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Saturday, April 12, 2008

REGULAR BICYCLE MAINTENANCE, WHEN IT'S NOT AN OPTION ANYMORE


Bicycle maintenance is always important, but at some point it becomes necessary to organize yourself a regular, if not yearly, routine. Case in point, I recently had an interesting discussion with one of my readers, I will call him Robert (That's his bike in the picture by the way), who met this nice French woman, moved to France, ditched his car and started using his bike to get around everywhere. Now Robert, not his real name, is faced with the fact that his bike needs some well deserved maintenance and attention.

If you decide that your bicycle will become a more regular means of transportation in your life, there are some things you have to be willing to do. Now that your bike is not in the same category as lawn furniture priority wise, it is time to look after it with more regularity. When a bike is just used for recreation once and awhile, people take them to the shop or replace them when they break down. What you have to realize is that a well taken care of bicycle can last you a lifetime.

Chain lubrication should be attended to at least once every season and twice that if it sleeps outdoors (step AWAY from the WD40, use real bike chain lubricant). Schedule rear brake cable replacement at least once a year. If the cable is still good, rotate it to the front brake and get rid of that cable. Check your brake pads if they need to be replaced, rotate them fornt to back once a year. Rotate your tires front to back once a year to make them last longer. If you do any kind of serious mileage, replace your chain once a year. Take a look at your derailleur cables and schedule replacing if they are rusted or frayed, rotate them as well if you can. Put a dab of lubricant on every piece of exposed metal at least once a year and spot paint any paint chips on the frame. These task can be done by anyone with very basic tools. The only special tool needed in what I mentioned in this paragraph is a chain tool, you should definitely have one of those and carry it with you when you ride. Trust me it will pay for itself the first time you bust your chain in the middle of fraking nowhere! Clean your bike once a week, dirt is it's enemy. I use lemon Pledge furniture polish, it's a degreaser, it leaves a protective coat of wax so dirt doesn't stick on my frame, it makes the finish look very shiny and it smells nice too(make sure you don't spray any on your drivetrain, it will absolutely remove any lube you have on there).

Now you can always go for the big jobs like re-greasing all the bearings on your bike once a year. This will require some specialized tools and the knowledge dispensed elsewhere in this blog. If your are not confident enough to do the work yourself, don't despair, just farm out the work to your local bike shop. Since you are educated about the needs of your ride, you can be more specific about the work you want done to it and it will save you time and money.

Lastly, make simple verifications on a regular basis. A loose nut and bolt here and there is quickly fixed and will prevent bigger problems down the road. Also check your tire pressure once a week, you are the propulsion system and even 1 psi too low will affect how hard you have to crank those pedals.

When you own a car, you are a slave to it working long hours to pay the monthly bills that it generates, but with a bike it is the reverse. It is so low maintenance and low cost that it serves you. However, keeping it in good running order will make it happy and you as well in return.

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)

19 comments:

Robert, France said...

Great article, Gerry. I think "Robert" should get himself tooled up straight away and follow your advice!

A bientot.

Jonathan said...

Why would you replace the back brake cable first? Is it just because it's so much longer? The front one gets more use (by me - some people don't use it as much, I guess, but then, they also can't stop as well!)

Gerry Lauzon said...

Most people use the rear brake a lot in fear of locking up the front wheel and going over the bars. Usually the that cable tends to fray or rust at the back near the caliper. That leaves you with some usable cable that can be shortened and used on the front brake. I just like the fact that I don't waste anything. But nothing stops you from replacing both cables at the same time.

Gerry :)

Robert, France said...

Bonjour. Does anyone have any thoughts on bicycle repair stands? Do you get what you pay for? And are they a worthwhile investment, or is stringing your bike up from the rafters better/as good?

Thanks!

Gerry Lauzon said...

They are worth every penny, whatever you pay for them. Your back will thank you for it.

Gerry :)

bob said...

salut gerry,

Been looking and looking for a good plave for advice on spoking my rim and lo and behold found the best. Great tips, advice and an expert!

Bob

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you for the vote of confidence Bob. Happy I can help.

Gerry :)

jazzpeta said...

One little thing:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tire-rotation.html

Gerry Lauzon said...

Absolutely right. What I forgot to mention in my article is that you should never rotate a tire in the front with no usable thread. I rotate my tires only when both of them are in good shape. If a rear tire is worn out, by all means do replace it outright. Once again, Master Sheldon shows the right path. Thank you for pointing this out jazzpeta.

Gerry :)

Dr. Leslie Brown said...

Great blog with lots of helpful advice & readers. I'm wondering why I've only just discovered it?

Keep up the good work...

Les.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you Dr Brown.

Gerry :)

Garrett said...

Good article. Why step away from WD40 for chain lubrication?

Gerry Lauzon said...

WD40 is great for rust prevention, but it also strips away lubricants, even long after an application. Lots of stuff out there just as cheap and 1000 times better.

Gerry :)

Joe said...

Gerry,
I just got into biking and bought a used Raleigh M40 for a great price. The bike looks great and rides well to. Any suggestions on simple maintence items (ie chain lube ect.) Thanks for any help!!

Gerry Lauzon said...

I use automatic transmission fluid to lube up my chain and drivetrain. I thought that I was crazy doing this, but hey it works great, but I recently found out that a lot of bike mechanics use it as well. For the rest, check the obvious for now like cables and tire wear. If you decide to get more into it and have the time, you can start looking at regreasing the different bearings and axles.

Gerry :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry, I've been cycling, that is commuting for about two years and only now i start to get into taking care of my bike and read about it, mostly from your site, which has openned my eyes to a lot! It's great!
I was wondering if i can use a degreaser or wd40 instead to clean all the frame set and the forks. Will i risk damaging the paintwork at all? And also, which other parts can i clean with a degreaser? That is for the once a week cleaning you mention in your blog.
Thanks, and forgive my ignorance in this matters,

Gerry Lauzon said...

No need to apologize, there are no stupid questions on this blog. The stuff you want to use is lemon furniture polish like Pledge. Spray the frame and fork and wipe down with a rag, then buff it out with a clean cotton rag. It will degrease, clean and protect. Make sure you don't spray it on anything that requires lubrication like the chain and wheel bearings. Good luck and thanks for reading me.

Gerry :)

Dodge This said...

Boy, I wish I'd known about not using WD40 about a year ago when I bought some and applied it. Admittedly, I've only done it that one time (mighta been twice, I forget) and the chains caused no problems since.
But lots of people seem to agree with you on this one, so I'll trust it.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Smart move.

Gerry :)