low(er) pressure, filtered water to clean it all up. Bonus: occasionally the car wash automatically sprays even without squeezing the handle at an even lower pressure, do this if possible. Why are these options ideal? Read on.

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2. Low pressure: good. High pressure: expensive
Anyone reading this has likely seen the GCN video demonstrating that power washing a bike is reasonably safe and that you can just blast your bottom bracket to oblivion without consequence. As someone essentially power washes bikes for a living, I can attest that this isn't the case.
In the last step, you ran about town like a crazy person looking for the one car wash with the extra-low pressure option. Why? Because high pressure only increasing the chance of not only water ingress, but also pushing sand and other contaminants into a bearing or fitting. Pushing water and sand into a bearing will tear apart your bike from the inside-out, and mean costly repairs if not quickly taken care of. With the next step you'll learn a little bit of technique to put the low pressure to good use.

3. The floor is lava, and so are you hubs, headset, and bottom bracket.
Bottom brackets have a pretty shit job. They spend all day hanging out directly in the line of fire from your front wheel, all while dealing with the massive loads you produce while pedaling... why would you make life even harder for you bearings and seals by spraying highly pressurised water at it? Remember all the way back in step 1. when you found that car wash with the shampoo brush? Now is its time to shine.
Clearing all the sand and mud from your bracket, if you can, before spraying can help decrease the chances of pushing a couple grains into the bearings or between the crank arm and bearing. Same goes for your headset and and hubs. Always avoid spraying these points if you can (better to do at home with a sponge), but if you really need to, make sure to always avoid spraying at an angle where water is pointed 90 degrees from you seals.
Bonus: WD-40 is not what you think it is, and has no place on a bike. Ever. Like really, never ever.
 

Spraying at an angle attacks the seals at the their weakest point.

Spraying at an angle attacks the seals at the their weakest point.

4. Now I'm home, my bike is wet, and my partner is super mad that there's water all over the floor. What do I do now?
Congrats! Your bike is clean! You've blasted all the mud, sand, oil, and grease off of your bike! Now it's time to put all of the grease and oil back!
Oil can push out water from small places, and grease is needed to ensure proper movement. Shifters, brackets, chain, derailleur wheels, brake and derailleur pivots, headset lowers, seatpost, and pedals are all points that need attention after a spray wash. Not sure what grease or oil goes where? Come into the shop and ask. It's different for every type of bike and I'm way too passionate to write a short article about lubricants. I will mention, but not go into, the fact that yes, you can blow water out of most places with compressed air, but seeing as most us don't have an air compressor and blower tup at home, and that you can actually do a lot of damage with this technique, we'll leave this on the side for now.
Pro Tip: If you've got a the resources and time, open up the bike every week or so. Don't go crazy with it, but especially if you have a steel frame, occasionally pulling your seatpost, crank, or fork can be helpful to dry out the frame. Setting the bike upside down or balanced on it's rear wheel can also encourage water to exit the frame through breather holes.

Inhale... Exhale... Now find this sort of hole on your frame/fork!

Inhale... Exhale... Now find this sort of hole on your frame/fork!

5. Bring it to a mechanic
Okay, now you've gone a entire winter or cyclocross season with your bike. You've always sprayed with low(er) pressure, you've paid attention to how and where you spray, and the moment you got home you've always thrown a liter of oil at your bike... yet somehow everything still feels a little "raw". Well, I've got some bad news, unless you are riding with some sort of magic bearings and a chain forged by Vulcan himself (or C-Bear cyclocross bearings, available at Parallel), a long, salty Dutch winter is going to destroy most things on your bike and repairing them in the correct manner dictates how long the larger component is going to last. Installing a headset bearing with too little or too much grease will accelerate frame wear, installing a hub bearing incorrectly can do severe damage right away, installing a chain with unevenly worn chainrings or cassette will result in poor shifting and chain suck, and in the era of disc brakes, the importance and difficulty of maintaining a hydraulic or mechanical disc brake system has grown significantly... when was the last time you refreshed the oil in your hydros? Find a good mechanic you trust, be honest with your maintenance schedule and riding conditions and you are going to be pretty excited with how your bike rides in the spring.
 

You may laugh, but come March your bottom bracket will probably look pretty similar if it hasn't been serviced.

You may laugh, but come March your bottom bracket will probably look pretty similar if it hasn't been serviced.

Here's a quick list of products Parallel uses to help fight the battle that is winter cycling. All are in stock and available at Parallel Handbuilt, Vijverhofstraat 122, Rotterdam.

  • Juice Lubes Bearing Juice. Waterproof lithium complex grease

  • Phil Wood Waterproof Grease. Highest quality bicycle grease available

  • Boeshield T-9. Paraffin/solvent based anti-corrosion lubricant

  • Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant. High penetration petrol-based lubricant

  • Molybdenum Disulfide lubricants such as LOCTITE Moly Dry.

  • C-Bear CX seal bottom brackets and hub bearings

  • SRAM SlickWire cables

Tubeless Tires Are Not Annoying

Next to the holy question "What tire pressure are you running?", I would have to say that the pseudo-question "My tires are so tight, I can get them on or off" is the most common remark at Parallel HQ. Let's, real quick, dive into why that is...

If you're here, you're probably already familiar with tubeless tires, at least on the surface. There are of course a few different types of tubeless, including a special one from some old-fashioned French wheel "manufacturer", but I'm not going to go into that here. This is pure, general instructions on how to not suffer through having tubeless tires and rims.

Chances are, you are riding on "tubeless ready" rims already. But what does that mean actually? In short, that means that your rims have a sort of ledge on both sides on the rim bed (where your tire sits), and a valley in the middle. It is this valley where the magic happens, because those ledges are actually a slightly larger diameter than your tires.* Older rims and non-tubeless rim will not have this, so it doesn't matter where or how you put the tire on because there is little to no valley in the rim bed. A quick note to tie this into tubeless tires. Tubeless tires are designed, like tubeless rims, to be a very tight tolerance, this means that if a tubeless rim is made at a slightly larger diameter, a matching tire will be a little smaller diameter so it fits airtight.**

*Sort of. This is the idea at least.
**Again, rule of thumb.

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You may have noticed that all wheels from Parallel Handbuilt come with tubeless tape, that classic yellow or blue tape. If the rim is tubeless compatible this means two things: one, you will be able too get your tires on and off even more easily (this tape is very thin), and two, if you chose to step over to tubeless tires in the future you are all ready to go... just throw in a valve and go!

Ok great. Now you know that tubeless tape is super cool and you have a picture of what makes a tubeless rims and tires different... but how the hell do you get the tire on? This is where that valley comes into use. Scroll on through the photos, we can meet after those for a debrief.

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Make sure the first bead is sitting nicely in the valley.

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Feed your tube in. Skip this step if going tubeless (setting tubeless up is not covered here).

Begin pushing the second bead onto the rim using one hand to guide the tube into place and the second hand to guide the bead. Work from the valve towards the opposite side of the rim.

Making sure the valve is pushed up into the tire, begin guiding the second bead into the valley of the rim. Here is the trick, if you guide the bead into the valley without "trapping" it there, it will just pop out immediately without you even noticing. So! Make sure to hold as much tension as you can on the second bead of the tire while doing this. If you are doing it correctly, you will feel slack on the bead every time you push a new section of bead into the valley.

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Holding tension on the bead with one hand while the other works the bead into the valley.

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The "other" hand.

Once you are sure the second bead is entirely in the valley, except where it's not on the rim of course, you can begin working the last little bit of tire onto the rim. This may still be quite difficult with a new tire or certain combinations of tires... I'm looking at you Continental.

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Don't be afraid to use tire levers if it's just too tight, but first do your best to use your hands, but in both cases make sure tension remains on the bead at all times, otherwise you have to redo the last step to get that second bead back into the valley. When using your hands, use your entire hand and palm in a sort of "rolling" movement. I've got countless years of wrenching in my hands and I still can't get some tires mounted by just using my thumbs!

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All done? Now, pump it up, listen for the "popping" of the beads into place, and then check that the bead is evenly seated by checking the side of tire or by giving it a spin! Not quite seated, try a little extra pressure (do not go over recommended pressure), or by using your hands to raise the tire into position. Still no dice? Try a lubricant such as bike cleaning solution or window cleaner, never a petroleum based product.