Tech Tips for Pre-Season Bike Check
Here are a few tips and ideas of things you may want to check on your bike to help keep you riding instead of making repairs throughout the season. A happy bike is a bike that is being ridden.
Chain: One of the first items to wear out on your bike is the chain. As you pedal, the chain is pulled against the teeth of the cassette and chain rings. A bike chain contains bushings in between the links allowing the chain to bend and move as it is guided through the derailleur and around the chain rings. Over time these bushings become worn and cause your chain to stretch and wear out. A worn chain can cause improper shifting and can be the cause of your chain skipping.
Maintenance: Regular cleaning and lubing will prolong the life of your chain, however; any chain will wear out. A well maintained chain should get about 1,000-2,500 miles before needing replacement.
Replacement: Regularly check your chain (once a month recommended) with a “chain checker” tool, have your local bike shop check it or by following these instructions. Pull out a ruler or measuring tape line up the “0” mark in the center of one of the rivets, the 6” mark should sit in the center of the rivet of the (12th link away), if the center of that rivet is more than 1/8” past the 6” mark it is time to replace it.
Chainrings: Chainrings wear as much as any component, but they also are subject to damage from falls, rocks, and other obstacles, that can bend or break teeth. Worn chainrings will have rounded teeth and are a possible cause of skipping under heavy torque
Maintenance: A regular inspection of your chain rings is necessary. Look for bent or missing teeth and areas of excessive wear. Keep in mind that not all the teeth on chainrings are symmetrical. They are designed this way for better shifting.
How to Replace Your Chainring: Chainrings are designed to fit the chain link almost perfectly. If you notice your chain slipping or you are having difficulty shifting between your chainrings, they may need to be replaced. Each tooth should form closed, rounded mountain shape with steeper sides and a nice round top. If they have steep ramped sides with a pointed top it is time to replace the chain ring.
Cassette: A cassette has very intricate designs to help aid in shifting. The teeth on the cassette, like chainrings, are designed to work in very close contact with your chain to enhance performance.
Bike Cassette Maintenance: Your cassette should be regularly cleaned and inspected. Keep as much road grim, or grit off the cassette as possible. Clean it especially after those wet muddy or gritty rides. An old toothbrush is a good tool to clean in between the individual cogs.
Replacement: The teeth should form closed, rounded mountain shapes like the chain rings. Though not as often, teeth can become broken or bent from falls, rocks and obstacles. If your chain is skipping under torque or skipping it could mean it is time for the cassette to be replaced.
Tires: Depending on your riding style and what compounds the tires are made of they wear differently.
Maintenance: You should inspect your tires before every ride, you are looking for signs of wear, if you can see any threads, belts, or any of the tube it is time to replace the tire. Replacement: Although most tires can sustain good amounts of abuse, side wall damage, or excessive wear should not be taken lightly. On mountain bikes your center knobs most likely will wear the most, and on road bikes the center strip will wear the fastest. Your rear tire will usually wear faster than your front. It is often a good idea to rotate your front tire to the rear and replace the front tire with a new tire to get the most miles out of them.
Cables & Housing: When cables are new they will have an initial break-in period, when they will stretch. Shifting will become sloppy and inaccurate; they need a quick tune to bring them back up to normal. Over time cables and housing start to wear out and cause shifting to “stick,” your bike may not down shift or up shift with the same ease and glide that it used to.
Maintenance: Your cables and housing need occasional lubing, and periodic replacing. If you have ridden in muddy or gritty conditions it can enter inside your housing and cause future problems. After a muddy or gritty ride, make sure to clean your bike and lube all cables and housings, to help prolong their life. Putting chain lube on your cables and running them through the housing so the lube penetrates the inside of the housing is helpful.
Replacement: Cables and housing can also become bent and cause shifting or braking issues. If housing or cables are bent, or have had a good year of frequent riding they should be replaced. Sometimes housing & cable ends can fray, if this is the case it needs to be inspected, they may need replacing.
Brake Pads: Your brakes are one of your most important components to keep in tip-top shape.
Maintenance: Disc brake care includes keeping the pads & rotors clean of debris and grit. You should periodically (weekly if you ride regularly) inspect your brake pads for chunks missing, grit, build-up, or excessive wear. You can clean up your pads with isopropyl alcohol, and some medium to fine sandpaper. Your rotor you should clean with isopropyl alcohol. Road or rim brakes you should use similar procedure, and every few weeks file the pad surfaces with sandpaper.
Replacement: For Road or rim brakes there are grooves cut into the pads, when they wear down toward the bottom of those grooves, or to the wear mark (on the side of the pad), you should replace the pads. Disc brake pads can usually last quite a while, but when pads are getting close to being flush with the metal piece on the pad it is time to replace them. Also severe chunks or score marks across the pads face can compromise braking and should be replaced.
Keeping your bike clean and lubed is mandatory to getting the full life out of it. Although falls and trail obstacles can damage parts, the worst is grit and road grime, if allowed to remain on moving parts they will eat away at them. Your bikes components’ life will be drastically reduced. If your bike is well maintained it will keep you happier and those long miles will be much more enjoyable.