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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Is it time to clean the bike?

I have been riding in crappy weather for the last few weeks and have neglected the drivetrain. Not a good thing to do and I think that it is time to clean it. I use some of the Finish Line products. and found they have good tips on their website for maintenance.

Bike Fit and Comfort
Position your seat height, so that when you sit on the bike and have your foot at the lowest point in the pedal stroke, there is still a slight bend in your knee. Full leg extension will cause your hips to rock when you pedal. Too much bend in your knee will keep full pedal power from getting to the pedals. And, incorrect positioning will lead to discomfort and leg cramps over long rides. Position the seat forward or back, so your knee is directly over the pedal when you have your foot and pedal in the "3 o’clock" position. Handlebars should be approximately shoulder width wide and be positioned at about the same level as your seat. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows when riding to absorb shock. Also, a change in stem length may be helpful. Your local bike shop has a selection of different sized stems to get that "perfect" fit. To avoid hand numbness over long rides, keep your wrists straight and change hand positions occasionally. Keep a firm, but relaxed grip and try a set of bar-ends for additional positioning options.

Braking Performance
Glazed, hardened, dirty, or misaligned brake pads account for nearly all "loss of braking power" problems. Keep the surface of your brake pads clean and fresh by using sandpaper or steel wool to scuff away any debris, and hardened glaze. Check the alignment. The pad should be "toed in" about 1/8" to first make contact with the rim at its front half. Additionally, the pad should contact the center of the rim. The pad should never rub the tire, or hang off the rim. In general, clean and inspect your brake pads every month. Brake pads are inexpensive and relatively easy to replace. You'll be amazed at the difference new brake pads make. Regularly clean your rims with EcoTech 2 Degreaser. Your pads will work better and last longer.

Bottom Bracket
Bottom brackets, (B.B.s) are the bearing and spindle assemblies that your pedal crank arms spin upon. Because of their low and central location, they are constantly being exposed to the worst of contaminants. Many B.B.s feature sealed bearing assemblies. However, it does help to keep an eye on their outer shields and keep them as clean as possible, by wiping away any crud with a rag. Also, do not spray pressurized water at the shields.

Creaking Bottom Brackets
This annoying trait can be caused by a variety of things. All require special tools to fix and are best left to a professional mechanic.

Note Some B.B.s utilize semi-sealed or non-sealed bearing assemblies. They should be cleaned, inspected and re-greased about every 6 months. This job requires special tools, so don’t cheat and use a hammer and/or pipe wrench. You’ll end up ruining your bottom bracket and they’re not cheap to replace.

Lubricating Your Cables
Smooth operating cables are the life lines that keep your braking and shifting system working optimally. There are a variety of ways to lubricate your cables, from removing them, to just shooting a little lube into the ends of the cable housings. Depending on how much wet weather riding you do, your cables will require different amounts of attention. You should inspect and lube, if necessary, every 4 - 6 rides. For quick maintenance, squirt or drip a "dry" style lube into the open ends of the cable housings.

Note When it is time for a thorough cleaning and re-lubing of your cables, a trained mechanic should tackle the job. Unless you are experienced in removing your own cables, you can easily spend a few hours getting everything readjusted properly.

Lubing Your Derailleurs
Your derailleurs are just as important as your chain, in helping to deliver those crisp, exact shifts that make cycling a true joy. The derailleurs shift your chain by using a system of springs and pivots. It is important to keep these springs and pivots well lubricated. They will require a shot of lube every 5 - 7 rides. Lubing your derailleurs is easiest when you flip your bike upside down. This provides better access.
Note: Gears (sprockets) do not require any special lube application. The gears receive sufficient lubrication from the chain, as it runs through them. Excessive lubricant on the gears will attract dirt and eventually degrade the performance of your drivetrain components.

Creaking Stem
Sometimes, the handlebar stem will "creak". This is usually caused by one of two things: either dirt that has worked it’s way down between the stem and the fork’s steerer tube or the stem has come slightly loose. To fix this, loosen the stem, remove it from the steerer tube, and clean it using Citrus BioSolvent or EcoTech 2. Reassemble and tighten to correct torque specification.

Note Some high-end stem mounting designs may require special tools or unique reassembly torques. Check with your local shop if you have any questions.

Caring for Front and Rear Hubs
Some hubs have "open" bearing assemblies, with only a "dust shield" between them and the elements. You’ll need to routinely inspect, clean and re-grease these type of hubs. In general, inspect, clean and re-grease hubs every 4 months. Carefully disassemble the hub and clean with Citrus BioSolvent or EcoTech-2. Inspect all components and particularly look for pits, cracks, or flat spots in the ball bearings and race surfaces. Generously apply Finish Line Premium Grease to the bearing and race surface, then reassemble. Adjust so bearings run smooth and free, but allow no side-to-side or up-and-down play.

Note Many hubs now feature "sealed bearing assemblies". Just keep their outer seals clean with an occasional rag wipe. Don’t spray water or degreaser into your bearings. Properly cared for, sealed bearing hubs will last a long time.

Lubing Your Brake & Shift Levers
All brake and shifter levers work by using springs and ratchets that arc on pivots. You will need to lube your levers every 6 months.
Cleaning: Your levers will require no more than a quick cleaning. A squirt of bicycle degreaser, a quick scrubbing with a brush, and/or wipe with a rag, should do it. If mud and sand have worked its way into the heart of your brake and shifter levers, it is recommended that you have a trained mechanic tackle the job. Disassembly and reassembly of these components can be quite complicated.

Lubing: Run your levers through their full range of motion while squirting a little lube into the spring and ratchet mechanism. Place a drop of lube onto the pivot and work it into the joint.

Note Like your derailleurs, it may be easier to access the lube points on your levers by turning your bike upside down.

Position your front and rear wheel quick-release levers opposite the drivetrain side of the bike. The rear lever should have a tightly closed handle that runs parallel to the chainstay tube. The front lever should be pointed up, tucked next to the fork. These positions will prevent a glancing blow, from a trailside obstacle, from accidentally opening the levers. If you’re new to quick-release axles, make sure your bicycle dealer shows you how to properly use and tension the levers.

Grease your Seat Post
Apply a thin layer of Finish Line Premium Grease to your seat post, where it slides and mounts into the frame. This will keep the seat post from galvanically cold-welding itself within the frame.

Seat Height Adjustment
Use a low seat adjustment for more control during fast downhill riding. Use a high seat adjustment (with a slight bend in the knee) for efficient, long distance pedaling.


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