Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hiatus Ends With Spring Cleaning/Tuneup

Yes, yes, yes, I'm a blog slacker. Get over it. You payin' for this drivel? Other than the time you'll never get back, of course.

I completed my Iowa Spring Jinx today by finally fixing up the Bruce Gordon after a long, ugly winter. No photos, but here was my approach:

First, I popped off the wheels and de-accessoried, top to bottom. All bags, lights, pump, computer, bottle cages, etc. found themselves in a pile on the bench. With the wheels clear of the bike, I gave them a good cleaning. You'd think this would take chemicals (even just good ol' dihdrogen oxide), but a dry brush and rag did the trick. The brush was for the cassette (if you scrub it back and forth, it will ratchet around, allowing you to hit the whole thing) while the rag took care of the rest. I did find a nasty groove in the rear rim (stupid cheap brake pads) that will probably strand me sometime this season, but I'm going to wait it out. The hubs felt good and the wheels were true, so that's all I needed to do with my rolling stock.

Next up, I pulled off the old chain and those aforementioned crappy brake pads and chucked 'em. I always start the year with fresh chain and pads, ride them all season, sacrifice them to the winter, and replace them again in the spring. A Powerlink from SRAM and brakes with cartridge pads make that really easy. Then, I got jiggy on the rest of the bike with the brush (for the rear derailleur and chainring) and the rag (for everything else). Once all was shiny, I installed new brake pads (Kool Stops
this time), put in the rear wheel, put on the new chain, and adjusted the rear brake/drivetrain before moving on to the front end of the bike. I gave the BB a "feel check" as I was cleaning the chainring -- it still felt smooth, so no work needed there. Huzzah for good, XT-/Ultegra-level Shimano cartridge BBs -- this one's now 12 years old and still spins like new.

(Aside: The "back to front" attack is one way a working mechanic will tackle a tuneup. Others take the "systems" approach: wheels, drivetrain, brakes, steering. Whatever your approach, if you use it consistently -- or go seriously compulsive with a written checklist -- you're less likely to forget something.)

I knew the front end was going to be no fun -- my headset's been notchy, so I needed to get it opened up amidst a tangle of cables. It took a few "stop and think" moments of spatial reasoning, but I managed to get access to the bearings. One thing I'd forgotten about tuning "working" bikes? You get to discover all sorts of (ahem) "unique" smells. Imagine if you held your arm at your side for a few months and then took a whiff of that armpit. That's about what the inside of a neglected frame smells like. Nasty.

Anyway, by cleaning the cartridge bearings, shoving fresh grease under their seals, and flipping them top to bottom, I managed to de-notch the heasdset, at least for the time being. That last "flip" part probably did nothing, but it felt like it should do something, so I ran with it.

Front wheel in, front brake adjusted, all accessories re-installed, short test ride, and bazinga -- it's like a new bike for about $30 in parts and a half day of labor. Not as speedy as my shop days since I'm about a decade out of practice, but not bad.

I'm sure it will make me faster, too. And thinner. And more attractive. Right.

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