Sweat Can Mess Up Your Bike and Accessories

Sweat and Cycling

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sweaty mess when I’m out riding.  Okay, I don’t mean to aggravate any of you who are still waiting for the hot and sweaty temperatures to arrive…so my apologies in advance.

If you sweat (and odds are you do…at least a little bit), there are some important things you should do to prevent it from messing up your bike and accessories.

Before getting into what and how it can mess things up, let’s quickly go over what sweat (perspiration) is made up of.

Perspiration consists of water, minerals, lactate and urea.  The average mineral composition is:

  • sodium (0.9 gram/liter)
  • potassium (0.2 g/l)
  • calcium (0.015 g/l)
  • magnesium (0.0013 g/l)

Sweat can also include trace metals including:

  • zinc (0.4 milligrams/liter)
  • copper (0.3–0.8 mg/l)
  • iron (1 mg/l)
  • chromium (0.1 mg/l)
  • nickel (0.05 mg/l)
  • lead (0.05 mg/l)

It’s the sodium that can cause the most damage to your bike and accessories due to its corrosive power and how it reacts with metals, aluminum, and carbon.

Your Bike

Where does your sweat go when it drips off your body?  Down.  That means your bike is soaking up a lot of sweat and corrosive materials as you ride along.

Prevention:  In order to prevent corrosive issues to your bike, be sure to clean it regularly.  If you need some tips on how best to clean your bike, have a listen to our Cycling 360 podcast on Cleaning Your Road Bike.

Note – I can speak from personal experience on this one.  I feel like I do a good job at keeping my bike clean, but all that sweating I’ve done in the past has caused my seat post to totally seize up.  You don’t even want to hear about how difficult it is to fix something like this.

Your Helmet

If your helmet has one of those new magnetic snaps like my Lazer Helium does, then you’re going to want to heed my advice once again.  This is the first time I’ve had one of these types of snaps on the chin strap so I never knew what problems could be caused by lack of cleaning.

Just a couple months ago, I was riding along and my chin strap came undone.  I tried snapping it back together, but it wouldn’t stay connected.  I finally stopped and realized that the one side of the snap that the magnet clings to had been totally corroded away.  The snap was shot.

Being in the Caribbean I can’t just go to my local bike shop for a replacement, but I was able to borrow the part I needed from my Wife’s Nutcase helmet…..they have the same closure system as the Lazer.

Thanks to the great people at Nutcase helmets for sending me a free replacement so I could replace the one I stole from my Wife.

Prevention: Wash your helmet and if you have a magnetic snap, rinse and soak both sides of it regularly.

Your Sunglasses

If you’re like me, you’re never caught outside without a pair of sunglasses on your face….especially on the bike.  Well, once again this accessory takes on a whole lot of your sweat while out riding.

Okay, so how many of you have had a pair of good sunglass lenses peel away making them un-usable?  Yep, happened to me once and I learned my lesson fast.  Ever since then I’m sure to rinse my sunglasses following every ride….and never had any issues since.

Prevention: Rinse your sunglasses after every ride.

Your Turn

Of course, sweat can mess up pretty much any of your cycling accessories. but these are the ones that I’ve had issues with in the past.  Now it’s your turn, what damage has sweat done to your bike or accessories?  Let us know so that we can help others in preventing it from happening to them.

Top photo c/o Franck Fife/ AFP/Getty Images

  • Chuck

    I am one of those that’s sweats excessively in hot weather, and where I live it’s hot and humid from May to September. My biggest issue is that the hardware on my shoes corrode to the point that it can’t be removed. If I have an issue with my Speedplay cleats I can’t simply replace the cleats, I have to replace my shoes because the screws are so corroded they can’t be removed without damaging the shoe. I have gotten to the point where I purchase a new set of the most inexpensive shoes I can find at least once per year along with a new set of cleats. As much as I would like to own a top of the line set of Sidi’s or Garneau’s, it would just be a huge waste of money. I am the only person that I know of that has this extreme problem. I suppose I could disassemble the cleats every couple of weeks and give them a good cleaning but other than that I can’t think of a way to protect my shoes where they will last more than one or two hot seasons.

  • G

    I agree with everything that Darryl has listed but would like to add a few more. As someone that more than perspires (I’m a salty sweater), here a couple of my favorite tips.

    Helmet:
    Just take it into the shower with you. Your helmet gets wet when you get caught in the rain. After the shower, I wring out the removable pads and use and old tooth brush and vinegar-water solution (1 vinegar : 2 water) on the salt stained straps.

    Shoes & Insoles:
    Don’t forget caring for your shoes and insoles. Last summer was a hot summer and I found that not only my helmet and glasses required more frequent cleaning, but my shoes and insoles took on a life (and aroma) of their own. While I have always used saddle soap on the outsides of my leather shoes (and saddle), I use a vinegar-water solution (1 vinegar : 2 water) and a old nail brush on the synthetic mesh areas and inside. I remove the insoles and brush them with the vinegar-water solution using a nail brush. I let them dry in the sun. Once dry, I slide in my homemade deodorizer, one in each shoe. The shoe deodorizers are made from a pair of old cotton tube socks and 2 small boxes of baking soda. One for each shoe.

    Choose the socks carefully, don’t use a really open weave and select a size that will be easy to insert and remove from your shoes. Cut off the elastic top section of each sock, but save it. Check the sock for holes and seal them with fabric glue and allow it to dry. Fill each sock with a small box of baking soda. You may require less for smaller shoes and/or socks. Once the baking soda is in the sock, seal the open end of each sock with fabric glue, clamp and allow the seal to dry. The baking soda is dusty, so do it in a ventilated area. The cotton tube socks I used do allow some baking soda dust to escape when I use them, but hey if it deodorizes other things why not my smelly cycling shoes. Because the some dust does escape through the cotton weave I keep mine in a large zip lock bag when not in my shoes and handle carefully when inserting and removing them. At $0.52 a box, some of my wife’s fabric glue and a couple of old cotton tube socks I found laying in a drawer, it was a fairly inexpensive homemade deodorizer that I could afford to refill each year.

    While not sweat related, I use the elastic section of the socks that I cut off to cover the cogs on rear wheels when not in use. Especially when transporting rear wheels in the car. Just stretch one end around the largest cog and it should easily cover the other cogs.

    Bar tape:
    I am fond of cork tape especially white or natural bar tape. However, after a few wet rides the tape can become discolored and even smelly. I use a spray bottle with a vinegar-water solution, an old clean tooth brush and some paper towels. In few minutes my bar tape is looking, feeling and smelling like new. Just lightly spray the vinegar-water solution (1 vinegar : 2 water) onto the tape, being careful not to saturate it and work it around with the tooth brush working in small areas. Dab off the excess solution with the paper towels or cloth. Once the area is clean, cover it with a towel and grip the covered bar and squeeze to sponge up any solution that may have soaked into the bar tape. In no time the yellow stains are gone my tape looks and feels clean and has no odor. The vinegar-water solution is great for cleaning brake hoods as well.

    Saddle:
    Clean regularly and apply a protective sealer. Saddle covering should dictate cleaner and sealer used.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Yeah, it definitely looks like you’ve got this one covered. This is some great information and I appreciate you leaving all your input. Thanks for the tips as well.