My Mountain bike didn’t get a lot of use this summer. As I live in a small apartment, the two “nice” bikes (my roadie and my wife’s beach cruiser) stay inside. The mountain bike ends up on the back porch. It’s a covered deck and out of the rain, but months of neglect left me with a rusted chain, stuck cables, and crusty derailleurs.
I figured that the sticking derailleurs would loosen up once I got new cables and housings installed, but to my dismay, they were still stubborn. They were hard to shift against the spring (upshifting the front, downshifting the rear) and they refused to retract. A little bit of corrosion, a little bit of caked-on mud in the pivots, and a lot of time sitting in the humid air. I asked Guitar Ted for some advice.
He suggested that I first try removing the derailleurs and soaking them in a solvent, then work the pivots by hand to see if they would loosen up. If they do, then they should be cleaned and lubricated, then worked by hand some more until they operate smoothly. If this fails, it’s time to replace them.
I’ll be honest. I used WD-40. You can buy it in 1-gallon cans. Most bike techs will tell you “Just Don’t” when it comes to using WD-40. Most car techs will say “Just Don’t” when it comes to using a crowbar. Rest assured, bike techs have WD-40 handy, and auto techs have a crowbar. They’re just often mis-used and can cause damage if abused. WD-40 is great for a few things:
- Water displacement. That’s what “WD” stands for, after all. Used properly, it can protect metal from rusting after it gets wet.
- De-greasing. As a solvent, WD-40 isn’t the best, but it works.
- Loosening rust and stubborn parts
This is exactly what I needed. I took my derailleurs off. I removed the jockey wheels from the rear and let both of the derailleurs soak in the solvent for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I tore the jockey wheels open and cleaned them out with a toothbrush and WD-40.
After working my derailleurs, I used the toothbrush to scrub most of the grime out of the crevices. After re-assembling the derailleurs, I blasted the solvent out of them with compressed air before shooting some TriFlow lubricant into them. WD-40 is NOT a viable lubricant, though. It lacks viscocity and tenacity and will fly off or evaporate, leaving behind bare metal. TriFlow is good for pivot points like V-brakes, shifter ratchets, and derailleurs. It’s probably too light-duty for chain lubricant, though.
At the end of everything, my bike shifts better than it did when I picked it up (used) from the bike shop 2 years ago. I was worried I’d be looking at a relatively expensive repair that involved a pair of brand new derailleurs. Instead, it only cost me an hour and a half of wrenching, scrubbing and waiting, and some relatively cheap stuff from the hardware store. Thanks to Ted for taking the time to help me out. This is definitely a Blue Collar repair with awesome results.
Bonus: By occasionally blasting your moving parts with solvent, compressed air, and lubricant when they get grimy, you can keep them operating smoothly between major cleanings and overhauls.