Road cyclists
Credit: Peter Pearson/

Fluids and road-bike maintenance

Whether you're riding a century or taking a spin around the park with the kids, you always hear that you have to drink plenty of fluids. Just like you need to keep hydrated to perform, your bike needs its own fluid treatments to perform at its best. I don't mean check the oil level and top off the radiator, much less pull into the local Chevron to fill up the gas, I'm talking about fluids you should be using to keep road bikes in top condition.

Here are five bottles every road cyclist should keep at hand for regular bike maintenance.

Bike Wash

Bottle Number One

I'll bet you wash your car every week, don't you? Well, a bike should be treated the same, so grab a bucket and sponge and hose that baby down every few hundred miles, more often if you spend lots of time on dirty roads or just got caught in the rain.

A word of advice: don't take a bike to the car wash and spray it down with the high-pressure hose. The pressure can force grit and sand into places where it doesn't belong, and if that happens, your drivetrain and brakes can wear out ahead of their time.

A Chain Cleaner

"Bottle" Number Two
Credit: Park Tools

Chains don't last forever, but they last longer and run smoother when they get regular cleaning. Worn and dirty chains can wear out drivetrain components faster than normal, so the time spent on chain cleaning can save time and money down the line.

You can buy a chain cleaner kit that closes over the chain, so you just pedal away while it scrubs grit and grime out of the works. Kits come with a bottle of chain cleaner/degreaser; some of which both clean and lubricate. Some old-school cyclists say kerosene or diesel are all you need to clean a chain, and that's your call. Just be sure to re-lube your chain when you're done, no matter what you use.


Bottle Number 3
Credit: TheeErin/

After you've de-gunked the chain, soak an old toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush with degreaser. Then go after any remaining crud on your cluster, chainwheels, rear and front derailleurs, pedals, brakes and anywhere else grime builds up. Removing the buildup also removes the dust and grit that gets stuck in the grease while you're on the road. Keep everything clean and your bike's components will last longer, shift smoother, and pedal easier.

About natural, citrus-based degreasers: chemically, they're a lot like the products sold for graffiti removal, which should be a warning: don't let them sit on the paint for more than a minute or two, or our bike may suddenly have polka dots.

Dry Chain Lube

Bottle Number Four
Credit: Dumonde Tech

Road bikes use dry lube; wet lube should be reserved for use when you expect wet or muddy conditions. Lube the chain after every washing and again whenever it sounds - not looks - like it needs attention. Drip dry lube onto each link pin in the chain and let it penetrate. Use a rag or paper towel to remove any excess. Makers of dry lubes suggest that you immediately ride a few miles to help the lube penetrate and let the heat of friction dry it on the contact surfaces of the rollers and pins. You want your lubricant to get inside, not sit on the chain's surface: lubricant on the surface will collect dirt, and dirt is a chain's worst enemy.

Dumonde Tech Original Bicycle Chain Lubrication
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Sep 3, 2013)

Dry Lubricant

Bottle Number Five
Credit: FinishLine Lubricants

Now that the bike and chain are clean and happy, lubricate everything else. Pick a good dry lubricant, the kind that goes on wet and evaporates, leaving behind a slippery substance like Teflon®. Dry lubes come in drip bottle so you can lube cables and pivot points; or in spray cans to let you squirt lubricant into hard to reach places like the interior of shifters. Use the lubricant liberally: this is no time for your conservative streak to appear.

What Not to Use

Not for Bikes!
Credit: WD-40 Corp.

I like WD-40 as much as the next guy, but only in its place. Road bikes are no place for WD-40, because it dries wet. A wet lubricant attracts the crud that wears out the parts in the drivetrain before their time. So do that bike a favor and leave the WD-40 on the shelf (though you might want to look into their new products formulated for bikes).

ArmorAll® may be great on the frame, but never use it on tires. It makes them slippery on wet surfaces. and the average bike tire is already slippery enough.


OK: got that bike clean and lubed now? See you out on the roads!