21 Mar 2016

Keeping it ticking over

It seems to be the month for it! 3000km have come and gone since I purchased my bike and it's time for some scheduled maintenance.

I'm relatively happy about this. It's not going to be overly cheap, but apparently this isn't a cheap hobby (although a quick Google for 'expensive hobbies' returns plenty of lists which 'cycling' is not mentioned in. Perhaps I should take up Aviation?)

Throughout the rigmarole with the strange noises coming from my bike I've become more conscious about the wear and tear on the bike. The idea of losing brakes, traction, gears... any number of things could be devastating at any given moment, and even the best-case scenario means time off the bike or training rides cut short.

With this in mind I've been keeping an eye on my chain wear using the old 'measure it with a set of callipers' method, and at the time that the chain showed noticeable amount of stretch. I also noticed that the chain started to get louder, and the shifting started to get a little rougher - kind of louder and less crisp feeling.

So off to my Favourite Mechanic I went, bike in hand, and today the bike is in for a few little tweaks and upgrades:
  • new shifter and brake cables
  • new chain
  • new bar tape
  • headset tighten and check

I'm led to believe the shifter cables that came on the bike were pretty inexpensive. They were coated with some form of plastic that has worn off and gotten everywhere and all jammed up in the cable housings. The brake cables didn't seem to be that fancy either and have effectively corroded, and the rear brake is feeling sticky. It's not terrible, but there is a definite lack of modulation. Actually it's pretty terrible. The plan is to replace the cables with either Jagwire, or stock Shimano cables. It's going to be a bit of a surprise to see which one the mechanic goes for - either way it will be better than what I've got now.

I'm a bit sad about the bar tape. I was running bright orange Lizard Skins, which were tacky (as in 'sticky', thanks!) as heck and BRIGHT ORANGE! Unfortunately they have worn through and are rather dirty from all the use. The plan is to stick some orange fi'zi:k tape on there. It's more 'Orange' than 'ORANGE', but slightly more padded, and hopefully should stay a bit cleaner for longer. I've used the black version before and been pretty happy with it. The extra padding will be nice too; I broke my thumb a few years ago and it gets a little annoyed over longer rides. Of all the things, the bar tape is the one that I'm most attached to.

The headset is an interesting one that I've learnt an interesting lesson from, I think. A few months back as I was breaking in the bike the forks got a little play in them. I didn't think anything of it and got some tools out to tighten it all up - and accidentally pulled apart the compression plug that holds the top tube cap on. I managed to get it all back together, but in the process noticed that the top headset bearing had no grease around it. I had a look at the bottom bearing and it was all greased up, and after talking to a mechanic confirmed that I did make the correct decision by greasing it before putting everything back together.

The thing that I learnt from this, along with the bottom bracket going, was that it isn't to be assumed that a bike is put together correctly to begin with. The mechanics who were looking into the BB mentioned that they don't always get put together properly in the factory and it does happen that they miss things. If (or more likely when) I purchase another bike I'll be ordering a complete strip-down and re-build of the bike before I take it out of the shop. I might even have some idea of parts I want to replace before I ride it, like the cables, brake pads, and a stronger BB for example. I can't imagine this will be free, or even cheap, but knowing that these things happen out of the box I can see the advantage of fixing these problems before they even happen. Something about prevention and cure?

But for now, it's time to part with my money. I could do this myself. I know I could do it myself, but the idea of dropping the bike off in the morning and getting an overhauled machine back at the end of the day tickles my fancy.

Plus, I'm shit at wrapping bar tape.

Epilogue:

The results are in and they are pretty awesome - the new tape looks mint and matches the colour that I have in my head when I think about the colour of my bike.
The brakes are smooth and responsive - just how I remember them from the first time we rode (awww...)
When I first picked up the bike I noticed that the chain didn't mesh quite right with the rear cassette - the occasional 'click'. Apparently this is because the chain needs time to wear in to the cassette (unless I want to replace the cassette as well) and it should wear in within a few hundred kms - so by mid-next week basically!

Shifting on the way home, however, was another thing altogether. Silky smooth, highly responsive - she shifts so quickly, and next-to-no chain noise whatsoever.

I could get used to this. What a way to start the weekend!


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