January 21, 2012
After a foot of snow falls in a couple of days, getting out on the bike is tough going, even on a fat bike! With limited daylight and nasty conditions making it hard to get in the saddle, it's a good time to tackle some more time consuming maintenance projects.
Most touring bikes out there are made of steel, and the wet winter and spring conditions can put the hurt to a steel frame and fork. JP Weigle Frame Saver only needs to be applied once every couple of years and does a great job of protecting the inside of your frame. The outside surface of your frame is protected by the bike's paint, but chips can expose portions of raw steel. Some bike manufacturers can send you a small bottle of touchup paint for this, but it might be easier to just run out to the store and pick up some nail polish that closely matches your paint scheme.
After a season of riding, you may have some drivetrain components nearing the end of their lives. The chain and cassette tend to wear out quicker than other drivetrain components, so this is a good place to focus first. If the cassette teeth are looking very pointy, it's about finished and needs to be replaced. As for the chain, you can use a chain checker tool to see how much it has stretched, or look at how it overlaps your chainring teeth. If it doesn't sit flush against your front chainring it is ready to be replaced.
The bottom bracket is another drivetrain component that can wear out over the course of a season. If there is any play in the crankset side to side, the bottom bracket bearings are likley shot and you guessed it, it needs to be replaced.
Cables and Housing
It's amazing how much a new set of cables and housing can improve the quality of shifting and braking. Lately, I've been a huge fan of Gore Ride-On Sealed Low Friction cables and housing. This fully sealed cable/housing combo keeps water and grit from getting into your housing and around your cables and extends their life and quality.
As long as you're ripping parts off the bike left and right for cleaning and greasing, you may as well think about parts you want to upgrade or replace. For instance, maybe you want to give moustache bars a shot this season, or cut up your Brooks B17 to make it a poor man's Brooks Swallow.
Major mechanical undertakings can take a good amount of time, and you don't want to be in a rush through any of this, so don't expect to pound all of this out in one evening. If you're new to bike maintenance and want to learn how to work on your bike properly, check with your local shops or clubs and see if they have any bike maintenance clinics coming up. If you're a self taught individual, there is no shortage of bike mechanic books out there.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.
The cheapest and easiest way to check a chain for wear is to measure it with a ruler; measure from a link pin (the round bit that sticks out slightly from either end of each link in the chain) to the closest link pin at the 12 inch mark. If the pin lines up to more than 12 and one sixteenth it's time for a new chain or you'll wear the chainring and cassette out. It's far harder to explain than actually measure...
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A snow day is also a good time to patch all those punctured tubes you have cluttering up the garage. I toss all my flats into a big box, and in evil weather I drag it into the house and repair as many as I can bear.Try not to huff too much glue, though. You'll wind up on the streets or working for bicycle magazines.