Maintenance Schedules (or a Lack Thereof)

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I have friends who put their bikes on a regular maintenance schedule just like a car, with X number of miles indicating a hub repacking, Y number of miles indicating a headset rebuild, and so on. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists published just such a maintenance schedule (from the League’s “Bicycle USA” magazine via the Seattle Bicycle Club’s website):

Before every ride:

  • Check tire air pressure.
  • Check brakes and cables.
  • Be sure your crank set is tight.
  • Be sure quick release hubs are tight, but not too tight.

After every ride:

  • Inspect tires for glass, gravel shards, and cuts on tread and sidewall.
  • Check wheels for true.
  • Clean the bike’s mechanical parts as necessary.

Once a week or every 200 miles:

  • Lubricate chain (with dry lube; or every other week or 400 miles with wet chain lube).

Once a month:

  • Completely clean the bike, including the drivetrain if necessary.
  • Inspect chain and freewheel. Measure the chain for wear, check for tight links and replace the chain if necessary.
  • Inspect and lubricate brake levers, derailleurs and all cables.
  • Inspect pedals and lubricate SPD style cleats.
  • Inspect and check for looseness in the:
  • stem binder bolt
  • handlebar binder bolt
  • seatpost binder bolt (or quick release)
  • seat fixing bolt
  • crank bolts
  • chainring bolts
  • derailleur mounting bolts
  • bottle cage bolts
  • rack mounting bolts (use thread lock on these)
  • brake and derailleur cable anchors
  • brake and shifter lever mounting bolts
  • brake mounting bolts (do not alter brake centering)
  • Inspect tires for wear; rotate or replace if needed.

Every three months:

  • Wax bike. A clean, shiny bike always seems to go faster and farther.
  • Inspect frame and fork for paint cracks or bulges that may indicate frame or part damage; pay particular attention to all frame joints.
  • Visually inspect for bent components: seat rails, seat post, stem. handlebars, chainrings, crankarms, brake calipers and brake levers.

Every six months:

  • Inspect and readjust bearings in headset, hubs, pedals and bottom bracket (if possible; some sealed cartridge bearings cannot be adjusted, only replaced)

Annually:

  • Disassemble and overhaul; replace all bearings (if possible); and remove and if necessary replace all brake and shift cables. This should be performed at 6000 miles if you ride more than that per year. Commuters who often ride in the rain or mountain bikers who get dirty should overhaul their bicycles more often.

Wow, that’s a helluva schedule. I wish I could say I’m that diligent and organized, but I’m much more reactive in my maintenance routines. I’m on a regular 400-mile chain re-waxing schedule, but beyond that, it’s pretty much a squirt of oil here and there after a washing, and a hub, bottom bracket, or headset repacking once a decade whether it’s needed or not… ;-) I’m not recommending this approach, but mostly, I attend to things when they squeak, fray, rattle, or break.

I sometimes unknowingly pay the price for my nonchalant methods. For example, I recently planned on replacing the brakes on one of my bikes, but the retrofit went south for various reasons that I won’t go into here, so while I had the old brakes off, I gave them an overhaul. Nothing serious, just cleaning the posts and bushings, greasing the posts, oiling the other moving parts, taking up some cable slack, adjusting the springs, and putting everything back in place. Wow, what an improvement. I didn’t realize what I’d been missing because of my lackadaisical maintenance habits. Makes me wonder what else is in need of attention (probably my hubs and headset).

Of course, it’s possible to over do it. I had a friend years ago who repacked the grease in every bearing race on his bike about once a month (this was in Seattle during the winter, so it wasn’t completely insane). He was always having trouble with bearing adjustments, stripped cone nuts, etc. All that tweaking and adjusting ended up being harder on his bike than if he’d just left it alone.

Like so many things in life, it seems the solution here is balance; something between obsessive tinkering and total neglect. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the obsessiveness of the LAB schedule posted above, but perhaps I need to move just a little further in that direction.

How about you, do you maintain your bike on a strict maintenance schedule, or do you use more of a reactive approach?

Do you service your bike on a maintenance schedule?

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Sport, or Transport?

Michael on the Betty Foy

When we were kids, we pretty much lived on our bikes. We rode all over the countryside surrounding our small, rural farm town, jumping through ditches, popping wheelies, and tearing across fields for fun and kicks.

When I was 10 years old, our gang went on our first major expedition, riding from our hometown, all the way to the mall in the next city and back. It was quite an adventure.

We also started early using our bikes for getting places. I first rode my bike to school in 2nd or 3rd grade. When I was 10 years old, our gang went on our first major expedition, riding from our hometown, all the way to the mall in the next city and back. It was quite an adventure. I measured the route on Google Maps this evening; the round trip was 22.4 miles.

From that auspicious start, bicycling for sport and bicycling for transport have been inextricably entwined for me. Over the years I’ve done some racing, lots of club riding, and even more mountain biking. Throughout, I’ve always used a bike for errands, commuting, and just getting around, but it’s only in recent years that a majority of my riding has been for transportation. Interestingly, this shift hasn’t diminished my enjoyment one iota. In fact, a more purposeful approach to riding has made it more rewarding than ever.

How about you? Are you a pure sport rider, or do you mix in some utility riding? Are you a pure transpo rider, or did you start riding for practical reasons, then take up sport riding later on? Has bicycling been a lifelong pursuit, or did you take it up in recent years? We’d love to hear your story.

How much of your riding is for transportation/utility?

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How long have you been riding on a regular basis?

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How’s the Weather?

Rain Commute

It’s over a month until the Winter Solstice arrives, but the winter bike commuting season is already on our doorstep. We’ve had some rain, and today was one of the coldest mornings we’ve had in many months. I don’t at all mind the cold, but I have to admit, I’ve developed a slight aversion to rain riding over the past decade or so.

I lived in Seattle for 10 years, and during that time I became what I’d now consider a hardcore rain rider. The fact is, if you’re a serious bike rider who lives in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll either develop a complete nonchalance toward soggy conditions, or you’ll quit riding altogether; there’s just too much rain to make a fuss about it and continue riding.

It’s my theory that NorCal’s blue skies and dry roads just bake the Northwest right out of you.

After moving back to California, I lost nearly all of my hard-earned tolerance for commuting in the rain. It’s my theory that NorCal’s blue skies and dry roads just bake the Northwest right out of you. The area where I currently live sees precipitation on approximately 60 days per year. I’d guess that on half of those days we only see a sprinkle or two, which leaves only 30 days with what an ex-Seattleite would classify as rain.

Because I split my work week between the home office and the real office, I only occasionally end up commuting in the rain. At this point, wet commutes are enough of a novelty that they’re sort of fun. Perhaps if I lived in a wet climate again I’d get my webbed feet back, but for now, I don’t miss the feeling of being water-logged for the entire winter. As for snow riding, I’ve never tried it. I can say this; I have a healthy respect for my fellow bike commuters who put on studded snow tires and plow on through!

How about you? Do you look forward to winter commuting or is it something you dread? Does the weather slow you down or do you ride straight through? Feel free to elaborate in the comments below.

How does the weather affect your commute?

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What’s Your Position on Position?

In an article published in the Eurobike Show Daily (and re-published at BikeBiz), Mark Sanders (designer of the Strida folding bike) makes the case for bicycles designed to place the rider in a perfectly upright posture, not unlike how a person would sit behind the wheel of a car, or in an ergonomic chair at a computer. From the article:

Although more upright than racing bikes, mountain bikes and hybrid bikes do not give good posture for everyday, and around town use; the lean forward posture, still strains the back, neck and wrists. Only the upright posture is really suitable for a pleasant journey by bicycle.

I’ve owned everything from hi-racer recumbents with steeply inclined seats, to diamond frame racing bikes with dramatic drops from the saddle to the bars. On diamond frames, I’ve found handlebar positions that distribute the rider’s weight somewhat equally between the saddle, pedals, and handlebars to be the most comfortable. For short rides, say under 5 miles, the bolt upright position works well (to be fair, at those distances, almost anything works OK). But, for longer rides, carrying all of my weight on my derrier eventually becomes uncomfortable, and I do better with a slightly stretched out position that takes at least some of my weight off of the saddle and places it forward on the bars and pedals.

How about you? Do you prefer to sit perfectly upright, or does a more stretched out position provide more comfort?

Which riding position do you prefer?

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Bike Design and Sloping Top Tubes

Over at Rivendell’s Peeking Through the Knothole blog, Grant Petersen has been conducting an informal class on how to design a bicycle frame using a pencil, ruler, calculator, protractor, and graph paper. I’m not participating, but I’ve enjoyed following along. You can view the introductory post here, and the successive lessons are listed reverse-chronologically here.

Today’s lesson on top tubes is particularly interesting. In it, Mr. Petersen talks a bit about level versus sloping top tubes and the advantages and disadvantages of both. Here’s an excerpt:

If you want a compact frame, you can shorten the seat tube a lot, get more crotch clearance (overrated), and still get the high head tube–or even higher, if you like. Then you’ll need a mother-of-a-seat post, but heaven knows they’re out there. It might seem as though you get all good stuff (lighter frame because of less material; stiffer frame becaus of smaller triangle, lower standover height, and just as high or higher head tube and handlebars) with no drawbacks. But there is one drawback: The bike is jumpier, less smooth, harder to control…just doesn’t have the luscious velveeta feeling. You can get used to it and may even come to prefer it, but I like a bike with a normal feel, and a higher top tube seems to help that. This is a subjective, not an objective observation.

I’m hopelessly stuck in the past on this topic, but I’ve been warming up to mildly sloping top tubes in recent years, partially due to the Sam Hillborne (see above).

How about you? Do you prefer an old school level top tube, or do modern sloping top tubes appeal to your sensibilities (aesthetic or otherwise)?

Which top tube style do you prefer?

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Sweep

Here are a couple of Panda portraits showing my new Civia bars versus my old Nitto North Road bars (both installed on the LHT). As different as these bars look, surprisingly, the fore/aft grip positions are nearly identical. The wrist angles (aka sweep) are different though; the Nitto is at 70 degrees, while the Civia is at 50 degrees. While the Civia wrist angle provides more leverage and a feeling of quicker, more secure steering, the 70-degree angle of the Nitto is more casual and relaxed. The Nitto has a couple of centimeters of rise which also contributes to the relaxed feeling. I haven’t yet decided which I prefer…

Civia Aldrich – 50 Degrees
Nitto North Road – 70 Degrees

For those of you who are riding bars other than drops, how much sweep do you prefer?

How much sweep do you prefer?

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Bikeway or the Highway?

In the follow-up discussion to yesterday’s post about Bob Mionske’s article on bicycle infrastructure, there was a question about whether our readers prefer to ride in areas with bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes, sharrows, and separated bikeways, or whether they prefer to ride in areas with no bicycle-specific infrastructure at all. The feedback I’ve received seems to indicate the majority of our readers prefer riding in areas where there is well-developed infrastructure, but in all honesty, I don’t really know. So, I ask the question: Given the choice, do you prefer to ride in areas with well-developed bicycle infrastructure, or do you prefer to ride in areas with only legacy roads and no bicycle-specific infrastructure?

Given the choice, where do you prefer to ride?

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