WORDS Gilly Grately

Hi, Gilly back again with more mountain bike musings. I hope you are well and have been enjoying some great riding. The weather is glorious and the puddles are drying up, but does that mean that you don’t have to hose down your bike and keep it clean?

I was conditioned as a kid that after a day out with my mates, playing on our bikes and enjoying the outdoors, I should clean my bike and oil the chain. A good discipline, but at the time, I can remember it being one of those chores that I did because I was told to and not because caring for your bike helps with performance and longevity. 

I had flashbacks to this chore recently when one of my biking crew kindly hosted an informal session for bike maintenance. Her brother had worked in the bike industry for many years and whilst we have been tested on rides with flat tyres and broken chains, it was really good to hear that my parents were helping me to hone good habits. Good drivetrain maintenance is the right way to go. Your bike looks better, runs better and it helps the expensive parts last longer. 

We discussed hosing your bike versus washing your bike and putting it on a stand versus turning it up-side-down, and hey, there is no right or wrong, so whatever works for you. The important things are not to blast your bearings (bottom bracket, pivots, headset, and hubs) with a jet wash as you could be pushing the dirt into these areas, and make sure your bike dries properly, so parts don’t become rusty.

Over the last couple of years, I have got myself back into a good cleaning regime and having the right equipment to hand when you get back can save it from being a chore. In fact, I have got it down to a fine art.

I keep a bucket and soft brush specifically for bike cleaning and using regular washing up liquid. First, I get rid of all the mud and dust, then rinse it using a hose. If my ride was really muddy or dusty, or I started squeaking, I use a de-greaser on the cassette, derailleurs, chain, and chainrings to help get rid of the heavy or glued-on muck. Remember, if you are doing this, give it a few minutes to start working and don’t get any on your brakes.

My next purchase needs to be a brush kit for the drivetrain. This can be really difficult to get clean, especially in a few minutes, but it is the most crucial area – remember not to mix brushes for the drivetrain with your regular cleaning brushes as they will become oily and useless.

I have a nifty little chain cleaner that you fill with soapy water, but if you don’t have one, hold a sponge around your chain and turn the pedals backwards to remove dirt and excess grease.

Once cleaned I bounce my bike a couple of times to shake off the water and leave it in the sun for a few minutes to dry. 

If I was really good, I would wipe the bike over to remove watermarks, but honestly, I only wipe the chain of the drivetrain and use a good quality bike lube. A couple of turns of the pedals ensures it gets into all the links, then I hold a rag around it and turn the pedals backwards again to wipe off the excess – remember you are oiling the chain, not the bike and too much will attract dirt and dust and give you oily calf stains! 

I am sure the pros out there will have different types of lube and will polish their bikes, and there are other areas on the bike that need oiling from time to time; for this, I recommend an annual service, especially if you ride regularly. 

I hope to see some shiny bikes flashing past me on the routes! As always, stay safe and have fun.

Route of the Month

Biking tourism in the Algarve has got to be the hottest ticket in town right now, and the best way to experience the country (in my opinion) must be via the four major interconnected routes. We have already featured the Rota Vincentina (April), the Via Algarviana (March) and the Ecovia do Litoral (part of the Atlantic Coast Route, back in February). 

This month, we will look at the last of these great routes, the Grande Rota do Guadiana.

Also known as the GR15, it is in the easternmost region of the Algarve, on the border with Spain. It was established in 2015 and added to in 2019 and is promoted for biking and hiking. It is a linear route and can be tackled in either direction, following the GR15 route and signposts.

Working north to south, the original route starts in Alcoutim and takes you 65kms through the three municipalities of Alcoutim, Castro Marim, down to Vila Real de Santo Antonio. The additions include 19 shorter pedestrian routes or Caminhos do Guadiana, ranging from three to 15kms.

The least known of the great routes, this ride will take you through nature reserves, on rural single tracks alongside the Guadiana river, through some of the most important wetland areas in Portugal, past castles and ancient settlements, salt pans, farms and orchards; and if you are feeling really adventurous, this route links with both the Via Algarviana (GR13) and the Atlantic Coast Route (EV1).

Looks like a great excuse to explore over in the east, not forgetting the opportunity to zip wire from Spain back into Alcoutim in Portugal (which I have done and is great fun). I have also seen online some posts where cyclists have made this into a circular route/holiday, travelling up on the Portuguese side and back down through Spain – perhaps some of you lovely lot have already done this and can share your experiences and pictures with us at bikinginthealgarve@gmail.com

Further details on the GR15 can be found on the website www.baixoguadiana.com/pt/percursos/gr-15-grande-rota-do-guadiana