Friday, September 13, 2013

Time to winterize your bicycle

by Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

Lets face it, winter is coming against all bicyclists most fervent hopes for rapid advancement of global warming. Which means that it is time to think about getting your bicycle ready for  a nap so that it may be enjoyed again as soon as the white stuff will be gone. Here is how I do it and believe me, after having owned the old "Lazy Walker Bicycle Co. of Montreal from 1993 to 2002, I have done it a few times:
First, send your wife or girlfriend shopping, make them visit their mothers, aunts, the animal shelter or Victoria's Secrets but get them out of the house because the future of your relationship will depend upon this step.
If you are not so encumbered, omit step one and proceed directly into the laboratory. This essential room in every bicyclist's habitat is often crowded with dangerous machines that only women fully understand - they glow in the dark, make whooshing noises, pop things up or spin wildly around. My wife calls this array "kitchen" but we bicyclists only need to understand two things: there is hot water to be found over the square  hollow tubs and the large white thing with the handle in front. If you pull that handle and look around a bit, you will notice beer. Ignore all the other things - they are experiments your spouse conducts when you are at work and they need be of no concern to us.
Step three is the most important one: Put a large plastic bag or two on the floor, better yet an old shower curtain (no, not the new one in the bathroom cupboard). You may also use cardboard but whatever you do, in order to establish our mission, we must be able to leave no trace after we are done.
Now bring the bicycle and put it on the floor covering upside down so that it rests on the handle bars and the seat. Now, a highly organized professional like myself would get a beer and carefully contemplate what sits before me. I probably see an accumulation of dirt at the highest part of the frame where the crank sits. This is also called the bottom bracket which is confusing as it is now the top bracket. Clean this with hot water and a sponge and proceed to wipe down the frame, working from the top down. Wipe all the painted surfaces dry, preferably with the cotton T-shirt that says "I am with Stupid". Have another beer.
Next you must clean the wheels, Slide a rag through the spokes, going back and forth until all the road grime is gone. Then I usually take a rough shop rag or that face towel with the awful color that needs to disappear and I run the chain through this. Simply clamp the rag over the chain, hold it loosely against the links  and turn the crank over and over until the chain looks "kind of clean'. You will never get it totally clean until you remove it (expensive tool, hard to use but guaranteed to bust at least one link if you don't know how to use it). Should you be proficient enough to get the chain out, put it in a bucket of hot water with a lot of detergent and let it sit for an hour. After this, rinse it with clean water, use Q-tips if you want to enter the Tour-de-France and want a shiny chain. I never do this - chains normally do not wear very often and just cleaning the road dirt off and lightly re-oiling it serves just as well.
Now clean the derailleurs, the doo-hickey that shifts your chain up and down the thing with all the teeth on it. Each rear derailleur has two sprockets with teeth and it is most important to clean those on either side. Oil them with a few drops of 3-in-One oil and run the chain through again to distribute the lubricant well.
Next oil all the cables where they enter the housings and depress the brake levers to make sure some of the oil gets moved in and out of the housings. After you oil the exposed shifter cables, turn the crank and shift the gears. If they do not shift properly get another beer and call the local bicycle shop for an appointment. Or, get a smallish screwdriver. You will note two tiny exposed screws on the derailleurs. These set the bottom and top travel of the arm and by carefully adjusting them against their respective stops you will limit the distance the arm can travel. This will prevent the chain from jumping off the cogs.
If the bottom bracket does not have excessive side-to-side movement which would indicate worn bearings, clean the area where the crank enters the frame (both sides !) and apply a little grease (tongue depressors work but not the nice emery boards "She" has in the cosmetics drawer. I just put a bit of grease on my finger actually and work it around the crank where it enters the bottom bracket. This just prevents moisture to creep in - most brackets today are sealed and should outlast the average love relationship.
Now check the brake pads. If they are glazed and squeak, you will now get my permission to steal one (1 !) emery board and file the glazed surface until it is dull. If the pads are unevenly worn or have become thin, take them off (any adjustable wrench works but in some cases you will need an Allen key, mostly 7mm. Buy one of the inexpensive sets that have a dozen keys on them, they normally cost about $ 4.-. Bring the pads to your local bicycle shop and buy new ones. If you rely on your memory you will go to the shop more often than you intend to because there is a great variety of pads out there and they will have to match your set up exactly. On the way back from the shop pick up more beer.
Now, we are nearing the end. Turn the bike right side up and loosen the seat post. This is the tube underneath the seat that goes into the frame. The seat of course is the thing that is never adjusted right and starts hurting you after six blocks. The seat post nut is on top of what we highly sophisticated specialists call the seat stay which is the frame tube that spans from the bottom rearward to where you sit. Loosen the nut and make sure the seat post moves up and down. They often rust in and you will almost never get them to go up or down again which is why it is very important to remove the post.  Make sure it is clean and lightly greased and securely tightened otherwise you will slide  down, seat and all, at the first pot hole. This can be funny for onlookers but will not improve your riding pleasure especially if you have nothing to tighten the nut with...
Almost done. One important last step: Compress the front brake fully and rock the bike forward and backward. The tube in the center of your handle bar and the forks below it should not have any lateral movement. If they rock, you have loose bearings in your head set. This is not to be confused with audio equipment, rather it holds your front end assembly together. Most often, just tightening the top nut on the neck of the frame will cure this problem. If, by moving the handle bar left and right, you hear a grinding noise, you may have bad bearings. This is best done by the local shop but if you have done everything else right, you should not need a tune-up but you can just specify that you wish to have the headset checked out (should cost about $ 12.-)
We best have another beer and contemplate the rest of this work. I personally hang my bike up in the garage but if you have very little space, you may wish to remove the wheels and store wheels and frame separate. In any case, I put plastic bags around both sides of the handle bars to protect grips, shifters etc. from any deterioration or accumulation of dust and I also put a securely taped plastic bag over the seat. They can crack, get eaten by mice or simply die of old age if they are not protected, especially the foam filled ones. Please note that even as we all wish to stay ecologically correct,  do not use paper bags. Plastic is excusable this time around!
Now, remove all evidence of your work, dispose of the T-shirt and face cloth (Do NOT put those in the laundry basket - divorces have been caused by lesser things than that). If you followed this scientific treatise well, your bicycle should be as good as ever when you take it back out in spring. And please do not forget to clean the sink and hide the empties!

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