A question I get asked frequently by customers is how they should be looking after their bike. The first thing I recommend to ensure their bike lives a long and healthy life is to keep it clean. The bikes that come through the shop in the worst conditions are often commuter bikes, as these bikes have been used twice a day, through wind, rain, snow and mud, and will often go for many rides before seeing a bucket and sponge. As the dirt builds up and sticks to the drivetrain components, it acts like a grinding paste and will wear down the parts much quicker than if they were clean and well lubricated. Leaving a wet bike without drying it will also allow water to penetrate the bearings causing corrosion, speeding up the deterioration of the bike. As a commuter, it's not realistic to wash your bike twice a day around work of course, so for a quick fix to minimise these effects, leave the bike indoors for the water to evaporate off and wipe down the chain with a rag to remove excess dirt and grime.
If you're not a commuter however, and you own a bike which you ride for leisure, then you should look to clean your bike immediately after every ride before the dirt drys. There are several cleaning products and lubricants that I would recommend using, the first being a drivetrain degreaser. This should be applied prior to washing, to get the old lube, dirt and grime of the cassette, chain and chainrings. Apply directly to the components being careful not to allow any into the bottom bracket, hub bearings or disc brake rotors if your bike has them. Secondly, I would suggest using a bike specific cleaner to apply to the rest of the bike which will ensure your paintwork and other components won't be affected by any harsh chemicals. A chain lubricant is an essential product to use after every wash, as this will allow your drivetrain components to glide over each other, minimising friction, and will prolong the life of each component saving you maintenance costs in the future. Lastly I would suggest applying a bike protectant or multipurpose spray to the frame and components, which will help displace water from nuts, bolts and hard to reach parts of your bike, leave a protective film and prevent mud adhesion.
Checking the bike for mechanical issues and identifying when there is a problem is another essential step to make sure your bike lives its best life. It can be tricky to know where to start however, so a quick check which I recommend to my customers is the "M Check". The M check is a way of quickly checking over each component of your bike in a specific order in the shape of the letter "M", so as not to miss any potential issues with the bike. Starting with the front hub, check for any side side play or graunchy bearings, then work your way up to the front brake calliper and check the brake pads for wear as well as the operation of the brake, then check the headset for any play or worn bearings. You can then work your way in an "M" shape down towards the bottom bracket, up towards the seat tube, then down towards the rear hub, checking over all of the essential components along the way. I use this check when customers bring their bike in to quickly identify any issues before providing the customer with a scope of work. If you familiarise yourself with this process, you can do it very quickly and it will become second nature to check your bike before every ride.
All products mentioned in this post can be picked up from the shop or ordered from the website; here is the link to find them: https://www.fivevalleycycles.co.uk/cleaning-lubrication.
I enjoy answering questions about anything bike related, so get in touch via the website, or pop in to the shop if you have any that you'd like to discuss!