While I always enjoy Lon and Susan’s updates on their latest planned adventures, the thing that was perfectly timed was a video of Lon showing how they wash bikes during their tours. Having been on several shorter PacTours, I’ve experienced this first-hand and it’s another awesome approach to keeping your road rig spic and span.
Lon’s PacTour speed-wash stations
One of the things that makes PacTours so special is the way Lon and Susan attend to all the small details to ensure that you have a great tour. One of the most important factors is not having to waste time dealing with your bicycle at day’s end. Because what you really need to be doing is chowing down to replenish burned calories and getting off your weary legs and resting.
To this end, Lon sets up a speed-wash station, and he teaches everyone how to use it. With a bucket, some Dawn dish soap, hot water and a couple of brushes, you can do the same thing he does right at home.
And, as Lon says in the title, once you have your speed-wash station set up, you can clean your bike in less than a minute! Click here to watch the video. I think you’ll be impressed.
[Editor’s Note: I touched based with Lon after noticing this video, too, and he’s agreed to regularly share his PacTour videos with RBR. Look for more on that soon. – J.M.]
Cleaning, polishing and spray waxing titanium bikes
I also got an email from Houston roadie and RBR subscriber Philip R. Lehmberg, who writes from time to time with interesting questions and comments. Phil read that I use Lemon Pledge spray wax on my Litespeed.
As an owner of a Lynskey Performance Design titanium bicycle himself (Mark Lynskey was the founder/owner of Litespeed before opening Lynskey Performance Design, Phil wrote to warn me:
“Lynskey recommends Pledge only if you can keep it off the decals on your frame because it causes the decals to deteriorate more quickly. Since you and I both ride ti frames, what – other than Pledge – do you use to “freshen up” your frame? I’ve tried Scotch-Brite green scouring pads, but it’s easy to get too carried away with those.”
IMPORTANT! Do NOT use Scotch-Brite scouring pads (or similar) on bare or painted carbon, aluminum and steel frames because it will damage the finish. The reason it’s fine to use on my Litespeed and Phil’s Lynskey is because they are not painted or clear-coated. So the scouring pad is only polishing the bare metal.
My titanium cleaning technique
I replied, “Thanks, Phil. I didn’t know that about Pledge. I guess I haven’t hit the decals enough because they’re still hanging in there (I got my Litespeed in 1999). I’ll be sure to keep the Pledge off them from now on.
For keeping the titanium looking new, I use the same Scotch-Brite pads you use. Sometimes that’s about the only quick way to get off tar deposits and other gunk that seemingly won’t come off with solvents. I have scrubbed it a lot like that since new, and before then on the other Litespeeds I had, and I’ve never experienced any problems.
So, I feel like it’s safe and can’t harm your frame. I just buff the surface mainly but if something’s really “glued” to the tube, then I will push harder and work to get it off. I don’t believe hand polishing like this can damage titanium tubing. I think you’d need a much more abrasive cloth or substance, like maybe a buffing wheel and finishing compound. I bet you could go through any bicycle tube that way.”
How to protect decals and etched logos
Phil wrote back, “Yeah – but my problem with Scotch-Brite pads is that I have just a couple of very small decals on my Lynskey frame (in lieu of most of the decals, I had the name Lynskey and the model number “etched” into the frame at the factory – well worth it). Problem is that I don’t want to ruin the etching.
One other area I have to watch out for is the decal I put on the seat tube where the magnet shut-off is (I have the Campagnolo V2 internal battery EPS setup) and I don’t want to rub the decal off or even have it fade, although I guess I could get another decal or even etch an “X” in its place.”
I told Phil, “You have to always be careful cleaning/polishing around decals on frames and even some components. I have this issue restoring vintage bikes, too, where if you ruin a cool old sticker, it ruins your day. Etched words and numbers require care, too. Another example is serial numbers. You wouldn’t want to damage or alter those.”
Cover anything you want to protect
“What might work for you is to mask the things you don’t want to harm. You could do this pretty quickly using painter’s tape. You don’t want to risk the tape lifting the decals when it’s removed. So you could put a piece of paper over the decal first and then put the painter’s tape over the paper. That way no adhesive ever grips/sticks to the decals.
Once you had them all masked, you could clean and polish without any risk to the nice details on the frame. The masking is a bit of a pain but once you do it a few times, it’ll probably get faster. I see those car painters on TV mask entire cars real quick.
You can get replacement decals, but you never know how easy they will be to apply. And even easy-to-apply ones can go on crooked and end up looking awful. So, I try to save the original decals as much as possible.”
Dealing with chips
Phil didn’t ask, but for painted bikes and carbon bikes, which often have a clear coat of paint, chips can be an issue. On a steel frame, even a small chip can allow rusting that spreads underneath the paint. Carbon can’t corrode or rust, so these defects aren’t serious usually. But, it is possible for a small chip to get bigger if you don’t seal it.
For a unique paint color, you can sometimes get matching touch-up paint from the bike maker. If you can’t, try fingernail polish, which comes in an almost endless selection of colors and is easy to apply because there’s a paintbrush included in the cap. Use clear fingernail polish to quickly and easily touch up and seal clear coats.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.