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The way I work on my bikes has changed. I don’t tune derailleurs much anymore. I don’t patch tubes. I replace fewer cables. A lot of the simple and regular tasks I’d take on, headphones on, for an hour or two in the basement, are gone. This is, in large part, because bicycle components have gotten better, more complicated in some ways, more robust in others.
Unlike many bike people, I don’t miss maintenance nights much. I’ve never been very good at it, so the warm feelings of satisfaction others get from some well-turned wrenches and a precisely dialed bike, weren’t often on the menu for me. I always tried to be conscientious about caring for my bikes, but having brakes that work all the time, no matter what I do, and gears that shift accurately, despite my ineptitude, has been nice.
The only problem I’m having really is that because bike work is less necessary, I find myself forgetting to do the stuff I really should stay on top of. I’ll let my tubeless tires go too long without replenishing sealant. I’ll forget to lube my chains, until they start to chirp, which I find embarrassing, frankly. I also swap tires less often, because it’s more of a pain in the butt.
A lot of this has to do with the type of person I am, which is impatient, easily distracted, and poor at planning things that will take place in an indeterminate future. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can at least empathize.
Anyway, this week’s TCI Friday wonders what your maintenance experience is like today. Do you work on your bikes less? Are your bikes better or worse for needing fewer adjustments? Is this all just in my head, and actually, I should still be tweaking things at least once a month or so? What’s your schedule, if you have one?
Maintenance has never been my strength, but I have become more diligent about simply keeping my bike clean. Some of that has been the result of mixing in more gravel. So I find it necessary to wash the bike and then oil the chain and as a result I enjoy the benefits of a clean machine.
Maybe what your helping me articulate is that the bar on maintaining my bike has been lowered and finally, through no growth of my own, I can enjoy being adequate to the task at hand.
I don’t do much beyond cleaning my chains and brake rotors, and occasionally washing my bikes. I am in tune with my strengths and weaknesses enough to know that the things I depend on to really stay alive while on the bike are best left to professionals
By today’s standards, I am a bit of a Luddite l. My 3 road bikes are all mechanical and I still use tubes.
I do 99% of the maintenance. I have a lot of tools from doing that for over 50 years. Deluxe truing stand, bearing presses, derailleur alignment tool and lots more. I find satisfaction in understanding how everything works. I ride in the mountains of Europe regularly and that’s part of the reason for owner fixable, even out on the road, bikes and knowledge.
I work on my friends bikes too, which I find rewarding.
I love riding my different road bikes to experience the different qualities they present to me, though they are all of the pre hydraulic and electronic era to various degrees. I ride my #1 most frequently, and the others see intermittent use, some only seeing the light of day when forecasts call for 0% chance of rain. Since I ride most infrequently, and because I’m a bike geek of the highest (lowest?) order, I made a Trello board with a column for each bike, under which I note and prioritize maintenance tasks. If I notice something untoward with the mechanicals or fit of any of my bikes, I’ll put that in the Trello board to remind myself to look at that the next time I have some shop time. I feel like it keeps my close emotionally to them, even when I’m not riding them, and the next time I pull them out, there’s that satisfaction of riding a well fitted and maintained machine.
I’m fairly new to tubeless (using for less than a year), so I don’t really have a schedule for maintenance yet. Probably time to check the sealant level!
On other maintenance, I do it all myself and one thing I’ve done over the past few years is keep a stock of all consumable parts for each bike (I only have 2 at the moment). This stock of parts includes disc pads, chains, chain rings, cassettes. If I change a chain, I don’t want to have the situation where there is skipping and have to replace the chainrings and cassette but can’t find them in stock. Same goes for disc pads. Even though I have standard shimano brakes, it’s hard sometimes to find stock of the sintered pads so I always have about 4 sets of pads on hands just in case there is a sequence of muddy rides. I don’t want to get stuck without pads available.
Back in my racing days I would tinker with my bikes constantly while working on friends bikes too. Lately with a lot less on the schedule I am happy if they are merely quiet and roll freely. I seem to have stumbled upon a reliable fleet of bikes.
I learned a few things during covid because my LBS couldn’t get parts. Installed a new crankset, a wheelset with unnecessarily complicated axles, and disc pads. I’ll never get the hang of truing, adjusting cables, or hydraulic anything. I still don’t see the point of road tubeless and anyway haven’t gotten a flat in over 20K miles since switching to 28mm. I also clean and lube the drive train for every ride. My LBS will still get the annual tuneups and other hard stuff.
Maintenance falls into two categories for me. The before every ride stuff and the bigger stuff. I’d say that I perform 85% of my own wrenching efforts. My preride efforts consist of a drop test/bolt check, lube chain prn and pump up/check tire pressure. The bigger stuff would be bike building (I haven’t purchased a complete bike since the 90’s, since then building them all from the frame up), brake bleeds, fork/shock rebuilds/clean/re-grease, cable replacement, bearing swaps, tubeless tire/set-ups swaps, etc. I do some of this alone, but often have help from either my more mechanically inclined pals. If it’s time, lack or patience or something that don’t want to bug my friends for I finally say eff it and take it to the only LBS mechanic I trust who also has built my wheels. for the last ten plus years.
I’m not great at maintenance. I try to remember to lube the chain and inflate the tires. I will patch tubes because I don’t want to learn how to go tubeless. I tried to bleed a hydraulic break once. No. That’s not a typo. I f’d it up. Ended up at the shop anyway. I just wanna ride. I’ll take the bike to the shop and let them put their mad skillz to work.
I do as much as I can and leave the stuff that I know I’d mess up or would need to buy really expensive specialty tools for to the LBS. With eight bikes (yes, I need to get rid of some), I have to work this way or I’d go broke. Fortunately, my bikes aren’t very new so most things are simple to work on. I have no bikes with electronic shifting, they all run tubes and none even have dropper posts.
Probably the most complicated things I run into is bleeding hydraulic brakes and working on suspension forks which I leave to the LBS and if the bike is there anyway, I’ll get them to service it as well for that one time. That’s only for the mountain bikes though because my road bike has rim brakes and my gravel bike has mechanical discs. Otherwise, I’m happy to replace cables, chains, clusters, freehub bodies, bearings, bottom brackets (not pressfit ones), brake pads, patch tubes and anything else at that competence level. The LBS does wheel truing for me as well.
I don’t really have a schedule. I check brake pad wear periodically and replace when required. Same with chains. Cables soon tell me when they’re feeling tired. I check and lube chains if required before each ride. I wash the bike after every mountain bike or gravel ride and degrease maybe every fourth or fifth wash. The road bike gets washed less frequently but also gets a silicone frame wipedown periodically. The commuter stays dirty longer. Tubes get patched when I accumulate four or five.
I do my own work right up until things start bleeding: brake lines, suspensions, me. Oh, and bearings that require a press.
Tech-wise, I’ve got the spectrum covered:
= Cabled shift/cabled brake (fat bike, CX pit bike)
= Cabled shift/hydraulic brake bikes (CX)
= Electronic shift/cabled brake (travel gravel)
= Electronic shift/hydraulic brake (gravel)
The electronics almost never give me trouble, but when they do, to the shop they go. Ditto for the hydraulics. So on balance, I guess I’m doing a bit less than I used to with respect to replacement of cables and housings.