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Old 11-01-09, 11:03 PM   #1
Squish
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Maintenance for dept. store bike (SC Hooligan)

Picked up a Supercycle Hooligan for cheap, and I'm looking for some maintenance tips. I'm used to maintaining "bare bones" bikes.

Main questions before I go into more details:
- How do I overhaul this "Mercalli Downhill" suspension fork?
- I was in the middle of removing the crank arms before I found out I needed a special puller...what's the proper torque value to put the bolts back on?
- Third paragraph lists the stuff I have already done - what's next?

I know you guys won't like this bike, but it was only $50 and I had been wanting either rear suspension, seatpost suspension, or the old-school seats with huge springs for a while now. I live in a semi-rural area and sometimes the only place I can relax while riding on our higher-speed two-lane roads is on the gravel shoulder.

I don't do any trails that couldn't be handled by even a road bike, and 99% of my riding is for errands around town, 40 km round-trip at most. I never even get the wheels off the ground aside from riding off a curb once in a while, so this bike seems adequate. I checked the welds with a flashlight worthy of aircraft inspections, and no problems there.

Anyways, like I do with used cars, I always do a complete maintenance run on any bike I get. So far I have cleaned and lubricated the chain, front and rear derailleurs, the sleeves in those plastic rear derailleur gears, the rear coil spring assembly, the seatpost and tube, cleaned the gears, and adjusted the brakes and derailleurs. I cleaned and repacked all the hubs with marine-grade bearing grease except the one in the rear wheel, on the side with the gears. I don't have the tool to remove the gears so I will probably have the LBS repack it once every fall. I'm not sure how to disassemble and clean the "Mercalli Downhill" suspension forks. I couldn't remove the crank arms to get to the swing arm pivot, so I just sprayed some penetrating graphite lubricant in there. I'm guessing it's just a sleeve type bushing instead of anything with bearings in there.

Things I plan to do next: repack the headset bearings, take the cable sheaths off and coat the cables with graphite, wax the down tube for winter riding, apply the reflective tape as required by law up here in Ontario, and fab a mount for my zombie-killing flashlight. Anything else I can do to keep the bike in good shape through both winter and summer? This will be a 99% commuter bike with three or four light trails a year.
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Old 11-02-09, 07:42 AM   #2
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Your progress and plans seem admirable so far. Might consider getting a decent pair of brake
pads to replace the oem pads. Steel rims? hope not unless you live in a very flat area.
As to the shock, they are not likely to be designed for repair and at the price the bike is
designed for, the shocks are unlike to contain anything more than a big spring and some
elastomeric cylinders to quiet the bounce. Elastomers can harden up with time and if you
don't like the shock action they should be easily replaced from LBS stocks if you can get at
them. Disassembly shoud be real obvious or not feasible, no idea which. Seals maybe replace-
able if you can get at them but again you will have to fumble around the LBS stock as
the shocks almost certainly fall into the 'no user replaceable parts' category in general. Bike like that might be good for 1-2 Canadian winters.
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Old 11-02-09, 11:47 AM   #3
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Get detailed maintenance instructions here http://www.parktool.com/repair_help/index.shtml The drank puller is about $15. For greasing the rear hub, rmove the locknut and cone from the non-drive side, then you can pull the whole axle out with cone in place, from the drive side. Re-assemble in reverse, doing the bearing adjustment on the nondrive side, while holding the other end of the axle with pieces of wood in a vise.
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Old 11-02-09, 05:29 PM   #4
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The brakes aren't too bad, and the rims are aluminium. Do you advise against steel for weight issues? My tires aren't that light (a whopping 26x2.3), and I plan to add a rear tire liner, but the gearing in this bike is a lot different from my previous hybrid hardtail. I can climb steep hills like a mountain goat in this. I had good results with Michelin XCR AT tires last winter, so I have that in the front now with the stock "Demolition" tires in the rear. We mostly sand the roads here instead of salt, so the frame should survive much better than two years. I figure the rims should survive two to four years if I clean the sand off after every ride. This bike is mostly an experiment to see if I can stand losing a bit of efficiency in exchange for a comfortable ride - if I decide to stick with full suspension, I'll just replace components with low- to mid-range LBS parts as they break (no need for high-end stuff designed for heavy trail use). From what I have read, aside from the generic components, the weak part of the bike frame is in the swing arm pivot bushing - and that is replaceable.

Andrew, that's how I usually do the rear wheels, but the cone has a metal shield that is larger than the cassette holder opening (or whatever is on the inside of those gears). I went on the assumption that not much dirt can get in that side, and it spins freely now with just the one side repacked. I will have the LBS repack both sides as well as the bottom bracket this spring. The pedals don't look maintainable so I'll just ride them until the bearings die. Is crank arm torque important? Right now I have them tightened to roughly 30 ft-lbs (estimated with standard ratchet) but I have enough torque wrenches from my car hobby to get anything from 60 in-lbs to 250 ft-lbs.

That Park site is great. I'll just go through all the maintenance items that apply.
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Old 11-02-09, 05:43 PM   #5
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1) That suspension fork is not serviceable. It's a toss when it's game over. Calling it a suspension fork is giving it too much credit
2) Don't bother upgrading parts on that bike, it is not worth it. You will spend much, much more than it would cost to get a entry level (suspension/hard-tail) that is actually worth servicing in the long run. And your frame/fork will still be worth $0.
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Old 11-02-09, 06:17 PM   #6
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You may wind up saving some rolling resistance if you use moderate tire pressure as a shock absorbing strategy on those gravel shoulders, though obviously going too soft can cost more than it gives back.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:26 AM   #7
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2) Don't bother upgrading parts on that bike, it is not worth it. You will spend much, much more than it would cost to get a entry level (suspension/hard-tail) that is actually worth servicing in the long run. And your frame/fork will still be worth $0.
I fail to see the reasoning. While the frame is substandard for real MTB riding, it is more than adequate for road riding. An entry-level full suspension bike from the LBS costs how much? I figure I will spend about $500 over the next eight years in maintenance and parts. LBS bike components break as well, so it's not as if I will spend $500 on an entry-level LBS bike and not have to replace anything. By replacing as necessary, I can also go cheap with some things that are not that important to me, like wheels, tires, or front suspension.

Sure, it wouldn't make sense to buy this bike for $300 new and start replacing parts, nor would it make sense to build it up into a trail bike centred around a substandard frame. But why chuck a working frame that already suits all my needs, and already has working components to spread out replacement costs? I have non-suspension department store bike frames that are over 15 years old; I don't see how this would be any different aside from the replaceable suspension components.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:36 AM   #8
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The point is that you will be throwing money at something that will continue to fall apart. This money would be better used for saving until you have enough to purchase a decent bicycle that can be properly maintained/serviced. A department-store bike (most - not all) is simply not going to give you a good return on your money. A REAL suspension-fork would cost more that the whole bike did.

It's not a judgment call - it's simple economics. Live & Learn.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:37 AM   #9
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You may wind up saving some rolling resistance if you use moderate tire pressure as a shock absorbing strategy on those gravel shoulders, though obviously going too soft can cost more than it gives back.
My tires are about 55 PSI front (26x2.0 Michelin) and 45 PSI rear (26x2.3 Demolition [no-names?]). My previous bike had 26x1.5 near-slick rear tires that I had at about 65 PSI, with the same Michelins on the front for stability. I haven't had a chance to try the current setup on the gravel yet, but I will try letting some air out of the rear tires if it is still too bumpy.
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Old 11-03-09, 01:46 AM   #10
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The point is that you will be throwing money at something that will continue to fall apart. This money would be better used for saving until you have enough to purchase a decent bicycle that can be properly maintained/serviced. A department-store bike (most - not all) is simply not going to give you a good return on your money. A REAL suspension-fork would cost more that the whole bike did.

It's not a judgment call - it's simple economics. Live & Learn.
I would hope a real suspension fork costs more than $50

Once I replace broken components more robust ones, they should stop falling apart or at least be as reliable as the entry-level LBS suspension bike. The normal issue with trying to maintain a department store bike is that frames are usually under-built for what the bike is marketed for; you end up with some good components built around a frame that will eventually crack, ruining all your work and investment. This shouldn't apply here because the bike is marketed for jumping around the mountains, and I will just be doing 4-inch hops off a curb on the days I feel like a daredevil. We don't even HAVE that many curbs around here.
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Old 11-03-09, 08:16 AM   #11
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Aside from the economic issue, the problem with department store bikes is that many of the components and component interfaces are non-standard. That is, the threading may be different in areas, critical diameters may be different, etc. So many times it's not just a swap and replace deal. If you are mostly road riding, why did you get rear suspension? As for the frame, if any thing, it's probably way overbuilt. That how the manufacturer avoids constant lawsuits. So you're carrying around alot of extra weight , particularly for road riding. It's more that the frames are overbuilt and carrying heavy junk components. As has been said, the fork can't be rebuilt. It's good the rims are alum., steel rims are a problem not because of weight but because brake pads can't get a good grip on the slick surface. The brakes on these type bikes are not very good anyway. I'm afraid you will come to realize spending $50 initially on this bike was not such a good deal. Honestly, once that new ($200 or whatever) bike rolls out through X-marts doors it's value drops to around $25 or so. I've seen it many times. I go to enough garage/yard to know that basically new department store bikes seldom sell for more than $25.
The department store bikes are fine for folks who know exactly what they are getting and have no visions of upgrades and such. I've owned a couple but I would never ride one any farther away from home than I cared to walk back.
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Old 11-03-09, 11:32 AM   #12
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Thanks for explaining. I will probably find time to ride down to the LBS when it stops raining today and see if there is anything proprietary on the bike. The front and rear derailleurs look modular, and the rear shock bolts thread into themselves; I can make a correct sized bushing myself if it isn't a normal size. I'll find out if the front shock is replaceable when this one goes belly-up, and whether the crankset size is a standard one. I can't think of anything else that could pose a problem. The handlebars/headset aren't likely to ever deform from road riding, nor is the seat tube. The rear dropouts may be an irregular size when I need new wheels, but I can put shims/washers on the axle.

If the bike won't fit my needs, I can always park it until spring and sell it. Full suspension bikes (even X-mart ones) rarely sell for under $100 here. I figure I can sell it within a couple of weeks listing it for $50.
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Old 11-03-09, 02:42 PM   #13
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The secret to getting a good bike cheap is to buy used. For $100, with a little looking, you can find some mid level name brand mountain bikes. And then you will have a bike that takes standard components, and is built to last (and to be maintained). My experience with Xmart bikes is that the components are often so cheap, they are throw aways. And don't let the name brand on components confuse you. Just because a bike has "Shimano" components, doesn't mean much. Shimano make a full product line, from pot metal junk, to top of the line.
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Old 11-03-09, 03:11 PM   #14
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The brakes aren't too bad, and the rims are aluminum. Do you advise against steel for weight issues?
The main problem with steel rims is that they don't have good friction for braking, especially when wet. But sounds like you're good on that.
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Old 11-03-09, 03:34 PM   #15
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I just got back from the LBS, right before the snow started falling. Looks like all the components are standard, even the front fork. They did say that the rear suspension would cost more than a new one of these bikes to replace, but that's no issue. I'd put the same components on a name brand bike as well.

We're not much of a biking town, so used name brand bikes are hard to come by and even harder to get a good deal on. With the short distances I bike, I could use a bit of extra weight for more exercise. You can drive right across town in less than 5 minutes. My total biking distance today was just 13.5 km, and I went to the LBS, then across town to the auto shop to get reflective tape, stopped by the dollar store for some river rocks for my aquarium, and then went to the drug store for sleeping pills.
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