Today we received our new and improved bike! I’ve been excited for it’s arrival, but to be honest, I’ve been really, really happy with the Haul-a-Day we got in November. It has such a great fit, it would be tough to top it. I noticed the chain looked pretty bad after it was parked in the rain the other night and knew I’d been slacking on basic maintenance, and I love this bike so I was a lot alarmed about how rough the chain looked. Plus, taking on a project seemed like a good idea since I knew its friend was on a FedEx truck and I was anxiously waiting.
Our condo has very strict rules about bikes, and they’re not usually allowed in elevators at all. Luckily our parking is very secure, and right now there’s a crazy garage project so we’ve been allowed to take bikes up to our balconies to store. Perfect- since I’d feel a little weird performing this maintenance outside!
I’ve heard from smart people the two easy things you need to do as a bike owner are:
1) keep your tires within the recommended PSI.
2) keep your chain clean and lubricated (or not lubricated, or use dry lube only, the debate continues…)
You should pay attention to how your bike rides- any skips, sounds, or odd feelings you can’t diagnose yourself warrant a trip to your local bike store for a look. I get paranoid about my bikes… it never hurts to talk to a mechanic you trust about concerns. (PSA done.)
So the first thing I do is clean off the frame. There are a lot of bike specific products, but a weak dishsoap water solution on a cloth works fine. Over the winter I tried to wipe off the salt and grime, but definitely didn’t do a thorough job. I got a toothbrush and used it to get at the little nooks and crannies, and checked all my connection points to see if they were tight and debris free.
I don’t know why I’d held on to these bed risers, but they were in a closet and came in handy for getting the rear wheel off the ground. Unfortunately my chain scrubber doesn’t work vertically. These fit under the side loaders and kind of let me work- they kept tipping. :/ On the Yuba, the kickstand held one wheel higher than the other, so all I had to do was apply weight to the front end of the bike and the rear could spin easily.
Auuughhh! You see that chain?! It was looking dirty before, but I was out this week and the bike got caught in the rain for awhile, and when it dried it was this lovely orange color. Rust isn’t a huge deal on a chain, provided it’s clean and lubed, and I figured I’d break out the old chain scrubber.
Here’s my Park Tool scrubber. I bought it as part of a kit on Amazon- it comes with a brush and some solvent. The solvent is a citrusy degreaser, and I think any product like that would probably work. The tricky part today was that I left the bike in first gear and there was a lot of play in the chain, then the back slipped so I had to “back pedal” the chain. When you use this, you should really scrub, bringing the tool back and forth while feeding the chain through. I went over the chain 2-3 times this way, using a paper towel to wipe off all the gross degreaser.
When you’re done scrubbing, you unclamp the top from the bottom, and look at all the gross stuff you got off your chain. Good for you. 😉 You’ve now done some bike mechanic-y stuff and gotten your hands dirty. Don’t you feel proud?
Finally, after wiping off the degreaser as much as possible, I treat the chain with some wax-based lube. This is controversial. I’ve found there are strong opinions about chain maintenance, but this method has served me well so far. The product I have here is marketed for motorized vehicles, but I think it does well on bikes. I buy mine on Amazon, and the big can is a good deal at under $9. You’re supposed to let it set for 30 minutes after applying it, which ended up being perfect- since my bike showed up about 15 minutes later!
More on that soon!!