Whether it’s because of dangerous roads or Zwift or Sufferfest or Peloton or Game of Thrones — the number of people who ride inside constantly continues to increase (says last year’s Strava report). Given the growing population of indoor sufferers, the market for indoor-specific gear is expanding and better products are being developed to help keep your body cool and your mind engaged while working out without moving forward even an inch. But if you’re one of these new inside adherents, there’s more to know about training inside than which trainer is compatible with which virtual training environment. You also need to know the best way to protect your bike indoors.
If you’re not careful, riding inside can absolutely destroy that sweet rig you spent years saving up for. And because you’re not riding out in the elements, you’re less likely to properly clean it, though it needs to be cleaned and cared for as much — if not more — than when you’re out on the roads. Though wet and grimy conditions can be bad for certain parts of your bike, the gallons of salty sweat you pour out while grinding out indoor “miles” can be even worse. Depending on the sodium levels in your sweat and your local weather/proximity to saltwater, your bike could be in serious trouble after only a handful of rides if you’re not careful. So how do you protect your bike indoors best?
Protect your bike indoors by wiping it down (Duh!)
Ok, this one may seem obvious, but it needs to be said, as there’s a right and a wrong way to do this. Make it a part of your workout routine to wipe down your ride (and trainer) with a wet cloth — not one already soaked in sweat — then dry it with a separate cloth. Wiping your bike down with the wet t-shirt you’re wearing doesn’t even remotely count. Even if you’re using something to keep it dry (we’ll get to that soon), it’ll still keep the dust blown from a fan and the humid air of your pain cave from doing damage. Indoor training wants to make your bike dirty, and you’ll have to fight it every single session.
Protect your bike indoors by covering it
This is another fairly obvious one, but the more you can cover those areas in the direct line of sweat fire (think top tube, headset, cockpit, front wheel, etc.), the better off you’ll be. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that some of the most important moving parts of your bike — when it comes to both speed and handling — live directly beneath your rapidly leaking pores. We’ll talk about products below that’ll help put a roof over your poor bike’s head, but even if you just use a towel, that’s better than nothing.
Protect your bike indoors by cleaning it
This is far less intuitive than the first two pieces of advice, as most cyclists only think to clean their bikes after a long race or a messy outdoor ride. Even if you’re wiping down your bike and keeping it covered, you should still give it a good cleaning every three to four weeks. And by good cleaning, I mean take it outside, remove the wheels, spray it down with a garden hose (don’t use a pressure washer), use dish soap, work on the drivetrain extra, let it soak, rinse, dry, re-lube, etc. This is an easy one to forget even during the “outdoor” season, but it’s actually even more important when training indoors.
Protect your bike indoors with lubes and polish
Assuming you’re doing everything above (and you should!), you’ll still need to coat various parts of your bike with some specific products that we’ll talk about below. It’s important to use a heavier grease on big bolts that tend to get corroded with sweat (think: stem bolts, brake post bolts, compression cap bolt, seat post bolt, etc.), lighter lube on moving parts (drivetrain, etc.), and some sort of protectant on your frame. The last one is particularly important if you have an aluminum frame, because, for more than just simple pride in your bike’s appearance, a thin layer of wax or polish will help protect your frame from game-ending rust and corrosion that can occur underneath the paint. Forgetting to lube and polish your bike is a quick way to get a huge bill from the mechanic that has to drill and tap your bolts or the shop that sells you a new frame.
Now that you know how to best protect your bike indoors, let’s look at a few products that’ll help keep your inside ride in tip-top shape:
Best sweat cover to protect your bike indoors
Tacx Sweat Cover for smartphones | $28
Stretching from your handlebars to your seat tube, this simple sweat cover not only deflects sweat from your bike’s more sensitive areas — like the top tube, head tube, and fork — but it also absorbs the sweat so it doesn’t go running off somewhere else. The cover installs in seconds and also features a little plastic pocket on the front to store your smartphone so you can still use and see companion apps without putting your phone in sweat-induced danger.
Best cleaner to protect your bike indoors
Pedro’s Green Fizz | $15 (32 ounces)
This cleaner uses biodegradable and super eco-friendly compounds to clean your whole bike without going as far as removing lube. This is the perfect product for regular cleaning and wiping down your indoor-ridden bike between hardcore washings. Use this right after your workout with a rag or two before applying the protectant below, and you’ll greatly extend the life of your bike.
Best spray to protect your bike indoors
Muc-Off Bike Protect | $16
Muc-Off makes some of the best bike-specific lubes and cleaners in the business, and their Bike Protect spray is a perfect example. Spray this all over your indoor-bound (or outdoor bound!) bike, wipe it down, and you’re good to go. This will not only protect your frame and other parts against your sweat, but it also serves as a light lube that’s safe on metal, carbon, anything on your bike — except for braking surfaces, pads, and tires.
Best light lube to protect your bike indoors
ProLink Chain Lube | $9 (4-ounce bottle)
This light lube is ideal for parts like your chain, shift/brake cables, and housing. It’s light enough to drip on tough-to-get-to parts, but not so light that it won’t cling to them. By no means is this an indoor-only product — use ProLink on all but the wettest conditions outdoors, and your chain will thank you.
Best heavy lube to protect your bike indoors
Rock N’ Roll Red Devil Grease | $6
This product may have no flash or fancy graphics, but Red Devil grease should literally be mandatory for anyone who even owns a bike. This cheap tube will probably outlive you, and you can use it on every single bolt that doesn’t require loc-tite. A thick lube like this isn’t good for chains, but it’ll repel sweat and corrosion like a champ in non-moving areas — this is the grease of choice for pro mechanics everywhere.