So it is that I find myself at Ride Brooklyn* which is hosting a clinic by Angela Azzolino on bike maintenance. Angela, a former bike builder, is now a mechanic. She is also the creator of Get Women Cycling, a program focusing on bike gear, maintenance etc. for women (more below **). But anyone can benefit from this clinic.
Ride Brooklyn is right off the Bergen Street subway stop (for those coming from Manhattan).
We start with the basics:
First we look at tire pressure. The correct pressure can be found on the tire itself.
QUESTION: One day at Zen, two different people came in having snapped the top of their Presta valve off. I have also bent mine. How to avoid this?
ANSWER: Be sure the pump is down securely enough on the valve that there is no wiggle. And once again, patience in removing.
QUESTION: which is better, CO2 cartridges or bike pump for a flat?
ANSWER: Cartridges are more compact (there is no talk of the difficulties of using CO2 cartridges which I've read about), but generally a pump is more cost effective. Have a big one at home and a light, versatile one for the road. I have a portable pump with a tube which reaches to the tire and it has a small foot pedal, so you can pump standing and use some real torque. It also has a gauge. May I never have to use it.
Lube them! Angela said she's had people come in using WD-40. We all cringe. Tri-Flow is the best all around.
The lube goes onto the chain rollers (the middle of the chain), not the plates (sides). Many chains have a master link (see below) if you can find it.
QUESTION: When to lube? Twice a month or so - and definitely if you've been riding in rain. Check the chain periodically, once or twice a month. When the chain is very dry, you will know it because it will start to creak and make sounds while you pedal. The goal is to not let it get to that point.
Make sure your pedals are on tight. All of the parts on a bike take punishment, especially on NYC streets, and they can loosen. Most pedals tighten with a pedal wrench (mine use an allen wrench).
Check the pedal crank with an 8mm arm tool. The leverage of a longer handled tool will allow for greater torque and is recommended for those who do not have a lot of hand strength (ladies?). To tighten it, make sure chain is on large chain ring and push the wrench and the pedal towards each other.
If your brake pads don't have enough grab, it may be as simple as cleaning your rims for schmutz or grease. I do this after almost every ride. A dry rag is fine. If your brakes stick, you can use Tri-Flow at the brake joints above the calipers (not on the brake!). If your brakes aren't braking fast enough, you can adjust barrel adjuster to tighten or loosen the cable.
ANSWER: If cleaning the rims doesn't do it, try pivoting/toe-ing your brakes. Loosen the allen nut. Place a small piece of paper at either the back or front of the brake pad to help toe them in...
Brakes also wear out. Initially, brake pads will come with teeth. Their wearing down is an indicator you may need to replace them. You may want to remove the wheel first.
REMOVING THE WHEEL
Hey wait a minute, how did we get to this so fast? Do we really have to do this? But I was recently on a ride where we did have to do it. And since most flats occur on the rear wheel...A tri-tool will have all the sizes you need to remove a wheel. Make sure the chain is on the smallest cog in the back. First open up the brake's quick releases.
Most brakes have an allen nut where you can loosen them, and the brake will slide right off.
And now for replacing the wheel (it's not as bad as it looks):
Slide it into place, making sure the chain stays on the smallest cog in the back.
NOTE: Turn the quick release lever so that when it is closed, it is parallel with either the seat or chain stay to prevent it from catching on something and opening up unexpectedly.
Rotate the pedals and shift gears as you go.
ADJUSTING THE GEARS
To adjust the highest and lowest gears, you'll need a phillips head screw driver. You'll find two limit screws which will adjust the chain either closer to, or farther from the frame. You will be glad to be able to identify these, because they are easy to adjust - and the result is really important.
For the mid-level gears - the ones we use the most - there is another barrel adjuster (I'm beginning to love barrel adjusters).
There is nothing like hands-on experience and Get Women Cycling has lots of clinics all over the five boroughs listed in their newsletter (address below).
Thanks to Ride Brooklyn for hosting this great event!
*RIDE BROOKLYN: http://ridebrooklynny.com
** GET WOMEN CYCLING: http://www.getwomencycling.com
*** PRESTA VS SHRADER: http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/8157/why-are-both-schrader-and-presta-valves-still-used-on-tubes