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An Update on My Trek’s Drivetrain; A Most Exciting Turn of the Crank…

I’ve got 103 miles on the Trek since I first reported changing around my rear derailleur and drivetrain to all Shimano (with the exception of the chain rings and chain – the chainrings will stay, the chain, read on). Some hard miles, too, including Friday’s push into an ugly headwind to ride the tailwind home, often hitting speeds of 35-mph (56 kph) and Sunday Funday which turned into a hot mess of awesome by the time we pulled into the driveway.

The derailleur was the difference maker – the old one having been worn out, but switching the drivetrain to a mix of 105 and Ultegra, but all Shimano, was the cherry on top.

I haven’t missed a shift since, and it’s been a long time since I could say that with the Trek. My 5200 is back to running like a well-oiled lubed machine again and the more I ride it, the more I enjoy it. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t quite the end of the Trek’s problems. It had developed a creak. At first I thought it was in the steering assembly but I had that tightened perfectly to the point 1/8th a turn tighter would have the steering start catching mildly. When that didn’t work, I thought maybe it’d be grit in the bottom bracket bearings but I cleaned that out beautifully and it still creaked… I’d tried everything to stop the creaking until I got the idea that maybe the headset bearings weren’t lubed well enough the last time I took it in for a tutorial on how my Chris King threaded headset worked (it’s very ingenious and exceptionally tricky – and definitely a topic for another l-l-l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g post)… I was torn between taking the steering assembly apart or messing with the bottom bracket bearings when I finally decided to start with the steering assembly and go from there. On taking everything apart and inspecting the bearings, there was no lube on the fork’s bottom race (where the bearing sits). None. This is one of the most critical places on a bike to lube. So while I was in there, I slathered a goodly amount of lube on the race and the upper and lower bearings and put everything back together. Before I tested it out, though, it was also time for a new chain. I’d ordered a Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace chain and two KMC reusable Missing Links last week from Jenson’s (I love Jenson USA) and figured while I was at it, I’d put the new chain on as well (and the old chain was about ten miles from being shot anyway, according to my chain wear indicator tool).

I degreased the chain, installed it and lubed it with my new favorite, Squirt wax based chain lube and let it sit to dry while tending to my wife’s bike (cleaned the bottom bracket, new chain, cleaned the crankset). I took the 5200 out for the test-ride last evening. It was glorious. Not a single creak and the shifting, now that all of the componentry is Shimano 105/Ultegra, was every bit as good as the shifting on the Venge. It was perfect.

Now I’ve really got a dilemma in trying to figure out which bike to ride… And that’s my kind of dilemma!

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:

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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’.