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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 09-04-10, 11:10 AM   #1
Aeneas
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From the "Huh, Who Knew?" Department...

Earlier this week I was having some issues with the drive train on my 2007 Aurora. The rear deraileur was shifting slowly and the chain was occasionally skating on the rear cassette. It was really frustrating.

I turned to my Park Tools Blue Book for troubleshooting which implied that either my cassette was worn or I needed to lubricate my cables. Well, even though the cassette has some wear, it's not in need of replacement yet, so I decided to try lubricating the cable. Flipped the bike over, disengaged the cable stops and knew instantly upon trying to move the cable shield along the cable that friction was the problem. I whipped the cable down with Teflon lubricant and tried to get a couple drops into the cable shield as well. Ran the housing back and forth over the cable a couple times and reinstalled the cable into the stops. Now once again the bike shifts like a dream!

I gotta order some new brake pads pretty soon, but other than that, what maintenance might I be overlooking?
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Old 09-04-10, 01:27 PM   #2
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In my experience, the big maintenance items are
  1. tires and tubes,
  2. cables and housing,
  3. chains and cassettes,
  4. brake pads

I keep replacements for those components on hand, and own the tools to replace them. TIP: That fourth-hand cable tool is worth every penny

Anything with bearings--hubs, headset, bottom bracket--I take to the LBS.

Once upon a time I considered a truing stand, but in the long run, buying better wheels is far cheaper and much more convenient.

Everything else I can generally handle myself as things come up.

Another tip: Sluggish shifting is almost always caused by cable or housing problems. If lubrication doesn't fix it, then it's likely a frayed cable. Something about my right 105 lever likes to fray cables. I've learned that if the rear housing isn't the culprit, that it's time to replace the cable. The times I've let it go have resulted in snapped cables, and the expense of having the LBS dig out the bits from inside the shifter.

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Old 09-04-10, 08:55 PM   #3
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tsl nailed it with the big maintenance items. I'll add, though, that it's easy to check bearings in hubs, headsets, and bottom brackets so you know when to adjust them (or take them to the LBS if you prefer).

For hubs, if they don't feel smooth, either the preload is set too tight or they need to be cleaned and repacked. If you can get the axle to move at all relative to the hub, then they're too loose and need to have the preload set.

For headsets, hold the front brake and rock the bike back and forth; if you feel any movement between the steerer tube and the frame, then the headset preload is too low. If the front fork doesn't turn through its steering range easily when you lift the front of the bike off the ground, then the preload is too tight. If it feels like there are specific places where it wants to stop, then your headset must be replaced.

For bottom brackets, nearly all of them are cartridges these days, so it's simple a matter of making sure that they turn smoothly and that the threads aren't loose. Creaking or clicking during the pedal stroke is a common symptom of a loose bottom bracket (as well as a frustrating number of other things), so as long as your bottom bracket turns smoothly (take the chain off the chainrings to really tell), isn't visibly loose, and doesn't make any funny noises, you should be fine.

One common place for friction in your shifter cables is the little plastic guide under the bottom bracket - it's typically open and builds up all kinds of crud. Fortunately it's an easy area to clean and lube if the shifting gets sluggish or the bike starts shifting by itself when you accelerate.
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Old 09-05-10, 01:22 PM   #4
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tsl is spot on. I have to replace my cables a couple of times a year due to sweat getting on them and corrosion. I could probably do some preventative maintenance but I'm not much of a wrench. The mechanics love me!
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Old 09-05-10, 02:21 PM   #5
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Do you guys save much money by doing your own maintenance? I'm curious in learning, but I work a very busy job, and I seem to require cable replacement so infrequently that by the time I need an actual DIY repair, it takes me at least an hour every time, not including the time to order the parts or buy them at the LBS. Curious if you thought there's any significant advantage from the DIY standpoint.
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Old 09-05-10, 06:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by agarose2000 View Post
Do you guys save much money by doing your own maintenance? <snip> Curious if you thought there's any significant advantage from the DIY standpoint.
For me, the big advantage is that I don't have to leave the bike at the LBS. Ordering the parts online takes just a few minutes. I buy a two or three year supply of cables and housing for all four bikes every couple of years. When I do scheduled maintenance, it's usually lots of things at once, along with a wash and polish detailing job. The times I've goofed and had to do emergency cable replacement (see frayed cables above) it's been the convenience of being able to do it after supper and have the bike back in action before the following morning.

It's been years since I paid an LBS to replace cables. As I recall, they charged me $20 or $25 to replace just the shifter cables and housing. The parts cost me under $10, so the savings is about $15, which can be enormous or a pittance depending on your income. For me, it's a bit more than an hour's wages, so it's a wash if I DIY or LBS.

Looked at another way, since I know how to do the work, I have a choice between DIY and LBS. I have the same choice between cooking my meals at home or eating in restaurants.

I like to cook, so I eat at home most all the time. Occasionally I'd like a treat or want a special dish I don't keep the ingredients for or don't have a specialty piece of cookware for. Then I eat out. These days, I use my LBS the same way. I like to DIY, so I do most of the work on my bikes myself. When I want a treat or something special needs to be done, I use the LBS.

Last edited by tsl; 09-05-10 at 06:32 PM.
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Old 09-05-10, 08:21 PM   #7
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Do I save money, probably not. Do I learn how things work, how to figure out what's not working, and how to fix them, yes. Is this really of value, maybe... in the long run. But then again, my LBS seems to have some really outrageous prices, especially for labor, so if I keep repairing what I can myself, I may save some money in the long run.

Lets consider the rear wheel on my Aurora. The original wheel was machine built and me being a clyde I knew it wouldn't last long. I invested in a Spin Doctor truing stand, a chain whip, a lock ring removal tool and a set of spoke wrenches; figure the cost was $100 delivered (although some were purchased at the LBS.) I know from dealing with a previous wheel that to replace a spoke at that LBS costs about $30 (I know, WTF???) I went to the LBS and purchased 8 spokes and nipples (cost less than $10.) By maintaining the wheel myself, I extended the life of the machine built wheel to about 2 years, replacing 8 spokes on the non-drive side. When I reached the point that I was popping NDS spokes once a week and couldn't get even tension on the spokes and maintain ture, I had the wheel rebuilt for a cost of $110. So to maintain my a single wheel, I invested $110 which would have been $240 had the LBS done all the work. Having the LBS rebuild the wheel brought my expenses to $220, so I'm still ahead, ever so slightly.
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Old 09-05-10, 09:09 PM   #8
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thoroughly cleaning your bike is a great idea that can potentially save you from injury. I'm saying this just to try to convince myself to go clean the bike.
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Old 09-05-10, 09:38 PM   #9
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I don't replace my own cables (and do nearly all of my own wrenching, for that matter) to save money, although it does have that nice benefit. I do it so I can get things done on my bike on my schedule, not on somebody else's. If I want to take my bike to the LBS, it's a minimum of two days that I don't get to ride - one day to take it in (and drive to work - no time to bike that day) and another to pick it up (it's nearly impossible for me to make it to the shop before they close if I bike in and don't leave early). If I replace my own cables, I can pick them up on a Saturday when the shop mechanics are too busy to look at my bike, then replace them some evening after I get the kids to bed. It takes me close to an hour, but part of the time is hunting up the most important tool for the job - the bottle opener. It ends up being fun and relaxing for me, rather than time-consuming and expensive as it would be if I left it to the shop.
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Old 09-05-10, 11:36 PM   #10
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I just did my first build from the frame up with little bike mechanical knowledge. Granted, I'm pretty mechanically inclined and can figure stuff out, but I was really amazed at how simple a bike really is. With the right hand tools, bike maintenance is extremely easy.

For me, cables are the biggest pain. Once replaced, you have to continuously adjust them until they stretch out and break in.

The bottom bracket seems intimidating but is very simple with the right BB tools.

I plan on stripping everything down every 6 months and cleaning and re-lubing everything now that I know what I'm doing. No need to pay the LBS to do it for me.
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Old 09-05-10, 11:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffSG View Post
tsl is spot on. I have to replace my cables a couple of times a year due to sweat getting on them and corrosion. I could probably do some preventative maintenance but I'm not much of a wrench. The mechanics love me!
Stainless steel cables will cure that problem. Well worth the extra expense (and it is actually not that much extra either).
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