Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bike Maintenance

There is something to be said for regular bike maintenance. In the winter months I have to say that the commuter bike takes a bit of abuse. This abuse mainly takes the form of neglect. The rains come here in the Pacific Northwest in October and continue until March, with no relief. My only real form of bike maintenance during this time is to add oil to my bitumen covered chain. I have this idea that there is no point to doing any bike related cleaning or maintenance because tomorrow when I ride to work the bike will get covered with grime and all the oil will be washed from where ever it was put the night before. So if my gears start making some noise I just turn up the iPod. The only real issue with this form of denial is that at some point the gears just stop working. Now I have always wanted a single speed, and sometimes I get just what I want, only because the shifters will no longer shift. Now I live half way up a mountain so the practicality of a single speed just isn’t there. So I have felt that the only manifestation of my lack of bike maintenance will be gear related, however I have recently come to the conclusion that this has been a faulty notion.

Over the past couple of months I have noticed that my ride times to and from work have increased substantially. In fact I was getting quite depressed. I would get home at the end of a commute just “cooked”! I was beginning to believe that the aging process was finally catching up to me. I was almost resigned to the fact that “I was getting old!” My ride time home had increased from and average of 38 minutes to an average of 44 minutes, that’s 6 minutes over 15 km’s (with an elevation gain of 300m). There were three possible reasons for this increase in ride time 1. My house was actually getting further from work (strike that one), 2. I was getting older and my advancing age was finally catching up and overtaking me (possible), or 3. My bike needed some maintenance (not possible, I add oil before every ride).

So I was resigned to the fact that I was slowing down. I began making arrangements for an old age home and I was ready to move in. Then last Friday on the way home my gears decided to act up again so I thought it might be time to put the bike up on a stand. Neither wheel spun more than a quarter turn. Is this a problem? Upon further inspection I found that my disk brake pads had worn down so that there was nothing left of them. It turns out that disk brakes tend to get close to the disk as they wear down – who knew? So I bought new pads, installed them and voila, my wheels turn again!

In fact my wheels turn so well that I am once again back. My ride times on Tuesday were the same as they were last summer when I was in good shape. I guess my advancing age hasn’t caught up to me yet. I wonder how much extra training I was getting by having the brakes on the whole time?

So really my lack of bike maintenance is really just another form of training. The worse my bike gets the harder it is so the more training effect I get. It was just part of the plan.

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