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Old 10-24-12, 10:04 PM   #1
B. Carfree
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None of Us Ever Puts Off Maintenance, Right? Sure.

For the past month or so one of my bikes has made a small clicking sound every time my right foot comes around the bottom of the stroke. I thought it was just a pedal bearing wearing out, so I didn't worry. (Look Keo Classic pedals with about 30,000 miles, many of them in the rain, so bearing failure wasn't unreasonable.) Every time I rode that bike, I told myself I would check out the source of the noise and every time I got home I would find something more interesting to do. It didn't help that most of my rides of late have either been on town bikes or our new tandem.

Well, my wife is out of town, so off I went on my favorite old bike with the annoying click. As I headed up the hill at the edge of town I promised myself for the umpteenth time that I would deal with whatever was making that sound. Yeah, yeah, sure I will.

About twenty-five miles into a planned forty mile ride I was buzzed by a bright yellow SUV (less than six inches of clearance). To add insult to near-injury, the motorist pulled off the road a hundred meters later at a driveway with a gate. I pulled off and politely informed her that her dangerous passing maneuver was both unappreciated and illegal. (Oregon requires a motorist to give a cyclist room to fall in the motorist's direction when passing on a road with a speed limit over 35 mph and no official bike lane.) Like most motorists, she proclaimed her ignorance of the law.

Whatever could a common dangerous pass by a motorist have to do with my clicking pedal? Well, about a quarter-mile after our little chat, the clicking pedal came apart. It wasn't a failing bearing at all. The platform onto which the cleat attaches had unscrewed from the spindle portion. Needless to say, when this happened I did have a noticeable wobble that took me slightly over half a foot out of my line. Had the pedal failed just a bit earlier, like at the moment the yellow SUV was buzzing me, I might have had a more interesting day.

So, I'm advertising my stupidity to remind everyone to take care of maintenance and inspection issues, particularly when the darned things are talking to you. Here's a short list of things that have caused a few close calls for me over the years:
1. Chain breakage. Sometimes there is an audible clue that something is giving way.
2. Worn tires. Pay particular attention to the front. Is getting 200 more miles out of that tire really worth a 40 mph blowout?
3. Pedals. See above, but I have broken a few and they usually give some warning. On a related note, my wife once lost one of the three bolts that holds her cleat tight. This resulted in the cleat not releasing when she twisted her foot to get out. She was quick enough to change sides and avoid the tombay.
4. Cranks. This has to be the worst thing to break. Unless we're talking about the old one-piece things, they usually just snap under load. Only a close inspection will show the flaw, and it is often invisible until AFTER it fails.
5. Crank Spindle. Okay, I've never broken one of these and I thought they were indestructible, but my son, Godzilla, did snap one clean off. He doesn't ride anymore; he got tired of breaking bikes.
6. Forks and Rear Triangle. I've had several steel rear triangles fail. Those have been nice, soft, slow-motion failures. It's not a bad idea to inspect the joints once in a while. The only forks I've ever heard of failing were carbon and were being used outside their rated loads. I have no idea what to look for in cf.

Feel free to add to the list of items that can cause an ugly dismounting.
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Old 10-25-12, 05:47 AM   #2
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Thanks for the maintenance tips...

And, thanks too for talking with the SUV lady -- that sounded like it was a productive talk (rather than a road-rage shout-fest). But, to me as a motorist or cyclist, the law should not matter. It is common sense and common courtesy to provide room and not (nearly) run somebody off of the road...

Not to get political: but for years we have been hearing about the moral decay of American society. To me, the rude, thoughtless, and aggressive actions of that woman illustrate the moral decay that concerncs me most. If we do not care for each other or even care about each other, who will?
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Old 10-25-12, 06:43 AM   #3
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I'd add to your list that one ought to check the handlebar and stem on a regular basis. I had the misfortune to have the front plate of a threadless stem pop the top bolt (2 bolt design) on a particularly difficult climb, causing one side of the bar to shoot up half an inch while the other shot down. Doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to cause you to topple over. I'd also check the derailleur hanger every now and again. I've had one of those come loose enough to jam the chain and stop all forward pedaling motion quite suddenly.
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Old 10-28-12, 07:29 AM   #4
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My entire life has been devoted to being a maintance engineer, starting with the US Navy. Maybe I am in a small minority, but I just wont ride unless my bike or trike is working 100%. Even with that the trunk pacs that I have on both the bike and trike is a mini bike shop. I intend to ride out and back without calling for help. BTW I dont know how many times I have stopped to help people that blindly take off on a ride with no pump patches tubes or tools.

Being prepared for almost any problem, and starting out with none almost ensures an enjoyable ride.
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Old 10-28-12, 09:02 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
I'd add to your list that one ought to check the handlebar and stem on a regular basis. I had the misfortune to have the front plate of a threadless stem pop the top bolt (2 bolt design) on a particularly difficult climb, causing one side of the bar to shoot up half an inch while the other shot down. Doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to cause you to topple over. I'd also check the derailleur hanger every now and again. I've had one of those come loose enough to jam the chain and stop all forward pedaling motion quite suddenly.
I had a similar thing happen, two bolt front plate. Stripped the screws right out during a climb, made for a long walk home. That's not a maintenance issue normally, not unless you consider going around an replacing oem bolts with Ti bolts preventative maintenance. I guess you are saying the screw were loose.

I'm the same about making sure things are 100% before heading out, but one thing I don't do is clean and lube regularly, and that includes the chain. About once a year I'll go a thorough maintenance, regrease/repack everything..but let it roll after that. I think you can get pretty obsessive about grease and lub, I really don't think a bike needs that much attention unless you are on a couple century a month pace. Heck, I have the original chain on a forty year old bike that I commute on, I don't give it much thought during the year and bet it's still within specs.

Last edited by FrenchFit; 10-28-12 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 10-28-12, 09:06 AM   #6
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Good tips, thank you. Uh, reading your "SUV lady", who claimed ignorance of the law, are you sure you're not in Massachusetts? We seem to be breeding this species around here.
Perhaps the government has a special program that has gone horribly awry.
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Old 10-28-12, 01:16 PM   #7
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this part of why I do regular cleaning and maintenance. When I clean my chain I remove both wheels and the chain and clean the entire bike. when I do that I give a quick tug to the fork, stem, cranks and hubs. On my last cleaning I realized one hub had some play so I adjusted that and checked the grease. I do this fairly regularly and keep a silent, oiled, clean bike. It's safer, silent and that's how I like it.
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Old 10-28-12, 01:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by NOS88 View Post
I'd add to your list that one ought to check the handlebar and stem on a regular basis. I had the misfortune to have the front plate of a threadless stem pop the top bolt (2 bolt design) on a particularly difficult climb, causing one side of the bar to shoot up half an inch while the other shot down. Doesn't sound like much, but it's enough to cause you to topple over. I'd also check the derailleur hanger every now and again. I've had one of those come loose enough to jam the chain and stop all forward pedaling motion quite suddenly.
I wish that I could add to the list... And, actually, I probably should be able to but still can't: So, here's my rant:

I am half way through a 6 week beginner's bicycle mechanics class.. Unfortunately, while I am better at knowing how to install and remove things, I still do not have ANY confidence that I know enough to be confident that my bikes are well maintained. The class is good at things such as: "How to remove / install a threadless handle bar", it simply ignores the idea that you need to check it once in awhile... And, when I ask maintenance related questions, I get either a blank stare or vague answers back...

Or, conversely, I read things about bicycle maintenance and read things like: "You should lubricate your cables". But it doesn't say how or with what...

Fortunately, I still have the easy way: take it to the LBS....

OK... End of Rant...
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Old 10-28-12, 04:13 PM   #9
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Uh, reading your "SUV lady", who claimed ignorance of the law, are you sure you're not in Massachusetts? We seem to be breeding this species around here.
Only in eastern Mass (used to live and work in Boston!) Out here in the Connecticut River Valley and surrounds, I have been surprised at how courteous most of the drivers are.

Back to the original topic, I went to take up a little slack on my front brake cable a week ago, found that the barrel adjuster threaded shaft had broken. Must have happened when I crashed 9/1/11. I have had the bike up on the stand and gone over it several times since, never checked the adjuster because it never needed adjusting!
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Old 10-28-12, 06:04 PM   #10
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Back to the original topic, I went to take up a little slack on my front brake cable a week ago, found that the barrel adjuster threaded shaft had broken. Must have happened when I crashed 9/1/11. I have had the bike up on the stand and gone over it several times since, never checked the adjuster because it never needed adjusting!
Oh, who needs a front brake? This reminded me of my greatest (worst?) all-time maintenance failure. My wife has an old touring bike with cantilever brakes that have never been very good. She had it in the LBS for some ailment and, just as we were leaving, the mechanic decided to have a look at her brakes. When he grabbed the cable that connects the front brake pads and rubbed a bit, the strands started to break. It was the original twenty-five year old cable and neither of us had ever checked it.

I still see Rory, the mechanic, from time to time even though that bike shop has gone out of business. Every time I see him I thank him for saving my wife's life.
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Old 10-30-12, 12:24 PM   #11
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I've got a Toyota truck with 487,000 miles on the clock, Runs like new, a 2006,,so yeah I drive alot.
Got 394,000 out of a 1996 Jeep cherokee,on roach oil,,rear main let go...
I ride a Harley, If I do not maintain this to perfection It could kill me....

So Yeah,,I OVER maintain,,never ever put it off.......
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Old 10-30-12, 01:32 PM   #12
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Just recently broke a crank on the fixie, a SRAM Omnium 165mm track crank. I had installed it on Feb 6, 2011, and it broke on Oct. 11 after 35,270 km. Yeah, I keep track of component life. It snapped suddenly right at the pedal. My right foot just continued straight down, and I crashed to the right, but there were no cars coming anyway. I was at low speed going up a hill, so I just banged my right knee, and it's pretty well healed now.

I haven't broken a crank since the 1970's, when I went thru about six of them over successive Vancouver winters. I started washing the grit and road salt off the cranks after each day of winter commuting, and I hadn't broken a crank since, until this last one. Usually, a crank weakened by winter salt will tend to break the next fall, but I'm pretty careful about washing the cranks during the winter. Anyway, good thing this didn't happen during an important ride, like a California Triple Crown double century after I'd flown down there!

I thought this might be related to the bike falling over onto the crank at some point previously, but the only times I can remember the bike falling onto the crank, it fell on the left side, and this was the right crank. Anyway, I think I will send SRAM a photo and see what they think. I was going to replace the crank anyway with a Rotor 3D with power meter and a Hollowtech bottom bracket (the most intelligent crank attachment I've seen for an external bb); I just didn't get around to it in time.

Here's the photo, taken at the side of the road just after I had picked myself up off the roadway:


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Old 10-30-12, 01:43 PM   #13
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When I was seriously offroading- I used to have a maintenance plan. Doing around 100 miles a week agressively used to take its toll on everything on the bike. Then when you realise it was a Tandem and tandem owners will recognise the "It just Broke" syndrome. After every ride it used to get a quick wash and re-lube but weekends and Maintenance time.

Week one used to be Cables. Slacken off check- clean- possibly change and lube. Along with the levers- Dérailleurs and measure drive chains.

Week two and it was forks and headset- strip forks and check headset bearings which luckily were sealed so rarely needed changing.

Week three and it was polish frame time and check for cracks and damage. And Chainrings- cranks and Bottom brackets Were looked at but faults in this region were normally picked up on a ride and not inspection.

Week four was wheels and the hydraulic brake system. Probably had to fit new tyres aswell at this time as 400 miles on our hills ripped them to shreds.

Then once a year it was complete strip down of the frame and rebuild with anything showing wear being replaced. This was done a month before our serious ride of the year and it got so that we knew what needed replacing and had it in stock so it could be stripped and rebuilt on a Saturday and checked on the Sunday ride.

Regular maintenance does pay off but this Tandem was being well used. Surprising how parts checked did start to fail but that is down to a 400lbs all up weight going down rocky slopes at speed and finding the odd tree that got in our way.

I still do a regular maintenance on the bikes but other than the odd cable separating and chain wear- these road bikes just do not take the maintenance I used to have to do.
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Old 10-31-12, 05:53 AM   #14
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Could you post pictures showing the end of the crank a bit closer and closer to the camera? Also if you have the end that broke off, (I know a long shot but I gotta ask) and the pedal show them. I'd send a picture to SRAM, nothing to lose by doing this. Off the top of my head I's say you had a sharp blow to the pedal at some point that put a stress riser in the aluminum crank arm that weakened and spread with each pedal stroke. Seeing the metal grains and stress lines will tell a lot and someone with a bit more failure analysis experience and metallurgy can tell you better why it failed. Just the engineer in me wants to see this and know more, I had to do this (FA) for many years on job sites with structural bolts and steel shapes.

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