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Bike Spa: Winter TLC for Your Bike

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By Tori Bortman of Gracie’s Wrench

Like you, your bike gets run down in the winter grit and grime. All those nasty little bits of dirt and grime have worked into the nooks and crannies of your bike– which make them hard to reach without taking your whole bike apart.

And that black stuff all over your wheels, brake pads and frame? It’s the aluminum from your rims slowly breaking down. Every raindrop is encouraging it deeper into the creases of your bike. Not only does it get everywhere, but it can be a pain to remove.

Now, you could just use a spray degreaser and a rag, but the Spa Method will cut your cleaning time in half, do a more thorough job and not leave a pile of debris to clean up on your floor. When you’re done, simply wash those cares away.

The Spa Method works great year-round and is especially effective on bikes that like to play in the dirt.

Basic Spa Service

What you’ll need:
• A hose (or shower for those who can brave bringing their bikes in their bathrooms)
• A bucket of warm, soapy dish water
• Large, soft sponge like one used for washing a car
• A hand-held, large surfaced, medium bristled car washing brush or a smaller dish washing brush
• Rubber gloves if you’re working outside. Keeps your fingers toasty!
• A towel for drying
• Chain oil

1. Rinse your bike gently with the hose or shower to loosen the grime. Gentle pressure is the key. Do not use a high-powered or strong spray or you’ll risk ruining your bike’s bearings by forcing water and dirt where only grease belongs. This holds true for the entire process.
2. Working one section at a time, scrub your bike with the sponge or brush. Get your brush into where the tire meets the rim and all the other hard to clean spots. Rinse after each section.
3. You can clean your chain this way as well, but beware ruining your sponge or brush, and never wipe the rims with the same tool after using it on the chain or you may spread dirty grease to them.
4. After you’re done, pick up your bike a few inches off the ground and drop it a few times to help shake off the water.
5. Dry your bike off with the towel or rag. This is a great opportunity to hit spots the sponge couldn’t reach. Finish with your chain.
6. Oil your chain to prevent rust. Always remember to wipe the chain down completely after applying the fresh oil.

Extra Special Add-on Services

• Spray degreaser, a rag, old toothbrush or scrub brush
• For extra shine: Furniture polish or window cleaner
1. Take this opportunity to clean your whole drive train with spray degreaser and a brush. You can remove the rear wheel to clean the cassette (gears in back), clean the moving parts of your front and rear derailleurs. And even get into the nitty gritty of your chain.
2. Finishing touch: Spray your bike frame down with furniture polish or window cleaner. It not only makes it look swanky, but also works to prevent new dirt from accumulating as quickly.

Refreshed. Beautiful. Ready to roll.

Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench. Tori’s new book, The Big Book of Cycling for Beginners, was recently published by Bicycling Magazine.

The Inconvenient (Flat) Truth


It’s a beautiful day. You’re tired from riding — or maybe just heading out, trying to sneak a quick spin in before the sun goes down – and BAM! psssssss…… Flat city, baby. While it might be frustrating, knowledge is power and mastering flat repair with these tips will help you get back on the road in a jiffy.


Buying puncture resistant tires and keeping your tires aired up is the best line of defense against flats. Unless you regularly ride through blackberry bushes or an industrial zone, avoid self-sealing slime filled tubes and tire liners. Both are heavier and more trouble than they are worth. Replace your tires when the tread is flat, has a lot of cuts in it, or the sidewall is showing wear.


Always have at least one spare tube and patch kit with you. The tube will make things faster; the patch kit is an excellent back-up in case of multiple flats. Carry tire levers and some kind of boot in case the hole in your tire is so big it needs to be repaired as well. A foot length of duct tape is always a lifesaver. Did we learn nothing from MacGyver?

Pump, Pump it Up

Choose your inflation device wisely, and practice using it once before you hit the road.

CO2 Cartridge

Pro: Super quick if speed is your priority.

Con: You’re limited to the number of cartridges you can carry. After that it’s cell phone city. Also, the cartridge can be heavier than a lightweight pump.

Lightweight Hand Pump

Pro: Lighter than any other option and small enough not to add grams to your ride if you’re counting. Some come with a hose for easy use.

Con: Depending on design, your arms may tire before you hit the inflation you want. No bells or whistles here.

Touring Hand Pump

Pro: Can come with a gauge, foot stops and lots of bells and whistles. Easily attaches to your bike either on a frame mount or under a water bottle cage. Designed to be easy to use.

Con: Not the lightest. Some models have configurations that take some of the stress off your arms.


If you’re not confident to change the flat, find a clinic (I offer great ones through Gracie’s Wrench!) to help you learn how. Once you have the know-how, the flat-fear-factor goes way down so when it does happen, you’re not panicked. Take the opportunity to install your own tires when you replace your old ones, and practice flat repair in the secure environment of a class or your own home instead of stranded on the road. It’s good practice and will also give you an idea what it will be like to fix a flat on those wheels if and when the time comes.

Tori Bortman is a bike mechanic and the instructor/owner of Gracies Wrench.

Cool Routes: Adventure Climb

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Length: 24 miles with one big climb.

Summer is here and it’s time to challenge yourself with the final leg of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, a 123 mile route. This ride starts from Brownsville, south of Albany, where there are several nice cafes, a bakery and a city
park with campsites.

Just south of Brownsville the climbing begins. Once you crest the climb on Gap Road and descend the other side, the rest of the ride is a gradual uphill to your final destination, the scenic Armitage County Park on the north end of Eugene.

The big climb is your challenge, but the rest of the ride is smooth sailing and the views are spectacular.

View the route and directions here.

This post’s route is from the Ride Oregon website.

Blazers Bike Night


EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re extremely excited for Bike Portland’s Blazers Bike Night – a thrilling marrying of two of Portland’s favorite activities. We planned to tell you all about it, then realized Bike Portland had already done a very good job on their website, so here’s the summary.

Since the first Bike to Blazers we organized back in 2006, our goal has been to showcase cycling for the Trail Blazers organization, the team, and their many fans. We’ve made solid strides toward that goal, but we’re still hoping to make the biking/Blazers connection much stronger.

I’m happy to say that this year, the Blazers reached out to us early wanting to re-energize the Bike Night event and make it bigger and better than ever. As many of you know, I happen to think biking and the Blazers go great together, so I eagerly accepted.

Let it be known that Sunday, November 2nd is Blazers Bike Night at the Moda Center!

The team is taking on the Golden State Warriors, one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But watching the game is just the icing on the cake. We’ll get a huge group of riders together before the game, then ride as a big group over to the Moda Center campus where we’ll have fun and spread the Blazers Bike Night spirit before the game starts.

See the website for a special discount and to get tickets in the Blazers Bike Night block of seats.


Buy your tickets before Monday, October 6 to ensure you’re ticketed for the special Bike Portland block of seats.


PHOTO CREDIT: Bike Portland

Grand Prix Ryan Tebon Finale


Looking to race cyclocross at some point in your life? The Grand Prix Ryan Trebon series is a welcoming, relaxed opportunity to test your wheels on the mud, but this weekend is the last race in the series.

You can read all about the series here >>

Head out to Heiser Farms in Dayton for a day at the races. The weather may be in the 80s and slightly overcast but not raining. Let’s hope that prediction holds, though a little rain the day before the day before to muddy the course wouldn’t be a bad addition.

Race even just once and you’ll earn the right to attend the series award party the next day at Portland Bicycle Studio.


Take a Kid Mt. Biking Day


(adapted from the International Mt. Bike Association website)

Every fall, on the first Saturday of October, the International Mt. Bike Association organizes hundreds of mountain bike events designed to get young people outside on their bikes. Known as “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day,” the celebration is recognized across the globe. The organization has seen events registered in Australia, Canada, Italy, Botswana, Malaysia, Mexico and South Africa.

Here are 10 tips to help plan a great event:

1. Find some kids

2. Plan for bikes and helmets

  • Bring your own bike/helmet is the most common plan
  • If you’d like to invite kids that might not have their own gear, try contacting local bike shops about rental options —give them plenty of lead time

3. Select a route

  • Be sure to choose a ride that is fun, safe and not too long or difficult.
  • The ideal route will have options where the group can head home or continue for more adventure.

4. Be prepared

  • Bring extra water and food, including a healthy tasty treat for every kid
  • Don’t forget other essentials such as extra tubes, pump, tire levers and a multi-tool
  • Recruit plenty of adult ride guides, and make sure someone is assigned to stay behind the last young rider.
  • Plan a fun activity for the end of the day. Something low-stress and relaxing, like a visit to an ice cream shop.
  • Mt. biking can be a lot of work for kids. Keep your day simple and don’t try to pack in too much. Try not to double up on activities (soccer, play date, mt. biking…) and keep your route short. It’s better to have a simple, fun day that goes smoothly than to push it too much, especially if it’s your first day on the trail with the little ones.

5. Ride together

  • Emphasize riding together. Re-group frequently and make sure everyone is smiling
  • Ask the lead adult guide to stop at every trail intersection to minimize the chance of lost riders

6. Have fun

  • Try incorporating skill games, like “slow-motion riding” and “how to bunny hop”
  • Point out interesting trail features, wildlife or take a few minutes to discuss trail safety and etiquette

7. Take photos and video

  • Share stories and photos about your day with parents, community leaders, local press and IMBA.
  • Post your photos on IMBA’s Facebook page.

8. Make it a tradition

  • Make every day a Take-a-Kid day and plan for the first Saturday in October next year to celebrate how biking with kids can be fun.

Oregon Activities

Plan to hit the trail with your favorite kiddos on your own adventure, or join in on one of these planned events:

10/4 Cascade Locks with Northwest Trail Alliance [more info]
10/5 Okaridge with the Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards [more info]

Do you mt. bike with kids?

Do you take your kids on dirt? What are your tips for making the day fun for all ages?

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