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Basic Bike Maintenance

01 January 2014

It's a bummer but your mountain bike or e-Mtb needs care, love and attention - just like your family cat.

Keep That Bike Clean

It's strangely cathartic to return your abused bike to near-showroom condition. Apart from aesthetics, the cleaning process lets you assess the condition of components so you can catch potential problems early - a stitch in time and all that. A dry rag works well. If it's really grotty then a preliminary gentle wash with warm soapy water and spray-on bike wash helps. But remember that just like your family cat, bikes hate water forced into the wrong places. Don't squirt with high pressure - the water works its way into hubs, pedals, shocks and bottom brackets to cause permanent damage.

Chain Care

Regularly cleaning and lubing your bike's chain reduces wear and improves shifting performance. Worn chains are bad karma. They drastically increase front and rear cog wear. Replacement drivetrains are expensive, so looking after the business end of your bike is well worth the effort.

  1. Remove the crusty bits from your chain, derailleur, rear cluster and front chain ring(s) with a BBB Chain Brush. A tooth brush works ok too, but beware the wrath of your flatmates if they find out. A small flat blade screwdriver can help with stubborn detritus. 
  2. BBB Chain Cleaner with various rotating brushes will clean your chain to within an inch of its life.
  3. Score some Biomaxa Bio-degreaser to remove gunk, grit and grime from your chain.
  4. Top up the chain cleaner with the degreaser and clamp to your chain. Gently spin the pedals backwards - the brushes will whizz and whir to clean the chain. It may take a couple of goes with a fresh solution each time to get it spotless. After 15 minutes attack with a clean rag to remove any recalcitrant gunk - the degreaser should have worked it's way in to soften it up. Leave for a while to dry. 
  5. Then apply some Biomaxa Chain Lube. It's an effective, long-lasting lubricant for both summer and winter conditions - plus is easy on the environment. Squirt onto the chain while spinning the pedals slowly backwards. Fanatics lovingly squeeze one drop at a time onto each link - your choice. Once applied continue to spin the pedals for a couple of minutes to help distrubute the lube and coat the chain pins. It's best applied the night before you ride to give it time to make like Colgate and really 'get in'.
  6. Always apply lube in warm conditions - squirting onto a cold chain causes it to form nasty solid clumps. A hairdryer to pre-warm the chain is a good plan. Again - be stealth-like in borrowing and returning to your flatmate's room.
  7. Wipe off any excess lube with a clean rag. Be sure to never let lube get anywear near your disc brakes.

Gear cables

With time, cables stretch causing imprecise shifting - typically you'll find it difficult to select the biggest gear or the rear derailleur makes ghastly clicking noises when you attempt to change to an easier gear. It's simple to tighten cables by screwing the barrel adjuster by the gear shifter anti-clockwise. If that doesn't work, let your shop mechanic loose on the problem. Cables also enjoy being cleaned and lubricated - which helps to ensure featherlight shifting. 

Brake Adjustment

Brake pads wear and need tweaking. Hydraulic systems generally self adjust. Replacing worn pads is normally quite straight forward. Beyond that you'll need to engage the services of a YouTube tutorial or your local bike mechanic.

Check for wobbles or loose bits

Tighten the obvious with an Allen key, torx bit or spanner - boogie down to your local shop for the uncertain. Components you should keep an eye on are:

  • Bottom bracket - grab hold of both cranks and wrestle them sideways testing for any play. 
  • Headset - it can work loose but it's difficult to tell if this has happened. Apply the front brake and place your left hand at the top of the forks, with the tip of your thumb and forefinger clamped against the lower bearing set. Rock the bike backwards and forwards against the brakes, feeling for movement between the fork crown and frame. 
  • Hubs/wheel cones - grab each wheel at the rim and try to move from side to side - there should be no more than a couple of millimetres of play. Fixing these problems is best left to a bike mechanic unless you know what you're doing. Again there are some excellent YouTube tutorials to discover, or consult your local bike mechanic.