Bike maintenance - how often, how much? - CycleBlaze

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Bike maintenance - how often, how much?

Keith Adams

It's a pleasant late-August afternoon, good for working outdoors, so I've just finished showing three of my bikes a bit of love.  I washed the frames, wiped off and re-lubed the chains, and just generally cleaned them up at a cosmetic level.  Heavy maintenance, like running the chains through the ultrasonic cleaner, stripping and repacking wheel bearings and bottom brackets, and so forth, is a winter task (for me).

One of them, my mountain bike, lives a pretty hard life when it's actually in use.  Being an off-road machine it sees much more mud, dirt, dust, grass, and so forth than its compadres, which are limited to paved surfaces.  It has been a long while indeed, both calendar-wise and in terms of distance traveled, since I did more than pump up the tires and go ride.  On the other hand, of the three bikes that are in more-or-less "active" use (at least a few rides each year) it sees the least use, with the greatest passage of time between episodes.

My road bike has also been rather neglected of late and I was embarrassed to see, the last time I looked closely at it, how much dirt and crud I had allowed to build up on the underside of the down tube, around the cranks, behind the bottom bracket, etc.  It was really that knowledge that prompted me to get out the work stand, a few tools, and the bucket o' suds and set to work today.

The still-too-new-to-neglect touring bike has the fewest miles and is naturally therefore the cleanest.  In part that's because, of the three, not only is it the only one to have not been ridden on a recently-dampened surface it's also the only one with fenders.  Still, it got a loving wipe down all over, and a fresh dab of lube on the chain to keep things humming along nicely and without drama.

All of that got me to thinking: what do others do?  Are you the sort of person who feels that as long as there's nothing obviously broken or maladjusted, and so long as there's air in the tires, all is well (enough) and there's no need to worry yourself further?  Or are you the opposite type, who believes that a bicycle that isn't in  a factory-fresh state of hygiene is essentially neglected and unloved?

Do you keep a record of what's been done, and when (both time-wise and mileage-wise)?

It doesn't matter for the purposes of this discussion whether you do the work yourself or have your favorite bike shop do it; what's important is whether or not it gets done at all, and if so how much and how often?

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1 month ago
Graham SmithTo Keith Adams

Keith for me, this is a very timely post. Like you I have a few bikes.

My most used bike is a red Thorn Audax. A beautiful steel framed commuter bike and light tourer. I’ve owned it since new for about 10 years. It’s covered at least 40,000 km including a couple of tours.

Last week I took it to my local bike shop for a health check, thinking all it needed was a tune, new brake pads and cables. I keep it fairly clean.

Whoops. It needs a full makeover. Bottom bracket rebuild, both wheels need respoking, bar-tape replacement, cranks have problems, all cables and outers are toast, chain and cassette worn out, middle chain ring missing teeth and so on. Despite all this, it’d been riding ok. 

My heavy duty touring bike I have fully serviced at the completion of every tour, so it’s always ready to go on the next tour.

Future proofing is a consideration nowadays. I’ve stocked up on components such as 9 speed chains and cassettes which are becoming harder to find. And also chainrings for my triple chain-set bikes. 

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1 month ago
George HallTo Keith Adams

These days I have 2 bikes that see the most usage. They are both touring bikes - one of them (a Fuji Tour) gets used as my daily rider and training bike to get me ready for long tours. The other bike (customized Surly Long Haul Trucker) is ridden only on tour, or occasionally on days if I have a flat on the Fuji.  

I only do what's necessary to keep the Fuji rolling each day; no special cleaning, occasional chain lube, replace tires, chains, brake pads only when needed - mostly I just ride it every day.  The Fuji gets "hand-me-down" tires from the Surly after a tour.

Before each major tour, I give the Surly a thorough check-out. I clean it, wax it, lube all the moving parts, tighten all the bolts, replace the chain and brake pads if needed, and install new tires and tubes.  I then take it out for 1 or 2 shakedown rides to verify all is well and dial in the fit (strange, but after riding my other bike for a year or so between tours, I always seem to need to tweak the fit of the Surly a bit, even though I hadn't changed anything since the last tour).

I also have a road bike - a 1981 Raleigh Super Course with downtube friction shifters. I rarely ride it, it's only a backup in case one of the others isn't available. I really need to do a lot of maintenance on it, but I don't - I just air up the tires and go when I need it.

I do keep a maintenance log for my bikes. I don't record details like lubing, but I note the date and mileage when I installed new chain, tires, brake pads, shift cables, etc.  Because of that, I know that tires last me for about 8,000 miles and that a chain is good for about, 4,000 miles. YMMV of course.

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4 weeks ago