Health & Safety

September 6, 2013

Maintain bicycles at home for smooth, safe ride

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Southeast Arizona is considered one of the prime locations in the United States for street and mountain biking. Cooler temperatures and monsoon’s end will soon bring bikers out in greater numbers. Before prime biking weather sets in, bikers should give their bicycles some TLC for smoother, safer rides with minimal breakdowns or flat tires.

With modern bicycles, maintenance should be considered a critical part of the overall riding experience. The latest bicycle designs have up to 30 speeds, indexed shifting and integrated brake/shift levers.

Home bicycle maintenance requires a portable bicycle repair stand, specific tools and a tire pump. Park Tool Company (www.parktool.com) is among other online sites where riders can find specific tools for bicycle maintenance.

Before starting any maintenance, perform a light bicycle cleanup. Use a damp cloth to remove road and trail grime from the frame, fork, rims, derailleurs, crank arms, brakes, stem and handlebar. This allows a rider to work on a bicycle without getting dirty.

Before each ride, check tire pressure. Inflate tires to the recommended air pressure listed on the tire. Inspect tires for cuts, thorns and uneven wear. Replace worn-out tires quickly to avoid tire failures during a bicycle ride. Also, when changing out tires, replace the tube.

Brake adjustments are important for quality stops. Adjust brake pads close to the rim without touching the rim during wheel rotation. In addition, adjust brake cables for minimal slack. Inspect brake pads for wear and replace as needed.

Clean tire rims with a cloth soaked in dish soap, then rinse and dry. This will remove road and trail grime from the rims, as grime interferes with stopping power.

Bicycle chains require proper lubrication to function correctly. Use a bicycle-specific chain lube regularly. In general, lubricate the chain whenever it starts to make noise during shifting. The best way to apply lubricant is to apply one drop of lube to each rivet/bushing. Be careful — over-lubrication will attract dirt.

Gear-shifting adjustments can be difficult and require two steps. The first is to adjust the derailleur’s limit stop-screws. These stop screws are labeled “H” (high) and “L” (low). Adjust limit stop-screws on the front derailleur when the chain is shifting past the smallest or largest chainwheel. For the rear derailleur, adjust limit stop-screws when the chain is shifting past the smallest or largest sprocket.

The second step is adjusting the shift indexing. Each index stop corresponds to one position of the derailleur. The indexing adjustment is an adjusting barrel located at one end of a length of cable controlling the derailleur. If needed, adjust the cable tension for proper shifting between gears.

This article covers only basic bicycle maintenance. Additional bicycle maintenance information can be found online. In addition, the Internet has free how-to maintenance videos. For complex bicycle repairs or complete overhauls, a rider may need to visit a local bicycle shop.

 




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