Friday, March 14, 2008

Bicycle Maintenance

Courtesy of Ed at Mighty Riders, here's the ten-minute course on important bicycle maintenance:
  1. Buy a bike with cartridge bearings. These are basically the same type of bearings as you find in a car. You don't have to oil or pack them. They've been common in the bottom bracket for years. It's worth the money you spend to get them in the wheels and headset as well. You should check your wheel bearings from time to time for play and tighten them with cone wrenches if they're loose. At twenty months of abusive Vancouver commuting, I need to adjust mine a bit.
  2. If you have pulleys in the derailleur that don't have bearings in them, take them apart and pack them with grease. Note which one is the top and which is the bottom. There is a difference. Better yet, buy ones that don't need maintenance for about $20. Make sure you get the right pulleys for the number of speeds you have.
  3. Keep your drivetrain clean. When the chain is squeaking, and not before, grab a piece of rag, spray on your favourite cleaner, and run the chain through the rag until you get all the gunk off the outside of the chain. Then lubricate the chain on the inside (drop oil on the top of the lower run of chain, never on the sprockets). Wipe off the excess oil. The italics mean it's very important to wipe off the excess.
  4. Don't use a two or three part lubricant. They just gunk things up.
  5. If you have rim brakes, run a cloth or sponge over the rims frequently to clean off the road dirt. Use acetone to clean off the rubber from the brake pads that can stick to the rim.
  6. From time to time, clean the part of the brake and derailleur cables that run inside the housing. There's a trick to this that I'll post in pictures.
  7. If you have an old bike, you probably have sprockets, chainrings and a chain that aren't all the same age. You also probably don't have the same wear on each sprocket or each chain ring, since you probably ride a lot in certain gears. (I have a one-tooth difference across most of my sprockets. That and the hills in Vancouver mean I actually wear out most of my gears at about the same time, but your experience will likely be different.) The next time you have to change any part of your drive train, change it all. If one part is worn too much, the other parts will wear out fast, even if they're brand new.
  8. If you're starting with a completely new drivetrain (chain rings, sprockets and chain), change the chain as soon as it shows signs of wear. The tools that measure chain wear (aka stretch) often don't accurately measure wear. I'll post pictures of how to determine your wear.
  9. You don't need to oil any of the other little moving bits on the derailleurs themselves. As long as you shift, they'll keep themselves clean.
I'll get some pictures and expand on some of the above in the near future.

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