Every Day Ends with Bike Washing

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy Andrews

There is one thing that has always been and remains a part of the daily toil — bike washing.

Aside from team tidiness, repetitive washing has the main benefit of keeping wear and tear to a minimum. With no chance for gunk to build up on the drivetrain or rainy brake goo to trouble the frame tubes, cleaning is quick and easy. Washing a bike that has already been recently cleaned is a lot easier than trying to clean up your winter training bike (see page 261 for details of how to wash your bike in the home workshop).

At the finish of a race, all the team mechanics pitch in to wash the bikes. Most dress in fishing waders or, at the very least, rubber boots. It’s a hectic time, and spillages can happen. It’s all about getting the job done as quickly as possible.

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy AndrewsThe wheels are removed first and washed separately — far away from the powerful degreaser that can soften the tubular glue and even rot away the cotton sidewalls. Cassettes are usually washed over a bucket with a bio degreaser.

The first washing mechanic then usually moves to the drivetrain, degreasing it with a powerful solvent. With a small stiff brush stored in an old drink bottle, degreaser will be worked into the moving parts.

The bike is then passed to the next mechanic who may work over the machine from top to bottom with a bigger brush and some car-washing soap. After that the suds and all the degreasing glop are removed with a power washer. Unless the race has been particularly wet or muddy, the power washer is usually set to a fairly low pressure. At a cyclocross race usually the only requirement is a power washer — the first degreasing step is hardly necessary when the bike is covered with mud.

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy AndrewsOnce the bike is clean another mechanic grabs hold of it as quickly as possible and transfers it into a stand to dry it off and chase away all the water, usually with an air line. All the pivots in the brakes, the gears, and even the rollers in the chain are blasted to make sure no water can begin to rust away any steel parts.

The last mechanic in the line will thoroughly check the bike — especially the brake pads and cables — and will have to replace the rear wheel and run through the gears. After the team bikes are done, the spare bikes may need to go through this process as well, especially if the weather has been bad, and they have been on a team car’s roof rack all day. Finally the team cars, buses, and trucks get a wash, ready to greet the spectators and TV cameras at the start of the next stage.

Bike Mechanic by Rohan Dubash and Guy AndrewsBike Mechanic is an all-access pass to cycling’s back stage: the team truck, the service course, and the workshop. Through gritty photographs and striking interviews, Bike Mechanic explores the daily lives of the bicycle technicians who keep the pro peloton rolling, no matter the weather, no matter the hour. Bike Mechanic gets you inside the action that most never see, while providing bike tuning tips and time-tested procedures that will make you a better wrench. Buy Bike Mechanic from your local bike shop or bookstore or online from the publisher VeloPress.

VeloPress is the leading publisher of books on cycling and bike maintenance and repair.