After a ride up into Rockland County on Saturday, I returned to my apartment with a bicycle-full of gritty impasto composed of sand, dirt, oil and water from winter-messy roads.

Wiping away the muck between major bike washings is a good maintenance strategy, and more than just ride pride is at stake. If left unattended to, the grit cakes on and, over time, can take a toll on your components and frame. In addition, having to chip off a dried accumulation makes your bike mechanic’s job tougher — not to mention your own if you need to change a flat.

Dirt on bike frameThe solution? Nip the crud in the bud while it’s still moist and easy to remove.

As soon as you get home from your ride, give your frame and components a once-over using a bucket of sudsy water and a sponge. Some surfaces where road spray tends to build up: the top rear of the fork, the bottom bracket and the upper surface of the seat stays, close to where they connect with the seat tube (photo right). And don’t forget to wipe the rims to maintain good braking.

If you’re working indoors, protect your floor with a few layers of newspaper or some garbage bags before you get started.

Over the course of the winter, you and your bicycle will benefit from this “ounce of prevention” tactic.

Photo: Beckerman Photo

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