When it comes to bicycle maintenance, I am the WORST. I am not only an incompetent mechanic, but I don’t even keep up on basic routines like lubing the chain, checking the brakes, cleaning the drive train and washing the frame. Being so negligent in the summertime is one thing. Continuing such bad habits in the wintertime is quite another.

Just after taking that picture at the top of the page, I noticed the condition of my bike. It was horrifying.

I wasn’t horrified so much by the accumulating dirt and grime as I was by the rust. Of course, I’m used to seeing rust on the chain after riding through a significant rainfall, and even the rust-colored residue that splashes from the chain onto the wheels and chain stay. I don’t get too worried about that. But today I saw some rust developing on parts of the steel frame. It was rust I couldn’t take care of by wiping with a wet cloth or by applying a little chain oil. It’s only surface rust now, but it will eventually require some sanding and painting.

{AN ASIDE: As horrified as I was, I think it was only HALF as horrified as the mechanic at my local bike shop was when I hauled my mountain bike in for a tune-up about 15 years ago. He took one look and asked what the hell happened. I explained that it was my winter bike and I rode it every day to work through ice and snow. Immediately, he gave a nod of understanding and said he’d do what he could.

After he restored it to the best of his ability, the bike served me for another thirteen years in Minnesota weather. Two years ago, however, it got so bad that it had to be retired.

Rest in peace, old friend.

After my mountain bike died, I put my touring bike, affectionately known as The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong, into service as my new winter bike. I HAVE to ride all year around. I must. I MUST! It was either The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong or my roadie bike. Even I am smart enough to know that a bike with 23cm tires isn’t going to do me much good in the snow.}


I rode a few blocks this morning and decided to turn back. I just wasn’t into it. For one thing, it was TEN DEGREES BELOW ZERO (F). For another thing, I felt my riding time would be better spent cleaning my bike. I’m not talking about a superficial wiping down of the bike–I’m talking about the most serious cleaning I’ve ever attempted.

I spread a sheet of plastic over the carpet in the Greg Room, carried my bike down there, and got down to the task. It was worse than I thought, but I was determined to take my time and do it right–even if that involved removing a part or two. (Which it did)

Two hours later my bike was ready for a test drive.

The temperature had risen to a toasty ONE DEGREE BELOW ZERO (F). Before riding, I took another picture of the snow monster I built in my front yard. This one included ME and my clean bike.

Only in this season is black a visible color for cyclists.

After my cleaning operation, there must have been some moisture left in my brake lines because the first time I squeezed my brakes in the sub-zero air, the rear brake froze up. I turned around to bring the bike back inside, but not before I captured at least one chimney photo for the Cycle365 Monthly Challenge.

How diligent am I?

Hi. My name is Greg and I ride my bike a lot. That is to say, I ride my bike almost every day. I go on long rides and short rides. Sunny rides, cloudy rides, and rainy rides. I like commuting, errand-running, day-tripping, overnighting, and touring on my bike. I ride on city streets, highways, gravel, single track, and snow with equal enthusiasm. Sometimes I ride fast and sometimes I ride slow. I try to keep my feet on the pedals at stop lights and I do not dismount when I hop up on a curb. I have a roadie bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike. I try to accept any challenge a bike ride can throw at me without complaint. But I don't like bugs.

9 response to "BIKE MAINTENANCE DAY: An Essay"

  1. By: Lednar De Nalloh Posted: January 20, 2022

    The solution is easy, buy a brown bike next time.

  2. By: Suzanne Posted: January 21, 2022

    It comforts me a little that I’m not the only one to be so negligent. My chain shows rust and I always say “when I get home” and when I get home I say “before I set out next time”, then I’ll oil my chain. Shame on me. My lovely bike doesn’t deserve such bad treatment.
    Good on you for cleaning your bike and getting a chimney shot for us as well.

    • By: gregblood Posted: January 21, 2022

      Yes, shame on both of us. Our bikes serve us so well–the least we can do is return the favor with a little tender loving care.

      • By: Rich-Illinois Posted: January 21, 2022

        Thus, is the gospel according to Pope Gregory, Amen!

    • By: NancyG Posted: January 24, 2022

      Count me onto this list of maintenance slackers as well. I end up taking my bike to the bike guru shop more than I should because of being a slacker myself. I must say Greg, I am impressed that you actually took off your chain and could get it back on correctly! To me that is a maintenance coup. πŸ‘πŸ™„.

  3. By: The Navigator Posted: January 21, 2022

    I like that Jabba the Hut snowman! Yeah, I’m not terribly great at keeping up with bike maintenance either.

    I do have memories from college of coming back from a ride and listening to all the slush and snow that built up on the bike falling off onto a tarp while I studied (everywhere I’ve lived my bike has lived where most people would have a dining table).

    • By: gregblood Posted: January 22, 2022

      Jabba the Hut was the first thing I thought of too. I was going to mention that in my post, but I forgot after I got carried away with the story of my mountain bike’s death.

  4. By: BobinVT Posted: January 24, 2022

    Guilty as well. I don’t think we’re the only ones though. My local bike shop once posted a video online where they had removed some drive train components from a bike they were servicing, then took them outside and lit them on fire to demonstrate how much grease and grime had built up. Fortunately, it wasn’t MY bike.

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