Learn bicycle maintenance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bicycle_maintenance This is not an attempt to but cycle mechanics and bike shops out of business but cycle maintenance, even more advance cycle maintenance, is something everyone using a bicycle should know.

Being able to repair your bike, from simple puncture repair to much more advanced maintenance and repair, is a great skill to know and one that could be more than vital in time to come.

The fact is that we will all have to look to the humble bicycle more as a means of personal transportation as, sooner or later, though it would appear that it might be sooner rather than later, cheap and abundant oil will come to an end.

Gasoline and diesel prices are already at an all time high and while they do fluctuate a little and, in some cases, in the early part of 2012, have gone down a little even, in some places and cases, the latter is due only to the fact that the US and UK governments have release strategic reserves onto the market to prevent riots in the streets.

In 2011, according to statistics, the world used 40% more oil than was being produced. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to work out that that does not compute; definitely not in the long run. Forecasts for 2012 were about 50% to even 60% more needed than being brought to the surface.

So, therefore, the bicycle is going to make and already making a comeback as far as personal transportation is concerned, even for commuting, and thus it is important that anyone using a bike also knows how to maintain it.

Fact is that many, especially “new” cyclists, have got no idea of what maintenance is required and cannot even, in many cases, repair a puncture. While that makes a nice little income for the cycle mechanics, and I do not begrudge them the trade, it is rather ludicrous, but it is the truth.

It has even been known for people to go and throw a bike away at the dump (or leave it in the countryside) simply because of a flat tire. OK, if they have more money than sense and rather want to buy a new bike rather than repair it then they should go and give the bike to someone who appreciated it and can fix it.

Bicycle maintenance is not rocket science and while the tools for the more advance jobs are quite expensive – unless you can find that Lidl are selling a kit of tools for little money (that's how I got mine) when they have them in stock - it is worth in the long run.

However, even if one would not want to tackle rebuilding a bicycle from abandoned ones, as I do, there are aspects of cycle maintenance that every cyclist should know regardless.

Fixing a puncture, one of the simplest jobs, is one of them for sure. One of the most important aspects of routing maintenance, however, is keeping the parts all nicely lubricated. A bike is not meant to make squealing or clonking noises, especially no clonking noises emanating from the crank. As soon as you hear anything like that apply oil. It normally is all that is needed.

My advice to anyone considering serious use of a bicycle for personal transportation is to use a single speed bike, or one with hug gears. Bicycles with Shimano dérailleur gears are a pain in the proverbial neck and if it ever comes to adjusting those, and that needs arises from time to time, it can take hours, literally, to readjust them again.

A simply drop of the bike on the dérailleur can seriously affect the gear change and thus my advice – for I have been there and done it and spent over three hours trying to get it realigned – is to use either, if you can afford it, a bike with three hub gears (Sturney Archer, if you can get it), and you can even get them up to eight gears now, or simple single speed.

When it comes to single speed the older kinds of bicycles can be converted quickly and easily and there is no need to buy a new back wheel, and a conversion, as long as the bike has a “horizontal” dropout compared to the more modern “vertical” dropout at the back, is just a simple case of removing the dérailleur and associated cabling, etc., and then setting the chain to the smallest but one cog on the cassette, shorten chain to appropriate length by use of chain tool and, voila, one single speed bicycle.

Routine bicycle maintenance that anyone should know, however, is much simpler and contains, in the main, of proper cleaning, lubricating, chain tensioning, fitting new brake pads, new cables for brakes (and gears, if you have them), and fixing a puncture.

Unlike cars of today bicycles are still user-maintainable and thus everyone using a bike should, in my opinion, know at least the basics. With a good handbook or two the rest can also be learned bar one or two aspects, maybe.

And because bicycles can be maintained, repaired and even rebuild with only hand tools and the right amount of knowledge they are one of the most sustainable forms of personal transportation.

While it is true that we need some amount of spare parts every now and then such as new tires when the tread is worn down or they fail other wise or new inner tubes for there is only that much patching of them that you can do, and, obviously patches, vulcanizing fluid and such like, they are a lot easier to deal with than anything else, bar one's own feet.

Most aspects of bicycle maintenance is but the application of common sense and a little knowledge to the problem and the problem thus gets solved. You also do not take a bicycle to the bike shop for an annual service or such. You can do those things yourself. Learn from a good book or two or someone who tinkers with bikes and you are up and running to keeping your bicycle(s) running almost for ever.

The bicycle is the personal transportation of the future, together with walking, for the masses. The age of motoring is history, regardless of what those with a vested interest or those that cannot and do not want to see the writing on the wall. Thus knowing how to maintain, repair, service and rebuild a bicycle is a skill worth learning.

© 2012