27 April 2008

Spring bike maintenance

Spring is finally here, even in the frigid New York City, and time has come for my annual bike tune-up. Sure, I could take it to a bike shop, but then I'd miss out on all the greasy hands, the hundreds of little cuts on my hands, the OCD adjustments that a bike offers, and the feeling of triumph of riding the optimized bike.

Now, I admit that my hand was forced into doing a tune-up. Work has kept me busy enough that I just put off the repairs, one weekend after another. It was a mechanical failure that got my focused.

Daya, Chris and I were at Ben's surprise birthday party at a brewery on the ground floor of the Empire State Building. Eventually, we got sick of paying $7 / pint, and decided to go back to Brooklyn. Our destination was a bar called "Alligator Lounge," serving $5 drafts and a free pizza with every drink (no, really). We set up a race: Daya and Chris took the subway, I rode my bike.

I took 5th Ave down to Union Square Park, and got onto Broadway. I kept flying south until I hit Grand St, realized I went too far, and backtracked to Kenmare. I took the Williamsburg Bridge, landed in ... Williamsburg, and then started looking for the bar. People on the streets tried to give helpful directions, but each pointed me in the wrong direction. Finally, when the alligator lounge was in sight, I started pedaling from a read light, and then ...

My chain fell off.

This is rare, but not unheard of. I have my bike rigged with only 1 chainring up front, and no front deraileur. Thus, as the rear deraileur shifts from side to side, there is a slight chance (say, once in 200 miles) that my chain will fall off.

But not this time.

Sugino Chainring FailureAs I started to put my chain back on, I noticed that my chainring had inexplicably bent itself beyond repair. My bike could be pushed, but not ridden, and I was still miles from home. Knowing that I had lost the race, but that I should have won, I pushed my bike the last few blocks. Daya and Chris were there, smug with their victory. This was the first time I had lost a Subway-versus-bicycle race, and I was not happy.

But I digress; this post is about my spring bike tune-up.

I replaced my broken 48T chainring with a new 53T chainring. This has upped my ratio significantly, but still in my comfort zone. I also replaced the chain, and put on a new 8-speed 11-28 cassette (same as before). I put on new brake shoes, bought new cycling shoes and installed new cleats.

But that's the less interesting part of the tune-up. I also did some work on my headset, and I repainted. Each of those is a big enough task to warrant their own posts. So, those posts come next over the next few hours. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Dennis Ferron said...

Interesting that you don't keep a front derailleur; I've always found those to be a hassle too. When I was in better shape I never used anything but the largest chain ring, and I would have gladly used an even larger one if I had it. So going to the 52 T one will make for a better ride, especially if there aren't many hills where you live.

I on the other hand spent a few years sedentary and only got back to riding recently, so I find myself spinning along in the low gears a lot more than I used to!

To be honest I don't like derailleurs at all, front or back, or chains. They seem to let you down at the worst moments. I once saw a motorcycle that didn't have a chain; it turned a side-mounted driveshaft instead that drove the rear wheel with a 90 degree gear angle. I'd love to replace my bicycle chain with a driveshaft and some internal hub gears!