Your bike’s a member of the family, so celebrate its birthday with a maintenance checkup and you’ll keep it running smoothly for years to come.
In today’s episode of Pure Fix TV, Christian guides us through a 1-year mechanical inspection, and the repair jobs you’ll likely encounter in your first year of owning a bike! Grab your ride, your tools, and let’s head into the garage!
Riding fixed, your cog takes a beating. Transferring the awesome power of your legs to the rear wheel and the road is a full-time job and, if you’re riding brakeless, that cog is doing double duty as your starter and stopper. You want to make sure it’s up to the task. Give your cog a good cleaning and inspection every time you wash your bike, and definitely put it under the microscope when it’s time for your 1-year tune up.
First, use your favorite degreaser and a toothbrush (or a hard-bristled shop brush) to clean all the road grime and gunk off of the cog. Scrub that sucker until it’s back to showroom shine. That’ll reduce wear on the drivetrain from dirt and debris being ground up in the chain and it’ll also give you a chance to check your cog for wear.
What you’re looking for is that the teeth haven’t become misshapen by wear and tear from riding. If your cog’s teeth are still smooth and fresh, you’ll be good to go, but if they look narrowed or taper up to a point like shark teeth, it’s time for a change.
This is also a great chance to change up your gearing. If your year of riding has built up your legs, consider a smaller cog so you can squeeze more top speed out of your ride and shorten that commute. Or, if the hills in town have been wearing you down, swap on a larger cog to make tackling the grades less of a hassle. Just don’t forget your lockring wrench so that new cog won’t go anywhere when you hit the brakes.
Speaking of brakes, you ought to be checking your pads for wear regularly, and they certainly need to be part of your annual inspection. Pull the pads and make sure they’re clear of any dirt and debris that may have become embedded in them. A good wipe down will also help remove any oil from the road that might make the pads more slippy than stoppy.
Tighten All the Things
Over time, bolts have a tendency to wiggle their way out of tightness – especially if you’re hitting a lot of potholes, speed bumps, and the like. Now’s the time to grab that wrench and make sure everything’s as tight as it needs to be!
To make sure you don’t miss anything, make a plan of attack. For example, I start with the front wheel axle, work my way up and over the bars (brake, stem, levers/accessories), down the frame to the drivetrain (chainring bolts, crank arms, pedals), up the frame to the seatpost (seatpost collar, seatpost, saddle), then down to the rear wheel axle (axle, cog/freewheel, lockring). You don’t want to overtighten anything, but if you make sure to snug everything up when it starts to get loose, you’ll keep your bike running smoothly for years.
Even if they’re holding air, it’s worth checking your tubes once a year for dryrot and wear, especially if your bike’s been out of commission over the Winter or sitting in the elements for a while. My favorite part of this stage is seeing how many patches my tube’s accumulated over the course of the year (my standing record is 6, but I know riders whose tubes are almost more patch than latex at this point). If everything looks good, you can pop ‘em back in and be good to go! But, if you’re planning a tour and want the peace of mind that fresh tubes bring, you can always swap in a new set and save your old pair for on-the-road spares. If your tubes have become brittle or worn, though – just toss ‘em. Tubes are cheap. Being late to work because you got a flat isn’t.
This is also the right time to check your chain. A worn chain will eat up the rest of your drivetrain components as everything stops fitting together smoothly, so this is one of those “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” situations. Grab your chain checker, your chain tool, and get to it! And if you need a guide, here’s Christian to walk you through the process.
Tape / Grips
After a year, there’s a good chance your tape is pretty grody and there’s an even better chance that you’re ready to freshen everything up with a new look and color! If you have grips, and you’re happy with them, some light dish soap and water will bring them back to life, but you could always snag a new set too to liven things up. This is one of those things that doesn’t play a huge mechanical role, but having a bike you’re excited about riding is like 90% of riding in the first place, and sometimes a face lift is all you need to get that “new bike” excitement back.
And that’s it! You’re ready to ride off into the year. Stay tuned for even more episodes of Pure Fix TV and, until then, we’ll see you out there!