Hello fellow riders. My name is Randy and I’m a certified professional bicycle mechanic. Every year at this time I get flooded with calls for tune-ups and unfortunately a ton of repairs. I don’t advertise my hobby/business, I just kind of told two friends, who told two friends and so on….. Now I’m busier than I want to be and inevitably because I can’t say no to anyone who wants to ride their bike, my garage looks like this.
It’s time to break this cycle of madness by letting everyone know how to keep their bike out of my garage and on the road instead. Here is a very short and simple list of two things that will save you from prematurely having to send your ride to bike heaven for a repair bill that exceeds its’ value. Following this advice and staying on top of regular tune-ups and maintenance are the key to a long and wonderful relationship with your bike.
1. Keep your bike dry! Never put your bike away wet! Tools and parts: A towel.
I realized how silly this sounds, but if I didn’t think it needed to be said, I wouldn’t waste your time. I’ve seen it time and time again. People bring me bikes constantly that have stiff brakes and shifting mechanisms, the chains are prematurely worn from rust, and in many cases, the rims are rusted out. The more modern the bike, the less things that will rust due to modern materials but I guarantee whatever you ride, your components contain very small and delicate springs and parts that will corrode when exposed to water. The solution is simple, keep your bike out of the elements when your not on it. Constant exposure to rain or even the morning dew will quickly deteriorate your bike and the seals that keep water out of your components. If a garage or shed is not possible, keep it covered with a waterproof tarp. If you do ride in the rain or wet weather simply give it a couple good bounces when you get off to shake the water from your chain and drive train, and towel dry finishing with the chain, rear cassette, front chainrings and the area around your bottom bracket. Congratulations, you now know how to avoid the most common reason I have to tell people their bike is going to cast more to repair than it’s worth.
2. Change a worn chain before it’s too late. Tools and parts: chain wear gauge
I can’t stress enough how important a chain wear gauge is to any bike owner. Simply put, your chain has a limited life span that must be monitored. If you ride beyond that limit, your entire drive train will very quickly wear to match the chain wear and instead of replacing a $20-$30 chain, you will soon need a complete minimum $150-$900 drive train replacement depending on your bike’s components. What happens is as you use your chain, all the small connecting rivets wear down causing a lengthening of the chain know as “chain stretch”. Your front chainrings and rear cassette will wear to match the longer length of the worn chain until the teeth deform to the point that they will no longer be able to hold the chain under high pressure or will grab the chain and pull it up into the chainrings and rear cassette (chain suck). Once your chain goes past it’s maximum wear point for replacement, you can no longer put a new chain as it won’t hold under pressure with the worn drive train. There is no way to know when you need to replace the chain other than using a chain wear gauge. They are an inexpensive tool that every bike owner should know is as important as a helmet or tire pump. If you do need to replace your chain, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. My next post will walk you though doing it yourself to save money.
That’s it! If you want to get yourself a chain wear gauge here’s the link to the one I use every day:
Park Chain Checker – CC-2, Shop Tool
or if you’re on a really tight budget you could try this one but I can’t vouch for its’ accuracy:
Park Tool Chain Wear Indicator
I always buy “Park Tools” because they are by far the best and will last a lifetime if treated properly. Every time I’ve gone with another brand of tool I’ve regretted it. I suggest Amazon for the best combination of price, consistency and efficient delivery. Have a great day and enjoy the ride!
P. S. How to use and read your chain gauge
The Park Chain Checker – CC-2 has a trigger style lever which you initially set to zero as the starting position. You then simply place the checker on the top of the chain so the 2 pins on either end are both in the space between the plates of the chain links. Lightly depress the lever until it stops. Don’t apply too much pressure or you risk bending the measuring pins on the tool. Look through the window on the tool to get your chain wear reading.
<0.5 = new chain, 0.5 – 0.75 = normal range of wear, change chain at 0.75
0.75 – 0.9 = You can still put on a new chain but shifting becomes sluggish and more inconsistent the higher the reading. A new chain may or may not hold as wear approaches 0.9
>0.9 = A new chain will almost certainly slip off the teeth of the worn drive train. Your old chain and drive train are now destined to eventually slip which is a very scary feeling and sound, also dangerous if you lose your balance, or suck up into your front derailleur causing damage. There’s no way to know when it will happen, just that it will. Shifting will also be very poor. I unfortunately recommend a drive train and chain replacement at this point.