Monday, 25 August 2014

Tips to help keep your bike on the road

Just a few tips to help keep your bike on the road.

Working space

Think about where you will do your bike maintenance.
Our garage is a dark (no electricity!) and crowded (we have all sorts of old junk in there!)
So I put an old (deflated) airbed down in front of it, and make a porch using the rear "hatch" of our car. Keeps the worst of the wet off, as well as giving me somewhere to sit while I am cleaning, inspecting etc. etc. (our car has a flat floor in the boot/trunk, with no ledge/lip)

An impromtu, but effective, shelter for bike repair.

the car boot door (hatch) and the garage door
keep ost of the rain off

From the other side. The window in the car boot door (hatch) keeps the rain off, while allowing the light in.
The old airbed protects parts from being scraped on the tarmac (asphalt) floor



Keep a few spares

Brake cables
Sometimes things wear out - brake cables, for example.
Usually, you get a warning - the brake becomes harder to use, or the lever doesn't return to the correct position after use, or it just feels "funny".
This can be a sign that the cable inner (the silver/grey wire that does the work, and is made up of a lot of thin strands of wire twisted together) is wearing out, and the little wires have started to break.
Best to check the cable, and do something about it NOW!

Of course, this always happens in the evening, or on a Sunday when the bike shop is closed :-)
This is even more likely if you are in charge of the maintenance for "the family" and their bikes - the darling "significant other" just drops it into conversation during Sunday lunch, and mentions how her back brake "feels funny".

So ...
The best thing to do is to have some brake cables already in the house!
They are not very big, and can be stored at the bottom of a wardrobe, or wherever, if you are not as lucky as me (I have a garage, so they are stored on the "bike" shelf, in a box marked clearly "Bike Bits".

Which leads me into another topic - storage organisation. There is no point having things in stock if you can't find them when you need them!

Inner Tubes
We all get punctures.
Even if we have the most puncture-resistant tyres, punctures are still a (hopefully very rare) reality.
The Schwalbe marketing material for their Marathon Plus range shows how you can stick a drawing pin ("thumb tack") into the tyre and still not puncture it.
But what about a nail that's longer?
A roofing nail that can stand on it's broad head (looks a bit like an oversized thumb tack) is going to go through.

Keep in some spare inner tubes - in every size you are likely to need.
I have 622 tubes (for my 700c tyres on my bike), 559 tubes (for Anna's 26-inch wheel bike), and 406 tubes (for our daughter's 20-inch wheel bike).
As usual, I'm likely to be told about a puncture after I have come home from a long day at work, and the local bike shop has closed for the night.
So I keep them "in stock" in the garage - again, where I can find them.

I keep 20 inch (406mm), 26 inch (559mm) and 700c (622mm) tubes in stock.
Because punctures ALWAYS happen when the shops are closed!
There is a spare pedal and some other bits and bobs in their too.
And old pedal might not be stylish, but it allows you to ride to work the next morning!

Tools and repairing

Some folks are more mechanically minded than others.
Some folks like to sit in the garage, up to their elbows in dirt, while some folks detest it.
But if you want to ride every day, you're going to have to have a minimum amount of tools and skills to keep those bikes running.

It is OK to get a bike shop to do "the big jobs", but changing brake cables and fixing punctures is something that someone in the household is going to have to know (and in our household, the "nominated" person is ME!)
Don't be afraid to get someone to show you how it is done - indeed, some cycling clubs and some cycling organisations, and even some shops, do "cycle maintenance" course, which there may well be a charge for.
If you are happy with online videos (it used to be books in the "old days"), and a good bit of imagination, then that is fine, too. The first time you do a job, it takes a lot longer, and you might have to have a couple of goes at it, but after a few times it gets easier and quicker.

In the long run, the skills learnt will save you money, and more importantly, offer you convenience, so that you can spend more time riding, and less time working out how to get your bike to the bike shop for repair.

So you are going to need some tools!

A decent set of hex keys (Allen keys) is a worthwhile investment ...

Can you get the old brake cable off? (and the new one back on?)
Depending on what model of brake you have, you may need a flat-head screwdriver, a cross-head screwdriver, or an allen key (it has a hexagonal head).
Make sure you have one!
Also, after you have fitted the new cable (which tends to be extra long, so it fits all bikes"), you will want to trim the extra end off the cable.
Indeed, if you use "universal" brake cables, they have two ends on them, and you have to cut off the one you don't want BEFORE you can fit it!
A cable cutter is the best option, but a decent set of pliers will do - there is usually a "side cutting" section on the pliers for jobs just like this.
Watch a few online vidoes, or read a bike book, for further advice.

Can you get the wheels off? (and back on?)
Some bikes have Quick Release mechanisms on the wheels, so you just turn a lever, and the wheel can be removed.
Many "commuter" bikes don't - and that can be an advantage, because it makes the wheels harder to steal!
So make sure you have a decent spanner (wrench) that will get the wheels off.
The most common size on "regular" bikes is a 15mm size, but BMX bikes can take a different size.
Find out what sizes you need, and get the tools - something as simple as a 1/2-inch drive socket set may well be enough.
And don't forget to do the wheels up pretty tightly after you put them back on!

Can you get the tyre off? (and back on?)
A proper puncture repair kit will have two or three little "tyre levers" to help you do this. the tyre levers are MUCH better than a screwdriver which can scratch the rim and damage the inner tube far more easily.
Whether you use a patch to repair the tube, or whether you just replace the whole tube, is up to you.
It is worth mentioning the "three patches" rule of thumb, though - when your inner tube has more than three patches on it, it is time to fit another tube! (The logic is that the more patches there are, the more likely it is that one comes loose, and then you'd have to find which patch is loose, and take it off, and put another on etc. etc.)

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