I just moved to a new apartment in a more humid climate, and while fiddling with my bike trainer setup, I've noticed that my gloves and handlebars are soaked with sweat at the end of a ride on the trainer. I know that sweat is corrosive to metal alloys, so what should I be doing to clean off the handlebars (and handlebar tape) and prevent or limit any corrosion damage? Is this something I should even worry about?
The salt from excessive sweating will corrode your headset bolts, bottle cage bolts, can corrode aluminum alloy in handlebars and can affect the paint on your frame. Riding outside on the road is less of an issue because sweat evaporates more easily and the force of the air rushing by keeps the sweat from settling easily. However, on a trainer, everything just runs right down off of you and on the bike and floor below. Sweat can build up on and under the bar tape if you let it. Google corroded handlebars, you'll find plenty of examples.
Replace the bar tape at least once a season, it will give you time to inspect the bars for any corrosion. It's most likely to happen where there are scratches in the anodized coating. In between rides, you can use a bit of water and tiny touch of dish soap to clean, be sure to rinse well. Remember, use enough of water. You want to pull out the sweat and not let it build up there. The solution to pollution is dilution.
You can buy sweat guards which cover the headset and top tube to protect the other parts of your bike or you could just drape some towels. Additionally, a little lemon pledge furniture polish is a nice touch to keep your frame shiny and moisture resistant.
'Sweat is slightly salty, but its not going to harm metal in a bike or human's lifespan.'
Not true - I recently replaced badly corroded bars after only 10 months use. I only ride on the road too. I contacted the supplier who told me it was not covered by warranty due to 'poor maintenance'. They advised me that I should wash the bike every time I rode it to avoid corrosion.
I now wash the bars and tape with copious quantities of water after most rides. Hoping this will save the new bars.
Nope. Bar tape is cheap enough to replace every couple years, and makes the bike look nice. Throw your gloves into the wash periodically with your other riding clothes.
Sweat is slighly salty, but its not going to harm metal in a bike or human's lifespan. The oils and grease from mechanical parts is more likely to affect paint than sweat.
That said, washing your bike is also good. If you're unfortunate enough to live somewhere that heavily salts the roads in winter, then that will rust steel and to a lesser extent stainless steel. A good wash cleans that off and also helps preserve your bike.