Bicycle Network: Bikes 'n' Bits
A year with my bike
It's time to step back and take a look at the bigger maintenance picture. Let's see how a whole year of looking after your bike would go. This article first appeared in RideOn October-November 2006 issue.
If you have been a regular reader for last two years and haven’t been put off by the constant nagging to pump up your tyres, you have picked up tips on chain maintenance, adjusting gears, adjusting brakes, lubrication and a few other things besides. Now what about a schedule of maintenance...
There are things you should do to your bike every couple of weeks and others that only need a look once or twice a year.
So let’s presume your bike is basically sound; it’s spring; and you ride about 100 kilometres per week, mostly on bitumen. (If you ride in the wet on sandy or gravel roads you will need to be much more diligent than someone who only rides on bitumen in fine weather.)
Every two weeks or 200km give your bike a quick once over:
- Check your tyre pressure. (Nag, nag, nag.)
- Use the maximum pressure recommended on the side of the tyre or close to it.
- Lubricate the gear and brake cables. Use one of the good quality chain lubes. Trickle some along the cables so that it goes inside the casing.
- Inspect the tyres for cuts and wear. Tease open cuts and remove any glass before it has a chance to work its way in.
- Clean the chain if you have a chain-cleaning gadget. If you use it frequently it will be a quick easy job and your chain will always be clean and lubricated. This will greatly extend the life of the chain and cogs.
- Lubricate the chain. Put a drop of good quality chain lube on every link.
- Wipe the bike down and apply a polish if possible.
If you don’t clean your chain these tasks will take about 10 minutes; with chain cleaning the whole lot will take about 20.
Every month or 500km give your bike a serious checkout as well as the fortnightly things:
- Check the wheels for buckles. Small buckles can be tweaked out with a spoke key without removing the wheel from the bike.
- Check the hubs for undue play. Grab the rim just next to the brakes and try to push it from side to side across the bike (see fig. 1). It will move a little because it’s slightly flexible but you shouldn’t feel any ‘play’. If there is play the hub needs adjusting or overhauling.
- Check the chain for wear. Shift it onto the largest chainwheel (at the front) and then try to pull a link up away from the teeth (see fig. 2). If you can make the chain clear the tip of a tooth it is worn out. Unfortunately it will also mean the sprockets on the rear are also worn out. So when you replace the chain you have to replace the cassette of rear cogs as well. If you replace only the chain, the new chain will skip and jump on the old sprockets. The chainwheels (front cogs) will last a lot longer because the wear is spread over a much greater number of teeth.
- Check the brake blocks or disc pads for wear and adjust the cables to take account of cable stretch and wear. If the blocks are worn down to the bottom of the slots in their faces then they are worn out. Replace them. Check with the maker of your disc brakes on how to tell when they need replacement. This varies from brand to brand, but 0.5mm of pad material is about the minimum.
- If you have suspension forks with air springs, check the pressure. You can only do this by putting on a pump and inflating the air cartridge to the correct pressure. That means you must have a special suspension pump which won’t let any air out of the shock absorber as you remove it. (The little hiss you hear as you remove the hose is air escaping from the pump not from the shock.) You also have to know what the correct pressure is for a rider of your weight.
These jobs will take you about an extra two minutes if nothing needs replacing and you don’t have air shocks to inflate.
Just before Christmas, or between Christmas and New Year if you aren’t away on holiday, give your machine a seasonal service:
- Do all the fortnightly and monthly tasks.
- Disassemble the hub bearings, inspect, regrease, re-assemble and adjust them. We haven’t covered this in a column yet, but we’ll get to it eventually. For a home mechanic who has done this before it will take about an hour per hub. If you ride in wet weather regularly, neglecting hub bearings can be expensive in the long run. It is much cheaper to replace a handful of ball bearings three times a year than to replace a hub every year.
- Clean and lubricate the front and rear derailleur mechanisms. Scrub them with an old toothbrush and some chain-cleaning solvent. Blast them clean with compressed air if you have access to a compressor. If you use a water-soluble solvent like one of the citrus cleaners, rinse it off with the hottest water you can find. This will heat up the metal of the derailleur and make it dry out thoroughly. A hair dryer can help too. Put a drop of chain lube on each of the pivot points. You may need to turn the bike upside down to get at all of them.
Over the summer you may either ride less because it is too hot or go on a cycling holiday and ride heaps more. You can adjust your fortnightly routines accordingly.
Autumn is the prime cycling season in Victoria not too hot, not much wind, long mild days and balmy evenings before Easter, cool still mornings and fine days from Easter until the Queen’s Birthday weekend. Ride to work every day and hit the trails or the country roads on the weekends. At around Anzac Day your bike will be ready for another seasonal service. This will set it up for problem free winter riding.
Now that the days are getting cooler and shorter:
- Check over your lights, make sure the batteries are fully charged and you know where the spares are.
- Try to remember where you put your waterproof overshoes and long-fingered gloves at the end of last winter
Over the winter you may ride less to avoid the dark or the rain (if you are lucky enough to see any). Even if you don’t clock up the kilometres, any winter riding will be demanding on your bike. Take extra care to lube your chain after every ride on wet roads as well as at the fortnightly services.
The weather generally starts to improve in August, so that’s a good time to fit in another major seasonal service. Any wear and tear from a hard winter’s riding will be obvious now so go over everything. This will prepare your bike for Around the Bay in a Day without leaving it all until the last minute.
If you gave up the bike for winter or just cut back on your riding you may not re-appear until after the Grand Final at the end of September. If that’s you, do that seasonal service while the footy finals are on so you are all ready to hit the roads come October.
AND THE CYCLE STARTS AGAIN
If you are planning on riding the Great Victorian Bike Ride fit your end of winter service in during August and then do another in early November. Don’t leave it until the week before the ride. If the ride includes a day of riding on wet roads your bike will need another going over when you get back. Perhaps not quite the full seasonal catastrophe management but more than just a quick monthly check over.
If you stick to a pattern for service roughly like the one outlined here you can ride secure in the knowledge that your bike is reliable and won’t let you down unexpectedly. And now that your bike has carried you reliably through another year of riding you just need someone to tell you how to change the oil in your knees.
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