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The Avid Enthusiast Cyclist’s Guide to Winter Bike Maintenance; How Far Should You Go in Your Quest for Spring Perfection?
So you’ve graduated into the ranks of the “avid enthusiast cyclist”, it’s a fun club to be a part of.
If you don’t quite think you fit into the club yet, please allow me to clear something up before we even get into winter maintenance. The “Avid Enthusiast’s Cycling Club” isn’t about average pace or speed, it isn’t about how aerodynamic your bike, brain bucket or body is. The Avid Enthusiast Cycling Club is for those who simply love their hobby and put a
fair fairly outrageous amount of time and effort into it. If that changes things for you, welcome to the club!
There are a few things that we avid enthusiasts enjoy, almost as much as our coffee. First, a bunch of miles on a quiet bike. Second would be lots of miles on a silent bike. Third would be lots of miles on a silent bike that works perfectly. Fourth? Lots of miles on a clean, silent bike that works perfectly…
Now, reverse that for order of importance.
Here’s what we need to be ready for our favorite time of year – cycling season is upon us;
- Bar tape? How is the old bar tape looking? Does it need replacing? If you have to seriously contemplate that for more than 3.0248 seconds, the answer is “yes”. Actually, unless you changed the tape last month, the answer is more than likely, “yes”. This should be done last, though. Just before you roll your bike out for the new season. No sense in doing a bunch of work on the steed just to accidentally get a little chain lube on your fresh tape whilst adjusting your derailleurs… This is so, unless you own a bike with Specialized S-Wrap faux leather bar tape. That $#!+ looks fantastic forever. I’m going on my seventh season for my Venge’s tape and I have no reason to even think about changing it:
S-Wrap bar tape (not the cork stuff): Still spectacular after seven seasons and 30,000+ miles
- New parts! Are you thinking of installing new chain rings? A new crankset? How about a new handlebar?! Perfect. The winter or early, early spring, before all of the important maintenance stuff, is the perfect time to put new parts on your bike.
- New cables (and housings every two, maybe three, cable changes – or as needed – dictated by the conditions one rides in). Cables on an externally routed bike should be handled once a season, ideally in spring, though if you’ve got a dedicated “rain bike”, it might be a good idea to change the cables after the rainy season. Internally routed cables only need changing every couple to several years, depending on conditions the bike is ridden in. My Venge is babied, so I only change the cables every three years or so. My Trek gets new cables every year.
- Crank and headset cleaning. This should be done at least twice a year, once before spring, once mid-season. Clean the crank, bottom bracket, and headset (and bearings if necessary). It’s a messy task, and utterly necessary for keeping that aforementioned bike from squeaking and/or creaking, and/or clicking.
- Tighten the chainring bolts. I know what you’re thinking, “They shouldn’t loosen.” Yes, they do. Tighten them.
- New chain – this is another one of those, “possibly wait till after the messy spring cycling season” things.
- Hub cleaning. Clean your hubs. Your bearings will last longer and your bike will be quieter. This is an essential task, though rarely performed. I clean and lube the hubs on my rain bike at least once a year… and they have sealed bearings. They’re very clean and still roll excellently.
- I like to polish and wax my Trek’s frame to keep it looking spectacular. Typically, I’ll handle this after the rainy season, though. No sense in getting it all prettied up, just to trash it in the rain between April and May. I use a random orbit buffer and McGuire’s Gold wax.
- Pull the seat post and clean it. I don’t know how that sucker even gets dirty, but it does. Actually, I can figure out part of the problem; as you’re riding at a blistering pace, your sweat will drip off and the wind will blow it back to the seat post area. It’s not too much of a stretch for the sweat to get in there and gum things up. Whatever the case, leaving the seat post in, years on end, can eventually lead to it seizing up the seat post. You DO NOT want this to happen.
- Finally, I like to clean in between everything – all of the little nooks and crannies – during the winter months. Nothing keeps a bike looking new better than clean nooks and crannies. You may not ride all that fast, but looking spectacular makes up for a lot of slow!
Whatever you do, don’t do like everyone else and wait until after the first nice days to get your bike tuned up. Work on that stuff during the winter months so you’re ready to hit the ground rollin’.