[Excuse the randomness of this post - this is what happens when I'm on vacation...LOL. —Alan]
I’m doing a little routine maintenance on the bikes today. Nothing too Earth-shattering, just wiping off the accumulated grime, scanning for damage, checking wheel alignment, lubing where needed, adjusting cables where needed, checking for loose nuts & bolts, and topping off the tires. We’re talking 15-20 minutes per bike at most, assuming I don’t discover some problem. I run through this routine every few weeks and I rarely, if ever, get caught on the road with a mechanical problem.
We were on recumbents the past few years before switching to uprights earlier this year. Even though we rode high-end recumbents, I’m finding our uprights are requiring less maintenance. I’m guessing this is because recumbents have longer cable runs and chains, with cables and chains being the two things that require the most attention on bicycles. This isn’t a dig on recumbents, just something I noticed but didn’t expect.
About checking for loose nuts and bolts… Notice that I say “checking”, not “tightening”. When I say “check”, I mean just make sure nothing is backing off or settling to the point of vibrating loose. I try to avoid incrementally tightening every nut & bolt on the bike every time I check – doing so will eventually break something.
Get yourself some good tubes; I recommend Schwalbe. With good quality tubes you may only have to top-off your tires every 3-4 weeks, whereas cheapie tubes may require re-inflation once a week or more. We’re only talking a couple of dollars difference in price to substantially reduce your hassle factor.
With their teeny-tiny chains, any good quality lube will do on an upright; recumbents require more time and attention in this area. I try to avoid over-lubing my chain; I place one drop on each link, then wipe off the excess. Leaving excess lube on a chain attracts dirt and causes far more harm than running a little dry (assuming there’s no rust). How often I have to apply the lube depends upon the particular lube I’m using, what kind of conditions I’m riding in, the length of the chain, and whether the chain is exposed. For example, I haven’t had to lube the enclosed chains on our Pashleys in over 4 months, yet on my old Tour Easy I went through a fairly elaborate chain maintenance routine on a regular schedule. Again, no dig on ‘bents, just the result of a long, exposed chain running across idlers and picking up a lot of road grime.
I tend to like bikes that are overbuilt so I don’t have to spend too much time truing wheels, babying parts, etc. A heavy-duty, well-built, city or touring bike, if used and not abused, will rarely, if ever, require any maintenance beyond the basics of lubrication and minor adjustments. My LHT, for example, has been fairly heavily ridden for over 6 months, yet I haven’t had to do anything other than one minor headset adjustment a few weeks ago. Even the factory built wheels are perfectly true after a bunch of curb-hopping and pothole encounters. Of course, parts will eventually wear out and require replacement, but that doesn’t qualify as “maintenance” in my book.
I probably spend more time than needed maintaining our bikes, but it’s something I enjoy that adds to the overall experience of cycling for me. If I didn’t enjoy it, I could probably get away with squirting a little Phil’s on the chains once a month and riding the bikes until something falls off. We did that for years when we were kids and our bikes never suffered any ill effects for it.