A bicycle is more than a tool for transportation, it’s an escape from the drudgery of the day-to-day. It’s a reflection of one’s self and often time feels like an old friend (cue Golden Girls theme song), so it only seems right that we take care of our bikes the way they take care of us. Once you’ve nursed your Spring Break hangover, grab a rag and some lube and get ready to go to work… on your bike. There are simple things you can do for your bike that will keep it rolling through the nice weather ahead.
1. CLEAN YO SHIT
This is probably the easiest thing you can do because all it takes is a rag, some Simple Green, and some time. Nothing beats the crap out of your bike as much as wet dirt. It speeds up wear on your brake pads and braking surface. It latches itself to excessive oil on the chain and eats up your drivetrain. Dirt works its way into every pivot point. Left unchecked, it can cause preventable damage that ends with you buying a new chain and cassette, instead of buying beer for you and your pals.
What to do: If it’s dirty, wipe it off. If you have access to compressed air, even better, give your bike a blow job. If your brakes squeal, wipe off your braking surface. For disc brakes, take a clean rag and rubbing alcohol to the rotor. If this all sounds like too much work for you, let’s put it in perspective: Think of spring is a super hot date, and get your bike ready for it. Naturally, you wouldn’t go out on that beloved 3rd date (you know what we’re talking about) and not at least take a shower and run a comb through you hair, right? Clean it up, and help get your bike get laid.
2. LUBE YO SHIT
See all those pivot points you just cleaned off in Step 1? What’s a pivot point? PIVOT-the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates. That means your bottom bracket, headset, hubs, all need proper lubrication. Usually, if you are hearing sounds coming for there, the damage has already been done so spring is a good time to open those things up, clean them, and get them overhauled. If you don’t have the tools or the know how, your local bike shop is there to help. Other pivots on your bike that need some love are the points on your chain, front and rear derailleurs, and your brake calipers.
What to do: Add the lube to these pivot points, and work it in a little bit by engaging the brakes, derailleurs, and for the chain rotate the cranks. Once it’s good and worked in, spend a fair amount of time cleaning off where you just applied the lube. Everything that is going to work for you is doing its thing on the inside and anything on the outside will just attract dirt. That could be a euphemism for so many things.
3. MEASURE YO SHIT
Do you like saving cash? Like, a bunch of it? There is an easy way and here it is: measure your chain. How do you do your measure your chain? There is a tool for that. Don’t have the tool? Your local bike shop does and they’d be happy to check it for you. Insider tip, they’d be even happier to check it if you brought them beer. Beer goes a long way in the bike shop. After they measure it, they’ll tell you about how much wear you have on your chain.
A chain can get roughly 1,000 – 1,5000 miles out of it, depending how often you lubed it and how well you kept it clean. Once you’ve topped out on mileage, the gradual heat and friction will inevitably wear materials off of each roller and pin from the chain causing it to ‘stretch’. (It doesn’t really stretch, it’s just called that).
A worn chain will quickly wear your rear cassette to fit the stretch of the chain and left unchecked will eventually start to wear your chain rings as well (basically, things go from bad to worse). Now, instead of just replacing your chain you’ll need to replace your entire drivetrain, which is significantly more expensive. And don’t go thinking you can get away with putting a new chain on a worn drivetrain. You can’t. Your cassette and chainrings are worn to fit the ‘stretch’ of the chain they now won’t interface properly with the new chain. The same story goes for your single speeds as well.
The moral of this cautionary tale? Measure your chain! If it sounds too confusing, just remember to get it checked and your shop can do the rest.
Spring is the time to knock off the preverbal cobwebs of winter, so do right by your old friend, the bike, and show it some love. Not only will these three things keep your bike rolling stronger for longer, it will also keep money in your pocket. Who doesn’t love that?