Monday, March 19, 2012

Bike Maintenance: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

As the winter has begun to fade away here in New England (OK, it didn't so much fade as disappear in about three hours), it's now time to get the bikes back out on the road. But salt, sand, road grime, and other contaminants will try and spoil the party by getting into, well, everything.

After riding roughly 2,000 miles last year out on the roads, followed by a good number of miles put onto the CompuTrainers at the store, it's time for things to start wearing out. The consumables of the bike racing world, as it were.

With the help of Freeman's Bicycle Service for some of the repair knowledge and service pieces, here's just a small smattering of the things that you can expect to be doing before race season really starts to hit home:

Cleaning, Cleaning, Every Day: This is one of the easiest ways to save some cash if your bike budget is also going to be eating into your beer-drinking budget. (Hey, we all need our vices, right?)

There's tons of corrosive grime out on the roads. Salt is the primary enemy, and it just doesn't come from the coatings laid down after a snowfall. Your sweat is a big corrosive, too. And particularly with the headset, this can be a dangerous proposition. It's important to make sure that you get into the headset, clean it, re-grease it, and then tighten everything back on down. It's a little tricky, and if you're not confident in your own wrenchwork then I'd recommend heading to your favorite mechanic to get it done.

A clean bike is a fast bike, too, so after rides this time of the year it's good to take the 15 minutes to wipe down the bike (typically, I like a mix of Simple Green Extreme diluted in water, followed by Pedro's Bike Lust) to keep things tidy.

Drivetrain: All that stuff that got kicked up into your frame is also sure to be digging into your chain, cassette, and crank.

I try and keep these pretty darn clean, as the gunk and grit from the road can be hell on shifting quality, drivetrain efficiency, and the wear limit on these parts. (Who knew that metal didn't like having sand grinding over it, 95-105 times per minute?)

For cleaning purposes, I like the same Simple Green and water mixture. For lubrication, I use Chainj from Pedro's. I like it because of the really mixed conditions that come up during the course of the spring here in Maine. Also, because of temperature variations overnight as bikes are parked in transition, I find that it is resistant to lock-up from the morning dew.

Replacements and Things You Can't Do: Of course, there are things that are simply going to wear out. Chains, cassettes, and chainrings are going to get eaten up. Shifter and brake cables stretch out or can wear out. Bar tape is going to need to be replaced.

There's also things that you just may not want to mess around with. I have a good wrench space in my basement, but I also don't have a Park Stand, nor do I have the necessary tools or skills to feel confident servicing the bottom bracket on my bike. This is something I'd take to Freeman's; he has the expertise and the fair charge to do the job well.

In all, expect to be spending a fair amount on replacement parts. But with the right knowledge and right know-how and care, you can be sure to get your money's worth out of them.


Jen Small said...

I love Freemans!! Josh is awesome
Basic bike cleaning and maintenance are musts for bike owners!!

Jamie said...

I just love the sound of a freshly degreased, cleaned and lubed chain. SO pretty.

It makes all that time scrubbing the casette with an old toothbrush worth it.

Ryan said...

@Jen: Josh is the only mechanic I'd trust. Phenomenal service.

@Jamie: I've actually found that with the Simple Green Extreme and water solution, an old rag does the trick just fine without even going to the toothbrush.

Next on the docket: new cassette, re-cabling, bottom bracket service...