Ok, so you've been riding your bike, however long you wanted to ride it - one mile, forty miles, a double century - and there is some sort of squeak. What's the first thing you do?
Why, reach for the lube of course!
Lube is to cyclists what duct tape is to most American men. (Actually, Robert Ballard claims that if there were more duct tape on board, the Titanic would never have sunk.) We reach for the lube in just about every situation with our bikes. Sometimes we just lube them because we figure it's been a while since we last lubed them, might as well do it again. We can never be too rich, too thin, or too well lubed...
Well, I'm here to tell you to stop. Step away from the lube! Just put it right down and "Walk Away, Renee." Most of the problems that you think you are going to fix with your lube, you aren't. You might even be making things worse. Think about it, if there is some strange noise coming from your car, your washing machine, or your dog, do you run for the WD-40? I hope not. You try to find out what's causing the problem.
There are a lot of things on bikes that can cause noise. Loose bolts, loose nuts, and loose women, just to name a few. But lube isn't going to fix those (I don't think). Tight nuts are happy nuts, remember that. Brakes can squeak but if you put lube on your brake pads, you might as well just pull the brakes off your bike. They ain't going to stop you if they are slippery. Pedals are another favorite. If your pedals are squeaking, chances are the bolts in the cleats in your shoes are to blame. Tighten those before you do anything else.
What's the number one target for the masked lubricator?
The drive train, of course. The chain, the gears, the derailleurs. Oh baby, pour some lube on me. Most of the time if you get sounds from your drive train it's going to be because of some foreign substance already in your drive train. The lube ain't gonna clear that. If your drive train makes noise, go straight for the degreaser.
What's that you say, you don't own any degreaser? You bought lube, but no degreaser? You just figured you'd put layer on layer on there like a wedding cake? Yum. Fortunately, there is a simple alternative.
Go buy some degreaser
If worse comes to worst, get some grease-cutting diswashing soap. But clean, clean, clean, clean your drive train. You will get amazing amounts of gunk off of, and out of, your chain, your gears, your derailleur - and especially those little wheels in your rear derailleur. Dig out the little lumps of gunk. Gunk that is made up of road dirt, grime, bits of metal, and the bonding agent that holds them all together, lube! So, scrape it off. Clean, clean, clean, until your chain doesn't leave those black skid marks in your rag.
Ok, now. Now you can use the lube. Apply it to pivot points. Things that move, things that turn. It's not like car wax, you don't want to shine everything up with it. Ok, got it all on? Work it in a bit, run your drive train. I like to cup my hand on the chain and crank it around. All right, now that, that's done - wipe off the excess lube. This is the key part that everyone skips. The lube on the outside will only serve to attract dirt (Hi there sand, new in town?) and bring more crud into your drive train, defeating the entire purpose. So give it all a good solid wipe down.
All right, Now how does your bike sound? Better? I hope so. It should feel better too. If not, have your people call my people. We'll talk, we'll do brunch.