Preventive Maintenance

Jack Donohue


I'm a firm believer in preventive maintenance.  Unfortunately I'm not a firm follower of this belief.


Case in point: care and feeding of the winter bike.  I know from years of riding in the winter that the bike I ride in these conditions gets in really rough shape by the end of the winter.  Nothing more corrosive than the mix of water, sand and salt that covers the roads, and hence bike, for most of the winter. On the really sloppy days I will attempt to remove most of it by squirting water on the affected parts after my ride.  The chain is especially vulnerable being made of steel and prone to rust.  

I always plan to do a thorough cleaning after the last winter ride before retiring it.  Problem is determining when the last winter ride occurs. When nice weather finally arrives, I zealously jump on my good bike and forget poor old winter bike completely.

Until next winter...  When I haul it out of estivation (look that one up) I find that sitting all summer covered with salt and sand has not done good things for the bike.

I find the chain a bright orange color since it is covered in rust.  It also has many frozen links from quietly rusting in place all summer.  So getting it rideable again is a major project. My first tool of choice is a wire brush, which is fairly effective in removing the surface rust.  Then there are the frozen links. The ones that spent the summer around the cogs are pretty sure to want to remain in that shape. So this requires finding them and trying to coerce them into being more flexible.  This is done by grabbing the links and forcibly moving them back and forth until they move on their own. You know you've done the job right when you can spin the chainrings without the chain skipping or seizing.


Once you achieve this happy state, next thing is to lube the chain to ward off future rust.  I've got an ancient container of something called "Syn Lube" (sounds dirty) that has the consistency of molasses.  Don't let anyone tell you that you should use light lubes for performance or whatever. In the winter, you want something as thick as possible to keep the crap off (salt, sand and water).


Next thing to check are the brakes.  Many of my brakesets that have been subjected to the elements will engage just fine, but never release.  Fortunately mine were not in this condition. I was also happy to find the shifting worked very well, better than some of my summer bikes.


My front tire is studded, for icy conditions, but the studs are pretty much worn down to be flush with the tire, so they are mostly ornamental now.
So, with several hours cajoling, I'm good to go.  Now if I could just remember to do my preventive maintenance at the end of this season.
Jack Donohue is CRW Webmaster.