Blog by: Chris Mayhew
It’s that time of year already
Counterintuitively, right now is actually the best time to deal with maintaining your bike for UPMC Health Plan PedalPGH. The last time I worked in a bike shop in January and February, I was reading a book a week. It’s slooooow in bike shops right now.
If you pull out your bike from storage right now and take it to a shop you can get same-day or next-day service. You’ll also get much more face time and attentiveness from bike shop employees because you’ll be one of few customers.
Once the weather gets nice (in another month or so) every mechanic will be dealing with 5+ customers until November. Be an early bird and get your bike to the shop now so you can start training for PedalPGH.
What will the shop look at?
Or, conversely, what should you be doing if you don’t want to take it to the shop? There are a few critical areas that will save you a lot of time and hassle if you can address them first.
The easiest is tire pressure.
Find the recommended pressure range on the sidewall and pump the tires up to the higher end of that range. Any tire will lose air over time and correct pressure is the number one way to avoid flats.
The second area is to inspect your drivetrain – primarily your chain.
You can use a chain checker tool or a simple ruler to measure the wear on your bike chain. Pin to pin, your chain should measure 12 inches.
- 12 and 1/6th inches means you need a new chain.
- 12 and 1/8th inches means you’ll need a new chain and cassette.
- Any more than that could indicate wear of the chainrings as well.
By replacing your chain early and often, you can save wear and tear on the much more expensive cassette and cranks. Once those start to wear, you’ll spend much more on labor and replacement parts.
Speaking of your crank, give it a spin with the chain off. It should spin freely and come to rest gradually. If not, look into getting it replaced. There’s no reason to waste energy pedaling on a rusted out bottom bracket. On some bikes, this can cause expensive wear on other parts.
The third place to check is cables.
Run through the gears. Do they shift cleanly and smoothly? Do they hesitate more in one direction than the other, particularly going down to harder/smaller gears in the rear? That’s a sign your cables are in need of replacement.
You might as well replace the housing too since they tend to wear out together and the labor is typically the same. Give the brakes a squeeze as well. How much resistance is there in pulling? Do the pads retract smoothly? For both sets of cables, how much rust can you see on the cables? Cables are a low-cost item, but they’ll certainly ruin your bike ride if they break. Replace early and often, like chains.
Lastly, look at your brake pads if you have rim brakes. Pads often have bits of embedded metal in them that will quickly destroy your rims. They don’t offer nearly as much braking power as clean pads. A quick way to remedy the issue is to lightly file the pads. File just enough so that the metal is removed and the pads lose their sheen and are matte black again.
Or you can simply replace them, especially if the are too worn. If you have disc brake pads, the pads should be replaced if they are thinner than a dime – don’t file them.
Get Ready, Summer is Coming
UPMC Health Plan PedalPGH seems a loooong way off. But in another month or so, this cold weather will break and you’re going to want to be on your bike to get ready for it. Use this time to prepare for the miles you want to ride.
Everyone else is going to want to ride in a month or so, and if you an get ahead of them, you won’t have to be without your bike for weeks while you wait for important repairs at your local shop. Spend some time with your local mechanic or home repair stand so you can be ready to roll when the warm weather arrives.
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