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Off-season Bike Maintenance; when the Snow Flies is the Time to to Get a Tune-up Done, not Springtime…

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Do you wait until springtime to get your road bike(s) tuned up?  Many do – and they usually wait until the first nice day hits the fourteen day forecast… which means the shop fills up with tune-ups and it takes days, or even weeks, to get your bike back.  Why wait?

Why leave all of that gunk in your bike over the winter?  Why wait until everyone else is rushing their bike to the shop to get it tuned up for the spring?

Bike shops start slowing down as winter approaches.  Only we nuts are out on our bikes until the snow flies.  Also, noobs to the sport rarely buy a new bike in the off-season when they can’t ride it (great time to find a deal, though).  Shops are letting go of their least talented mechanics, only holding onto the good one’s through the winter.

In other words, it’s the perfect time to get your tune-up done.

Better, it’s the perfect time to learn how to tune the bike up yourself!

So let’s look at what you’re going to want to do and what to leave to the professionals.  For me, here’s my list, in no particular order – and I’m going with the Trek for this, because the Venge is treated different.  I only have to change the cables every three or four years, and I only have to clean the bearings out once a year because I only ride the bike in perfect conditions.  The Trek needs more work:

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  • Clean, wax and polish the frame.  It’s not accidental the bike looks as good as it does.  I have a random orbit polisher for the job.  I don’t mess around.  Typically, I like to remove all of the cables first, so I don’t have anything in the way of the polishing wheel.
  • New cables all around, whether they need it or not, while I’ve got them off to clean the frame.  Also, it’s a perfect time to remove the bottle cages, clean the bolts, lube the bolts and install the cages after the frame is cleaned and polished.
  • Take apart, clean, and lube the headset and bearings – also, clean up and lube the quill stem assembly.
  • Take apart, clean, and lube the crankset (done with the frame cleaning).  Also check chainring bolts (they tend to loosen and can lead to a creak that’s difficult to pinpoint.
  • Clean the brake calipers of dirt, dust, and debris.  Clean the brake pads (this should be done several times a season to protect the brake track of the rims).
  • Another item that should be looked after several times a season, that I take a little farther for the off-season clean up, is cleaning up and lubing the derailleur pivot points.  I use a light lube for this – Boeshield T-9 or a Teflon spray-lube.
  • Disassemble, clean, lube and reassemble the wheel hubs, including the cassette body.
  • Remove and clean the carbon seat post.

And that’ll about do it – there isn’t much left.

This is a lot of work, admittedly.  It’ll take several hours over a couple of days to get everything done and put back together, but the worth of completing this level of maintenance is incalculable.  Everything lasts longer and works better when the bike is properly maintained.  Go through that list and pick out the tasks you can complete and give a list of those you’re not comfortable with to your mechanic at the local shop.

A clean bike makes for a happy owner, and thousands of quiet, trouble-free miles.

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