All of us in the Northern Hemisphere have probably been getting pretty friendly with our indoor trainer lately. With short days, cold temperatures, and wet roads, turbo sessions are a great way to keep that summer fitness, so you are firing on all cylinders when the group rides start back up in the Spring.
A great benefit of a trainer ride is that you don’t need to spend so much time cleaning all the road grime off your bike when you get home. All the water, dirt, sand, mud, etc that you might pick up on your outdoor ride don’t exist on the trainer. This gives many the illusion that your bike doesn’t need cleaned while riding indoors. I am here to say that you might be doing more damage to your bike indoors than out!
Especially if you have aluminum handlebars, they are the component that are at the biggest risk for a dangerous failure. While you are cranking out your intervals you are dripping corrosive sweat on various parts of the bike including your handlebars. When the salt sits on your bars, it begins to eat away at the metal and can turn metal handlebars into dust.
If they happen to break while you are on the trainer, it is probably no more than a bit of a scare and maybe not finishing an interval. If you are a little less lucky, the bars can break while you are out on the road. Hitting a little bump at 20mph is not the time to find out that your bars are damaged. For that reason, it is really important that you clean and inspect your bars regularly.
The best way to prevent this is to regularly wipe down your bars. A gear wipe does a great job of attacking the sweat and making sure it doesn’t sit on the bars. This can prolong the life of the bars and keep you safe when you get back out on the road. We also recommend starting each season with some fresh bar tape. Not only does this give you a new bike feel, it also lets you inspect your bars for any corrosion that can cause an accident. Luckily we have the best bar tape available according to Tour Magazine with Nastro Cuscino! So save yourself a bunch of road rash and pick up a few gear wipes and a new roll of bar tape to start this next season.
Being able to turn your front wheel is certainly a luxury that I personally like to keep. Handlebars aren’t the only thing that sweat likes to target. Corrosion can lock up your headset and make it next to impossible to turn your bars. It starts with a little crunchy feeling and can seize up entirely if left alone. I have had to use a chisel to cut a headset bearing out of a friend’s bike because the corrosion was so bad.
Keeping a towel covering the headset can go a long way. There are also some companies that make a sweat guard that help keep sweat out of those bearings. Since you are already wrapping your handlebars at the start of the spring it is a great time to pull the headset bearings, clean, and add a fresh batch of grease. Using a high-quality grease here will help prevent water and sweat from penetrating to the bearings as well so choose something designed for water repellent. This will ensure your spring starts without a creak and your bike is in race shape even if you might not be yet.
Stem bolts have a particular affinity to attracting sweat and ultimately corrosion. Now that you have a high-quality water repellant grease, make sure all of your bolts get a coating to keep the threads from seizing in your stem. This is a great rule of thumb for all threads on your bike, but particularly those susceptible to sweat while on the indoor trainer.
For some reason people seem to think that just because they are riding indoors, they don’t still need to lubricate their chain. A warm dry room doesn’t change the fact that metal on metal is not a good way to keep things working well. Make sure that you are still lubricating your chain properly when indoors. You don’t have the rainy days to wash out any chain lube, but it still doesn’t last forever. If you are using our Hot Wax or Super Secret Chain Lube, adding lubricant about every 10 hours of riding would be ideal. If you are using Synergetic, about every 15 hours would be perfect.
Riding indoors is a great way to keep fit under any number of circumstances and with just a few maintenance tasks, your bike will be perfect come spring time. I would recommend covering the headset as much as possible while you ride, wiping down your bars a couple times a week, and lubricating your chain every 10 hours of riding are three key steps you can take to limit any damage done to the bike. When the weather starts to warm and you are going back outside again, give your bike a fresh coat of grease on the headset and bolts, and inspect and re-wrap your handlebars with fresh tape. That will give your bike a like new feeling for the outdoor riding and make sure you don’t have any unfortunate accidents because the bike was damaged over the winter.