Basic Cyclocross Bike Maintenance

It's no secret that cyclocross bikes take a beating - constantly cleaning, lubing, and rebuilding can be a serious, time-consuming job for a skilled expert. Not everyone is a pro-level mechanic, and it's absolutely OK to have your cyclocross bike serviced and tuned at a bike shop when required.

In between trips to the bike shop, however, there are basic maintenance techniques that ANYONE - even an unskilled amateur - can, and should handle. These tasks are a great entry point for beginners to learn more about how their bike works and what goes into keeping it running smoothly. 

Let's take a look at some beginner-level tasks anyone should be able to handle on a cyclocross rig: 

  • Lubricating the seatpost/frame interface and inspecting the seatpost
    Cyclocross bikes are often ridden in poor weather, and then pressure washed afterwards. Water can make its way down through the seatpost clamp and start corrosion on the inside of your bike's seat tube. Preventing this is almost as simple as adjusting your saddle height! To do it, first mark your seatpost height with tape or a marker. Then loosen the seatpost clamp with a hex key until the seatpost slides freely, and pull it out of the bike. Wipe the seatpost down with a rag, then inspect the shaft  for cracks, dents, or bends (seatposts on cyclocross bikes are in a high-stress area and need to be able to standup to remounts) that could end your race day. Apply grease (for metal seatposts and metal frames) or carbon assembly compound (if the seatpost or frame, or both are made from carbon fiber) then re-insert the seatpost using your tape mark to match the previous saddle height. Tighten the seatpost clamp bolt to the torque recommended by the manufacturer with a torque wrench, wipe away any excess grease, and you're done.  

  • Check tire sidewalls and base tape
    Sidewalls can be fragile on lightweight specialty racing tires. Inflate to your race PSI and then give the sidewalls a careful visual inspection. They should be free of cuts in the casing that could lead to a blowout later. If you are using tubular tires, inspect the glue/tape job by attempting to lift up the base tape all around the rim - you should find it firmly attached. If not, it's time for your mechanic to re-glue or tape with Carogna

  • Clean and lubricate chain
    If your bike is pressure-washed or ridden in the rain, fresh chain lube is needed immediately. You'll also need to periodically re-apply chain lube as time passes, even in dry conditions. Start by wiping down all four sides of the chain to remove greasy build-up. You can use a light degreaser if the chain is really gunked up - put the degreaser on the rag and run the chain through it repeatedly. When it's clean, use a quality drip-based chain lube that matches your local conditions - a dry lube, or a wet lube (stickier so it doesn't wash off as easily in the rain.) Don't apply the chain lube indiscriminately - I like to carefully put a single drop on each roller, allow it to dry overnight, and then wipe away any excess before riding the next morning. 

  • Keep frame and wheels clean
    Wipe down the frame and rims with some dish soap suds until it shines. Avoid pushing water into bearings like the headset, hubs, or bottom bracket. Cleaning the frame is a great time to get up close and personal and inspect for cracks, which you might miss if they are covered in dirt. Same for the wheels and rims - as you clean, check carefully for bent or broken spokes. Look carefully at each spoke nipple as you clean and inspect the rim for cracks. If your bike uses rim brakes, the rim wears over time under braking force from the pads. Inspect the rim sidewall - some even have built-in wear indicators that make it obvious when a rim needs to be replaced.  

If you do require more advanced service and you're heading for the bike shop, be aware that every mechanic appreciates working on a clean bike (some shops may even decline to work on filthy bikes!) Your mechanic can and will do a better job if you bring them a clean bike to start. Even if you don't know how to adjust the shifting or brakes, you can still help out by keeping the bike clean. 

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