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Bicycle Mechanics Broken bottom bracket? Tacoed wheel? If you're having problems with your bicycle, or just need help fixing a flat, drop in here for the latest on bicycle mechanics & bicycle maintenance.

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Old 05-27-06, 10:06 AM   #1
sauerwald
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How much maintenence is really required?

I am a bicycle commuter, with a 30 mile RT commute. My wife has about the same distance commute which she does in her Honda Accord. I spend 30 mins to an hour each week doing misc maintenence on the bike - cleaning and relubing the chain, adjusting cables, tightening down whatever needs it etc. My wife takes her car in for an oil change about once every 3 months. She asked me why it is that the bike needs so much more attention than the car - which got me thinking - would it be possible to design and build a bike which was more like a car in its maintenence needs. How much heavier of a chain and sprockets would I need to use so that I wouldn't need to replace chains for 30,000 miles, rather than the 1500 miles or so that I get now? What about the hubs and bottom brackets? - what technology would be required for them to last a lifetime? I am willing to put up with some extra weight - my commute bike already weights twice what my lightest bike weighs.
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Old 05-27-06, 10:25 AM   #2
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You could always get an internally geared hub. Change over to a single chainring up front. No more derailleurs to ever adjust again. As far as I know, internally geared hubs need pretty much zero maintenance.
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Old 05-27-06, 10:31 AM   #3
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If a bike were built as tough and maintenance-free as a car, it would weigh so much you wouldn't want to ride it. If a car were built as weight efficient as a bike, it would need as much maintenance as a race car. Just be thankful your bike isn't all computer controlled like a new car, where you have to pay the dealer $100 an hour for a tune-up.
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Old 05-27-06, 01:05 PM   #4
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I do very little maintenance on my bikes. I ride the 3 speed every day, the road bike 2-5 times per week. I've gone years without repacking bearings. A chain lasts me a year, easily. I've had freewheels last 5+ years

The only regular maintenance I do is the chain. I rarely take the chain off the road bike to clean it, just wipe it with a paper towel about every other time I ride it (takes about 30 seconds) and sparingly put motor oil on it every few rides. I've never had any major mechanical problems.

Bicycles are very simple machines that carry relatively little loads. Once they are initially assembled correctly, there is very little that needs to be done to them.

Oh, and I wash the bike every six months whether it needs it or not.
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Old 05-27-06, 01:06 PM   #5
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I do very little maintenance on my bikes. I ride the 3 speed every day, the road bike 2-5 times per week. I've gone years without repacking bearings. A chain lasts me a year, easily. I've had freewheels last 5+ years

The only regular maintenance I do is the chain. I rarely take the chain off the road bike to clean it, just wipe it with a paper towel about every other time I ride it (takes about 30 seconds) and sparingly put motor oil on it every few rides. I've never had any major mechanical problems.

Bicycles are very simple machines that carry relatively little loads. Once they are initially assembled correctly, there is very little that needs to be done to them.

Oh, and I wash the bike every six months whether it needs it or not.
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Old 05-28-06, 08:41 AM   #6
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Here's a multipart answer: Your bike needs very little maintenance, probably less than your car. It's just that it's easier to notice when your bike is operating sub-optimally, and so it takes more maintenance to keep it a pleasure to use.

I see semi-indigent and homeless guys pedaling on dumpster bikes around the town. They can only go as fast as a slow run, and they're on bikes with the handlebars cocked back, wheels wobbling so badly they slap the brakes back and forth, and there are cables flopping loose. When do you think that chain was last lubed? Probably in the 1980s, at the factory. Well, that's still operating condition. It's just a really bad operating condition. Any car neglected that badly wouldn't even start, but the bike still works as designed, approximately.

Since your legs power your bike, you're sensitive to every power-sapping element in it. Your wife's car might only be working at 80% optimal condition but the difference will never be noticed until after a detailed service job that probably costs more than the efficiency gain is worth.

Also note that we have blind spots to our cars' frequent maintenance demands. Refueling is maintenance. Washing is maintenance. Scraping ice off the windows on cold mornings is maintenance even if it's not preventive. If your wife's Accord travels 30 miles/weekday, it's getting refilled every 7-10 days, so that's a few minutes out per week plus however much of an inconvenient extra trip is necessary to find the cheapest gas that day.

That time adds up too, but we're socially conditioned to take that in stride, because we see our neighbors do it, and we see people on TV taking pleasure in doing it as they tout the products they're putting into or rubbing onto their cars.

So you're probably not spending as much more time on your bike than on your car, it just seems that way. And the next time the timing belt, alternator or water pump need replacement, remind her that the expense could be a decent commuter bike.
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Old 05-28-06, 10:05 AM   #7
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Cleaning and lubing the chain takes maybe 5 minutes and checking to see the brake pads, etc. are ok takes maybe two more. If things were installed properly you should not have to tighten bolts or adjust the cables every week or even every month.

I ride about 200 miles a week. I top off the tire pressure every 3 or 4 days, wipe off and lube the chain about every two week and give the bike a quick visual inspection before each ride which takes 30 seconds. I do a major overhaul including bearing repacking and a new chain and cassette once a year.

It sounds like you are spending a lot of time on unnecessary maintainance. That's fine if you enjoy it but it's overkill.
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Old 05-28-06, 06:39 PM   #8
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i usually clean my bike every 2 weeks, and maintenance it not very often. i spent about a month just rebuilding my bike and fixing problems that occur after 30 yrs of no use. but now i just get it out check tire pressure and im off. if you use motor oil on your chain it stays there for hell long time
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Old 05-28-06, 09:05 PM   #9
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I'm a year-round commuter AND I ride on my day off.

My ride into town includes 2 miles of crushed limestone, the dusty stuff. I try to flush out my chain a couple of times per month. I'm careful to clean my cranksets with a quick wipe-off about every other day.

Thanks to friction shifting, I rarely need to adjust my derailers. But I like a well tuned bike and carry a decent toolkit at all times, including a spoke wrench that I won't hesitate using at the slightest hint of wobble.
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Old 05-28-06, 10:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
How much heavier of a chain and sprockets would I need to use so that I wouldn't need to replace chains for 30,000 miles, rather than the 1500 miles or so that I get now?
This is a bad response for you. But try keeping your chain in the middle of the drive line?
a.) In low gear small sprocket in front. Just use the 1st 2-3 big gears in back.
b.) If you have a middle. Use All
c.) In the Largest Sprocket in front use the last 3.

In general low 1,2,3 > switch to next sprocket 4,5,6 etc.

Quote:
What about the hubs and bottom brackets?
Hubs. Speed some bucks and go sealed bearings!!! WTB makes some good stuff even the old timers Phil Wood are stilll in Biz. As for eBay you can find Suntour with grease guard $20.00 at least for your front wheel. This has a grease fitting to just pump grease into it and overhaul at the same time.

As for the B/B you can go sealed also on this. I find the Shimano mid grade around $22.00 to do the job just fine...

Quote:
what technology would be required for them to last a lifetime? I am willing to put up with some extra weight - my commute bike already weights twice what my lightest bike weighs.
Look into after market products and not the OEM. Cables should be stainless steel, Shift cables Dura Ace or Campy. As for the chain??? Not as of yet. Just stay mid-grade and keep your shifting down.
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Old 05-29-06, 08:26 AM   #11
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Yorr maintenance sounds a little over the top. I ride thousands of miles per year, with most miles being on dirt and gravel roads. Still I basically just lube the chain and give the bikes an occasional bath. Of course I have to replace things as they wear out but this is more of a bi-annual deal than a weekly one.
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Old 05-29-06, 07:39 PM   #12
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.....what technology would be required for them to last a lifetime?
A $40,000 car doesn't last a lifetime. Why would a $800 bike be expected to?
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Old 05-30-06, 06:38 AM   #13
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All of the above + get fenders - they keep your drivetrain running clean. A car doesn't have belts sitting in the line of fire from tire spray. Your bike has an oiled chain picking up this spray of dust and dirty water, but it doesn't have to be.
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Old 05-30-06, 06:44 AM   #14
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Ditto to the other comments about maintenance. I put more miles then that on my bike each week and don't do that much maintenance.

But it's not bad to look at the bike for an hour each week. I have a neighbor who spends more time than that maintaining his car each week, even though he puts fewer miles on it than you do on your bike, and even though it's not an old car. He enjoys going over everything - finds it relaxing. If you like doing it, it's probably a better activity then, say, watching TV.
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