Stock your bench and know when to grab the big guns.
There are a few basics that every shop bench should have for basic bike maintenance, but it can be tricky to decide what to stock in your arsenal. Here’s how to decide what to grab and when.
Basics: Every shop should have all of these close at hand.
Rags for all purpose cleaning: Old t-shirts, underwear and retired towels work great. You can also buy fancy ones from the hardware store. Bike grime won’t wash out of these, so if you use a rag up, throw it away and grab a new one. There is too much grease left in the rags from cleaning and they’ll destroy any washer you try and clean them in.
Toothbrush: You need a new one anyways, right? It’s the perfect tool for getting into tight spaces for some scrub-a-dub-dub.
Stiff bristled brush: Park Tools, Pedro’s and many other brands make great ones that also are useful for getting into nooks and crannies.
Pokey tool: Basically, a sharp scribe to help pick, poke and finagle out the dirt from small crevices. Dental tools work well.
Degreasers: This list goes from least toxic and powerful to most.
Dish Soap in water: Works fabulously in a bucket for quick general frame and wheel cleaning. Use with a gentle hose rinse or if you really like to get close to your bike, in the shower.
Citrus or Eco: Citrisolve, Simple Green, Finish Line Citrus Degreaser, Pedro’s Bio-Degreaser are all examples of non-toxic (when used as directed) biodegradable cleaners that kick butt on grease and grime. Generally, you’ll want to spray these on and wipe clean. The main caution to have with these is that despite bring “eco friendly” they are strong enough to eat through clear coat and the anodized coating on parts if used with too much elbow grease or not immediately wiped off. If you have some really tough grime, you might want to move up to the next level.
Petroleum/Chlorine Based (warning: use gloves or skin protection): WD-40, White Lightening Clean Streak. These are the big guns. They are in no way eco friendly, bio-degradable or good for your lungs or skin. However, if you’ve got serious built-up, tarred-on grime, this is the quickest way to get chains, cassettes and chain rings clean.
Lubricants: The bike runs better when you lube regularly, most importantly after cleaning.
Chain Lube: Many believe a household oil will suffice, but a good quality chain lube is formulated to penetrate and not leave too much behind. If you live on the wet side of the state, stick to a lube that’s oil based and a medium or wet level. If you live on the sunny side, a dry lube may work better. Use it on your chain and pivot points of the derailleur. Chain lube is sold at bike shops and a small amount goes a long way.
Bicycle Grease: Most threads on your bike require lubricant before they’re screwed in. This is also great if you’re servicing your bearings. (Note: if you notice threads on a bolt have a red or blue plastic substance on them, do not lubricate! It’s likely a thread locking component, so grease is not necessary.)