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Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!

TriBlogsby TriBlogsNov 4th 2012

Winter Bike Maintenance By Will Pool @TheTriShop

Whether it's your only bike for everything from commuting to racing, or the least loved of a stable of bikes, one for each application (or to match your shorts), it's about to get a whole lot of abuse. Winter is a bike's worst nightmare, and can, if you're not careful, cost rather more than necessary.

There are, however, a few ways to keep the cost of riding through the slightly less clement months down.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
Keeping an eye on things like wear on the rims or the state of wheel bearings gives prior warning of potential problems, if you know what to look for. There are some things which become obvious during the course or everyday riding, such as a knocking developing during braking. This could indicate a loose headset. Other things can be highlighted with a regular quick look over the bike, say, once a week.

Unlike the headset, play in the wheel bearings can be a little harder to pick up. By holding the top of the wheel and moving it side to side (relative to the direction of travel), you should be able to feel a slight knocking... If there's one to feel.

While you're there, run your fingers up and down the braking surface of the rim. If it's flat, so much the better. If it's slightly concave, that's your indication that it's beginning to wear. No worries, that's not the end of the world but it's worth keeping an eye on. It's also worth checking your brake pads for buildups of material from the rims. These look like metallic stones, and could feasibly be accompanied by small stones themselves. Either could create a scraping sound when braking, so again should be noticeable when riding.

The drivetrain (chain, associated sprockets) is a little harder to check visually, but as soon as the teeth on the rings and the most-used gears of the cassette (the collection of gears attached to the rear wheel) begin to become burred, you know the bike's seen some action.

None of these things are terminal in themselves, as long as the next steps are taken.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
The best way is with water, but wipes can be used too, at least for the frame. The old bucket and sponge is a good option, a hose is great too, and even a pressure washer - although some would say definitely not to - can be used, with care. A light spray of some specific detergent (Muc-Off or the like), leave it on, then wash it off. A bit more attention to the drivetrain area should loosen some of the more built up greasy deposits there.

It's worth mentioning at this point that any power behind your wash, be it a lowly garden hose, or a jet wash which could strip paint, can and will force dirt past bearing seals, thus shortening the life of those bearings. Be careful where you aim your water, and how long it's there for.

Leave no part of the bike ignored. Wash it from both sides, and upside down. This is a good point at which to have the wheels off the bike so you can clean the underside of mudguards or brakes, and get into areas which don't get much attention.

Let the bike dry a little, then wipe it down. A clean bike is somehow more enjoyable to ride, but the key thing is in the next section.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
Many people have different opinions about which lube to use in which conditions, so I'll make it simple. Thin, spray-on lubes wash off easily. Thicker, heavier weight ones stay on longer. Personally, I use Bike Spray (again, a Muc-Off product) or GT85 (the typical smell of bike shop) initially, as they both have moisture dispersant properties. That helps dry out the chain and cables without encouraging rust. Then the heavier stuff goes on, a light coating which gets spread across the gears by a quick ride.

I mention cables - it's just as important to banish moisture and relube them as it is the chain. It may be the chain that gets the bike moving, but it's the brake cables which allow you to stop, and the gear cables that mean you aren't stuck in the wrong gear when you least expect it.

It's definitely worth lubing the pivots of the derailleurs (or mechs) too. The front mech particularly comes in for a lot of abuse, it's right in the firing line for everything that comes flying off the rear wheel, be that water, mud, or the salt which gets spread so generously across our roads. Seized front mechs are something most mechanics will write off without the slightest attempt to free them, but a lot of lube and some 'gentle persuasion' can get them running again - if you're willing to spend the time doing it.

Basically, if it moves, lube it - I shouldn't have to add the caveat that you absolutely do not lube anything related to braking. Not the rims, not the pads, not the rotors (if you have disc brakes).
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
Simply put, keeping brake pads clear of debris and replacing them when necessary massively increases rim life. Cartridge style brake pads can cost less than £10 for a bike's worth, which, offset against the cost of new wheels, isn't much. The cost of cleaning and lubrication products are considerably better value than a new drivetrain. Investing a bit in your bike short-term will save money in the fullness of time.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
Let your bike wear out and it will become dangerous. Whether it be the bare metallic backing of worn out brake pads offering zero braking performance and gouging chunks our of the rims at every opportunity or a tired drivetrain slipping every time you try to accelerate, there are many ways an unmaintained bike can turn on you. Look after your bike and it will look after you.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
Beyond that, ask about it. Surely you'd rather know than ride with doubts about your bike? Speaking as a mechanic, I'd rather give a few minutes to someone asking how to look after their bike than have to explain why the wear and tear parts haven't lasted as long as they hoped.

Many shops run maintenance courses, pitched at a range of levels. At The Triathlon Shop, we've just had a very successful few evenings addressing everything from proper removal and reinstallation of wheels to on-the-fly roadside repairs, and everything in between. We'll be running some more in January, and you'd be more than welcome.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page (search 'The Triathlon Shop'), twitter (@TheTriShop) and or use the links below for details and other updates.
Guest Blog: Check it, Wash it, Lube it & Ask about it!
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