As another winter draws to an end, for some that means it’s time to dust off your bike that’s been hanging on a hook for the last few months. Just because your bike has been inactive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to roll out for another season of abuse. Making sure your bike is running “like new” can greatly reduce headaches down the road, so why not take this opportunity to give your close companion the once-over? This guide will help give you an idea of what you should look at while prepping your bike for the season ahead. We will also help with the basic understanding of when parts and components are wearing out and may need to be replaced.
WHERE TO START:
Use a paint-safe and carbon-safe bike wash to clean and degrease the frame. If available, micro-fiber cloths will be softer on the frame to reduce scratching. This is the best time to inspect the frame for damage or cracks. Use a gloss or wax polish on glossy frames to make it shine.
Having the proper tool to disassemble and reassemble the drivetrain will greatly increase your ability to get your drivetrain cleaner. Products like KMC MissingLinks or SRAM PowerLink make it easy to take off the chain to clean and degrease it. Chain-checking tools can give you an idea if your chain is stretched out and needs replacing. Always re-oil the chain after degreasing.
An unlimited amount of oils, greases, cleaners, degreasers and polishes will satisfy every need and preference.
These are always trickier to take off, so if you choose to leave it on, a quick degreaser such as Finish Line’s Speed Degreaser is a good option to melt away the grime. Be sure to scrub while spraying the Speed Degreaser on to get the full effect. If you suspect that your cassette may be wearing out, check the teeth on the cogs. If there appears to be smashed metal on the teeth, it may be time to replace the cassette. If you do replace it, you should also replace the chain to reduce the risk of quickly wearing out your new cassette. Another risk is that the old chain may not meld properly with the new cassette causing shifting to fail.
Chainrings are easy to clean without disassembly. A simple degreaser and a towel used to wipe down the crank and teeth are all that may be needed. Check for signs of wear (shark fin sign) in case of needed replacement.
Rear derailleurs gum up easily with excess amounts of lubricants. Scrub out the pulleys and wipe down the rest of the derailleur. Be sure that the pulleys are free from spun-up hair and that they rotate smoothly. Check for damaged or cracked pulleys that may need to replaced.
The front derailleur is relatively easy to clean; just wipe down the cage from grime left on by the chain. It is typically hard to damage a front derailleur, but if you have had an impact to the derailleur, inspect it and make sure the cage has not been bent.
Bearings are the cause for many headaches for riders up to date with the latest technology; bottom brackets being the primary source. If your bike was creaking at the end of the last season, you can be sure that it will still be creaking. Press-in bearing tools are typically expensive. If you do not have the tools or don’t want to tackle trying to extract your pressed-in bottom bracket, our advice is to rely on your local dealer who can do the work for you for a lot less than the tools it would cost to do it at home. Also, with some bearings and frame manufacturers, Loctite or epoxy may be the trick to stopping the annoying clack of the bottom bracket. If any bottom bracket bearings do not turn smoothly, it may be time to replace them.
Using a thick, waterproof grease is the best solution to alleviate bearing noises.
Headset bearings do not typically make your frame a sound box, but on occasion they, too, can creak. Re-greasing the headset contact points is an easy way to alleviate the noise. If your handlebars do not turn smoothly, if may be time to replace your headset bearings, or at least check the headset adjustment. Many frames these days now have specific bearings, so it may be best to get to a shop that carries your frame to acquire the headset bearings you need.
Wheel bearings are all about resistance. If you take off your wheels and turn the axle and the axle turns smoothly, great. If not, you may need to replace some of the bearings in that hub. Depending on the bearing and what you want to replace it with, you can buy lower-end steel bearings or splurge on some more expensive ceramic bearings that can make your wheels ride even smoother than ever.
Before the season starts, it would be wise to have your wheels re-tensioned and trued. If wheels are not tended to on occasion, the risks can be, but are not limited to, spoke and nipples breaking, and hubs and rims cracking due to improper spoke tension. Since most people don’t have a wheel-truing stand at home, this is something best left to the experts at your local bike shop.
Some mechanic work may be best left to the professionals.
Tires should be kept in check to reduce the risk of fl at tires and poor performance. Look for holes, slices and chips in both the tread and sidewalls. Rubber conditioners can help decrease the chances of the rubber cracking. Check the tread wear indicators if your tires have them, or look for a flattened profi le tread to get an idea of when your tires may be worn out. If you are seeing threads in your tread, replace immediately. If you are riding with tubeless tires, check your sealant levels, and replace sealant if necessary.
Check brake-pad wear and replace if needed. Toe-in brake pads, if necessary, to inhibit squealing. There are no toe-in worries with disc brakes, but pad wear is something to check.
CABLES AND HOUSING
Replace shift cables and housing if friction seems to be causing slow or stiff shifting performance. Do not bother lubricating old cables or housing, for it will be a short-term solution and will only create more friction later on. Replace brake cables and housing if there is a dead spot while pulling the brake lever, and also replace it if it is increasingly hard to pull the brake lever. It is of the utmost importance to replace derailleur cables if they start to fray, especially near the shifter unit. If a shifter cable head breaks inside the shifter, it can be catastrophic, and potentially the shifter may have to be replaced.
Soiled, ripped or unraveling bar tape should be replaced. If you are replacing the cable housing, it would be a great time to re-wrap the bars with fresh tape.