We all know that dreaded phone call when the bike (or car) is in for a service and the mechanic calls with a quote way higher than you anticipated and where parts are worn that you hadn’t even considered. Servicing is a necessity and your bike is a machine that sees a hard life in some pretty harsh conditions – it’s just a shock sometimes quite how quickly things can wear out. But what can we do to mitigate those conditions, increase the time between services and make the bill a little less painful to deal with?
The time between Silver services (think main service for the car) can be anywhere between 6 and 12 months – it all depends on the mileage and conditions you ride in, in this article we look at what easy measures you can take to ensure it is closer to the latter.
What shouldn’t you touch?
Let’s start out by covering the things that you can’t easily service and should generally leave to the bike shop (unless you are a budding home mechanic). The hubs on your wheels and the bottom bracket bearings (between your cranks) both fall into this category – they are sealed units that require specific tools to strip down or remove, so don’t go spraying anything in there or blasting with a pressure washer. Equally, if you have hydraulic disk brakes, this is a sealed system that will require bleeding every other service at most – changing worn pads and keeping them clean is the most you can do.
Little and often
OK, so what should you be doing? One of the best pieces of advice is to not let dirt and grime build up on your bike. Sometimes all you want to do when you finish your ride is dump the bike in the corner, but spending 2 minutes now will save you cash later. After each ride take an old rag and quickly wipe any dirt from your derailleurs (including jockey wheels) and then run your chain a few times through the cloth – and that’s it! Your chain will stay silver, rather than develop that black, gritty paste that eats components (every few rides more chain lube will be needed, we cover this later) and your bike will feel better next time you ride.
Keep it clean
A clean bike is a happy bike. This is made much easier if the above daily wipe-downs are being completed. Regularly (weekly) washing and cleaning your bicycle is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to extend the life of its parts. Dirt, grime, and salt can accelerate wear and tear, so invest in some quality bike cleaning kit. Bike wash for the frame/forks, degreaser for the drivetrain, sponges and brushes, and a hose with a low-pressure nozzle. After cleaning, be sure to dry your bike thoroughly with a clean cloth.
Next step, proper lubrication is key to finishing the job. Once the bike is wiped down and dry, use a thin water-repelling spray (GT85 or similar) on the chain and derailleurs to drive out any remaining water. Use this also to spray into the top of any cables to keep them running smoothly. Be careful to keep any overspray away from your brake pads (they could become contaminated, less effective and start to squeal!). Finally, use a high-quality chain lubricant (we love Morgan Blue lubes) to keep your chain running smoothly. Carefully apply a small drop on each link, but remember that less is often more – excessive lubrication can attract dirt and create that gritty paste. Leave the lube to penetrate for as long as possible, then before riding wipe down the chain again to get rid of any excess – it should be perfectly silver and not obviously wet with lube.
An overlooked, but critically important part are your tyres. Regular checks are essential both for safety and efficiency. Once your bike is clean, inspect the tread condition all the way round (many tyres have wear indicators to help) as well as the sidewalls for cuts or signs of casing showing – any damage and it’s time for a new boot! Also, get yourself a decent track pump so you can maintain the optimum tyre pressure every time you ride, you can also fine tune the feel of your bike and the balance between comfort and speed this way.
Brakes are obviously critical to your safety, so regularly check brake pads for wear (how you do this depends very much on the type of brakes you have). If you are confident with the system you have, new pads and a good clean with specific brake cleaner (we tend to use Cyclon) is all you need to restore peak performance and lever feel. As we said above, bleeding hydraulic brakes is required much less frequently. If you have cable operated brakes, you can increase the cable tension with the barrel adjuster on the brake lever for improved feel as your pads wear. From a safety perspective, anything you are not completely clear on, leave to the bike shop.
Learn to tweak your gears
The majority of bikes will receive new gear cables as part of a Silver or Gold service, which has a dramatic positive effect on shifting quality. New cables do tend to stretch a little once they have been used the first few times. The results of this stretch are more profoundly felt on the rear derailleur, where it causes the indexing to go out slightly. Thankfully this is an easy fix – if you feel your gears struggling to change up to the next gear (bigger cog, easier to pedal), find the barrel adjuster on the back of the rear derailleur and turn that anti-clockwise very slightly – ONLY 1 quarter turn initially. Jump on your bike and test the gears, if they are not quite right still repeat the process. The key here is very small adjustments. By the same token, if your rear gears are not shifting down to a smaller cog (harder gear) use a very small clockwise adjustment. In time you will get used to the level of adjustment required and more in tune with how your bike is working. Your front derailleur is less sensitive to fine adjustment, but if reluctant to shift up to a larger chainring, the principles are the same – anti-clockwise, but this time the barrel adjuster is usually found on the left-hand shifter or in the cable close by.
There you have it, those are our top tips on how to keep your bike running safely and smoothly between services. This advice becomes even more pertinent as we move into winter, when cold wet roads make it more challenging but even more important to build and maintain good maintenance routines. Stick to it though and the rewards will be a bike that is more enjoyable to ride, with smaller service bills and longer times between each service. What’s not to like?!
If it’s time for your next service or simply want a bit of advice and clarification on the above topics Bike Hero are always happy to help. www.bike-hero.co.uk.