Last week we asked for reader solutions to the problem of bar tape getting mucked up with sweat and grime during the hot summer months. We also mentioned helmet padding and straps getting funky, and shoes getting a bit ripe, too.
RBR Review Crew member Paul Smith – who was the source of the question – mentioned that one of his riding buddies swears by using Windex to spray down and clean his bar tape.
We got a few other suggestions as well, about the entire range of gear:
Dave Minden wrote: Start with black bar tape – at least bike grease won’t show. I will spray the bike down with a hose after a sweaty ride, including the bar tape. Of course, here in Wisconsin, 90-degree days are rare, but this seems to keep the tape fresher.
tony m wrote: I always use a toothbrush and diluted solution of Simple Green to clean bar tape. Scrub it on, let it sit a minute or two, then wipe off with a clean, damp cloth. As for cleaning helmets, I just take mine in the shower when it smells funky. Shampoo doesn’t foam too much, so it rinses clean and smells good. Wash the pads and straps with shampoo and rinse clean. I used to get interesting stares from my wife when I started doing this, but she’s used to it now!
Mitch Hull wrote: Great topic! Handlebars may be the most important cleaning area. Think about all that goes on during most any multi-mile ride: adjusting the bike, wiping your nose, opening the water bottle valve (for most devices, anyway), eating food, even that roadside “nature break.” Really best to keep it clean (even if you can’t see it via the black tape trick) to reduce illness potential.
I wipe down tape and brake levers/brifters with a moistened toilette (eg., “Wet Wipes”) or two after sweaty rides. Can carry those on the bike, too. I’ve sometimes used a soaped washcloth but that is more hassle.
I take the helmet to my sink after every sweaty ride, using a nail brush with my regular hand soap (Dove) on the contact points (except foam pads), especially the chip straps. Just rinsing the pads while in the helmet keeps them clean.
All clothes go in the washer after every ride, gloves and helmet liner (which helps keep the helmet cleaner while also keeping sweat out of my eyes) in a mesh bag.
As for shoes, I use thick-ish wool socks even on hot rides (need them to fit the shoes, and the same ones work in winter, too) , and the shoes never get smelly.
Craig Ishman wrote: My kids used to play hockey and we always used a PEET dryer for their skates and gloves. My youngest used to get rashes on his wrist from the bacteria in the gloves. Using the PEET dryer eliminated the rashes. They are done with hockey and I now use the PEET dryer for my bike shoes and I lay the helmet on the other side. http://www.peetshoedryer.com/product_advantage.html
Coach David Ertl wrote: Cleaning dirty bar tape: After years of dealing with dirty bar tape I have found a solution. My last bike came with black bar tape.It never shows dirt (although I am sure it is dirty). I will never go back to colored tape.