Sunday, January 31, 2010

A clean bike is a happy bike..

While the thermometer is plummeting and the wind is whistling around the door, it is time to head into the basement.. This is a perfect time of year to do some winter cleaning, adjusting and preparation to the bikes prior to the not-so-distant spring.Some time spent now with basic bike repairs will allow you to get the most out of your bike, improve your bike longevity, and even prevent catastrophe later on in the season. A couple of pointers for the novices, some reminders for you old hands..grab an allen wrench set, some sponges, degreaser and a couple of old cut-up t-shirts..the work is going to begin! First you will need the following:
  • a good sized bucket or basin, or an old spackle bucket (cleaned)
  • dish soap fom the kitchen.. if it is good enough for your bike, it is good enough for your dishes!
  • a sponge, (big old car sponge, smaller dish sponges: all the ones you wouldn't use in the kitchen, but still have life left in them)
  • a large brush (an old toilet bowl scrubber works great), otherwise an assortment of toothbrushes, small nail brushes etc)
  • clean rags
  • a quality citrus degreaser, available at any good bike shop
  • chain lube
  • Music! Music makes even the nastiest jobs seem a more fun..crank up the tunes, imagine yourself n few short weeks powering through the trails and roads on a shiny happy bike..
1. Clear the area in which you will be working, use a canvas drop cloth or an old blankie to soak up the gunk from the me, your partner in grime will thank you..
2. Pop the bike in a bike stand: all the better positioned at eye level to prevent you straining your back! With a bucket of warm soapy water and some old car sponges: gently remove last years grime from the frame, wheel rims, and tyres.Wipe down with a dry, soft cloth.
3. Spray (citrus-based) degreaser generously onto the derailleur, chain, cassette: allow to soak in for a wee bit..
4. Shift the gears into the smallest cog in the rear.. Spin the cranks and watch the chain run through the derailleur. Familiarize yourself with the routing so that you can return the chain along the same path of travel once you have cleaned it..
5. Open the brakes and pop off both wheels for better access to cleaning the brakes and the wheel rims, cassette etc.
6. If you have a chain cleaning tool fill it with degreaser, attach to chain and run the pedals backwwards while the chain gets magically clean. If you don't have such a tool, get one of these! it will save you hours in un-necessary manicure repairing, and dozens of band-aids.
7. Use an old toothbrush to get the junk out of the pedals, the remainder of the chain links and the brake calipers. Check the chain for cracks, stiff links. Lube the links and if they remain stiff, get a new chain.. if not, you risk it snapping mid-ride and leaving you stranded. Ask your mechanic about chains with replacable links and learn how to install the chain using a master link..
8. Check the brake pads for wear: if there are no grooves left on the pad surfaces, you need new ones! If you have disc brakes, carefully remove the pads, they have a spring clamping them into place. Removal and replacement is a good way to both check for wear, and to understand how they are put together.. trust me, these skills learned in the warmth of a basement without pressure, will come in handy when you are a few hours from home, hungry and cold..
9. Check your tyre sidewalls for cracks: if you have lots of tiny wrinkles of cracks, they are suffering frm dry rot and can fail when inflated in the spring.. get a new set if in doubt, a worthy investment.
10. Get up close and familiar with your clean, soap-free frame: check for dents,dings, paint loss, exposed frame: paying close attention to the welds and underbelly of the frame down by the bottom bracket, (where the pedal cranks are attached onto the frame).
11. Replace the squeaky-clean wheels onto the frame, remembering to center the wheel in the brake calipers. Make sure you do this while the bike is on the ground, first pulling the derailleur all the way rearwards over the outermost ring or cog of the cassette. Release the pressure on the derailleur, and jiggle the rear skewer into position in the dropouts. Tighten the quick-release, making sure it is snug, leaving a little dent in the heel of your hand as you push it into place.
12. Run some teflon dry lube onto all cables and along the chain. Rotate the pedals for a couple of revolutions to get the lube distributed evenly, remove excess with a dry cloth.
13. Release the cable housing from its position and get a couple of drops of lube down into the plastic housing and onto the steel cable itself. Replace the housing and squeeze and rlease the beakes a few times. If there is sgnificant resistance to braking still, you might need new cables and housing (usually good to replace yearly).
14. Check all other moving parts, get as much grime off as you can with toothbrushes and small rags. If you are in doubt about your ability to replace parts on the bike..don't take them off: simply clean it as best you can, then take it to your friendly bike-repair shop. Believe me, they enjoy working on clean bikes..
Below is a list of our local bike repair people, some with fancy store-fronts, some with special services of pick-up and drop-off or pre-race tune-up deals. Use them, support them. Instead of rushing off to do your grocery shopping, buy them a cup of java and ask if you can watch while they work on your bike. You will learn a bunch, and possibly save yourself so time and money in learning how your machine is put together.
Whether you have professional tune-ups, or whether you like to fiddle about with your own tools, a good bike repair book and a bit of time spent messing about in the basement can go along way towards a better bicycling season.
Dave Krum, Sag Harbor @ BikeHampton: 631 725-7329
Myles Romnow (mobile) @ Eastern Cycology: email:, 631 255-9568
Rick Laspesa, Southampton @ Rotations:  631 283-2890
Kevin Otto (mobile)@ kevinsbikeworks: 631 875 7507
Twin Forks Bicycles, Riverhead:  631 591-3082
Country Time Cycles in Mattituck: , 631 298-8700
Imagine rolling in the sand covered in sun tan lotion, then getting into nice snug bike shorts and sneakers, then going for a run for an hour.. this is what your bikeparts feel like when they are covered in grime and mashing against each other..not fun, not efficient, not a good feeling.. Do them a favour, clean 'em up, lube 'em up and enjoy the coming season!

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