Winter isn’t a fun time for us cyclists, it’s cold, wet, and wreaks havoc on our cherished machines that we rely on every day. The last thing that we need is a bike that doesn’t perform the way that it should! Whether you are a student at UVic. or you’re commuting to work every day, we can all benefit from a little maintenance here and there to keep our bikes running as they should. Here’s five tricks from a bike mechanic to keep your bike happy this holiday season.
- Keep that chain oiled While it’s always a good idea to have a well oiled chain, in the winter it’s essential! Without oil, your chain will easily fall victim to the rough environment of the road, plain water is bad enough, but mix in the salt and road film and your drivetrain will be gone in no time! Invest in a good, wet weather specific, chain lubricant from your local bike shop to keep your chain running happily. Bonus Tip: Stay away from chainsaw bar oil and other lubricants like non-bike-specific WD-40 as they are very sticky and will actually trap grime on your chain, detrimentally increasing the rate at which your entire drivetrain will wear out. This is a huge contributor to sloppy shifting.
- Careful cleaning It’s awesome that you want to clean your bike, but you must be careful when you do so! Bearings in your headset, bottom bracket, and wheel hubs have grease in them that can easily be washed out. High pressure washers are powerful enough to damage fork seals and dust covers as well. Tell Dad to put the power washer away and don’t use anything more forceful than what would naturally flow out of your garden hose when you want to give your bike a spray down. If you have a suspension fork with exposed seals around the stanchions it’s always a good idea to give the area around the seals a wipe to eliminate any grit that could score the stanchions.
- Get greasy Greasing key components on your bike is essential to maximizing your cycling experience. Components such as axles, quick releases, bearings, and seat tubes should always be greased. Take the time to make sure that these parts are lubed up with a good synthetic grease before you embark on your winter season of riding. Lack of grease can lead to a world of rust and headache. Spend five minutes greasing your ride up and your bike will thank you, and so will your wallet when you won’t have to pay your bike shop to rebuild your hubs. Pro Tip: Avoid getting grease on ANY of your braking components, a drop of grease on your brake rotor will result in the need for new brake pads and a rotor.
- Pump up those tires Physics 101, when the air cools off it contracts, which in our case means that our tires will naturally become under inflated as the temperature drops. Riding on under inflated tires will make the ride to work much more strenuous as over coming the force of friction between the tire and the road becomes harder. Aside from the damage to the tire, inner tube, and rim that riding with under inflated tires can cause, expect underwhelming cornering ability and traction. You can also expect damage to your ego when people point out your flat tires and tell you in a condescending tone why you should keep those babies pumped up.
- Adjust your derailleur Ninety percent of shifting issues are caused by having an incorrectly adjusted derailleur, either in the front or the rear The good news is that your days of gears skipping are almost over once you use these pro tips to get your shifting as smooth as butter. Before any adjustments are done to the derailleur, we must make sure that your derailleur hanger isn’t bent! This can be usually done by visually examining the derailleur cage and making sure that it is parallel to the gears on the rear cluster. If your derailleur hanger is bent then I can guarantee that this is the cause of your shifting dilemma; best to head to your local bike shop to either have it straightened or to pick up a new one as soon as possible. All right, now that the hanger is out of the way we must setup the cable tension and limits. This is a fantastic video for detailed information on setting up your rear derailleur. After your rear derailleur is dialled in check out this video as a resource for setting up your front derailleur.
While these tips will certainly improve your cycling experience, it is always a good idea to take your bicycle into a bike shop to be professionally checked over before you embark on another season of riding. Please ride carefully and have a great holiday season!