Monday, November 13, 2017

Bicycle Maintenance

Many of you are no doubt wondering, What does bicycle maintenance have to do with prepping?

My answers:
  1. Bicycles are the lowest-cost vehicles I could think of that will get someone out of a disaster area. There are a great many people who cannot afford something bigger.
  2. There have been times in my life that I have only been able to get out of a situation by having a bicycle on hand.
Note the Following
Keep in mind that this is a basic to intermediate guide, not an in-depth guide. That said, this covers the majority of things that you will ever run across. The focus is on the kinds of things a prepper will need.

This article is targeted at mountain and commuter road bikes. Most of the principles will still transfer to other kinds (racing, BMX, etc.) but they may have some specific differences to be addressed.

Suggested Tools
  • Bike pump
  • Pressure gauge
  • Tire patch kit
  • Tire slime
  • Tire tool
  • Pliers
  • Allen Wrench set
  • Chalk or grease pen
  • Crescent wrench
  • Teflon lube
  • Screwdriver
  • Quality duct tape
Flat Tires
Flat tires are the most common problem. Either your tire has a slow leak, (somewhat normal, even with a brand new tire) or it has a puncture. Either way, pump it up and ride it around for an hour or two or as normal. If it goes flat within that time, or will not pump up, it has a puncture; otherwise it has a slow leak.

Fixing a Leak
If your tire has a slow leak, put tire slime in it if it does not have any, and pump it up. (Tire slime goes “bad” after two to four years in my experience, and has to be renewed every so often).

Fixing a Puncture
If it has a puncture:
  1. Take the wheel off of the bicycle and use your tire tools to dismount the tire. (Butter knifes can be used in a pinch, but make sure not to bend the rim or cut the tube). 
  2.  Remove the inner tube and carefully run your fingers on the inside of the tire, and carefully check for sharp objects that are puncturing the tire. Even if you find one, there may be others, so do a full circuit. It may help to use a grease pen or chalk to mark one point on the tire so that you can tell where you have checked.
  3. Fill a sink with water and put some dish soap in it. Inflate the tube, and rotate it slowly inside the sink so that the leak will bubble air out and show itself. Make sure that you check the entire tube over for multiple leaks.

    If a tube has more than about three patches, it is probably time to replace it. If the hole in the tube is more than a quarter inch long, replace the tube.

  4. Patch the tube according to instructions in the patch kit, put it back in the tire, and put the tire back on the bike. 
  5. Inflate the tire. The correct pressure when inflated for most mountain bike tires is around 30 PSI and up. Make sure not to overinflate.
Make sure not to ride on a flat tire, since it can damage the rims.

True your bicycle's wheels every so often. For most bikes, this can be done with a crescent wrench and a lot of patience. I recommend doing it at least once a year for bikes that get ridden with any regularity.
  1. Turn the bike upside down and slowly spin the wheel by hand. 
  2. If/when you see any wobble in the wheel, tighten or loosen the spoke nearest the wobble using the crescent wrench, to pull it tighter or looser on the hub.
  3.  For more in-depth instructions with illustrations, read this Instructable article
Adjust the height as needed (a wrench may be required). You may never need to set it after the first time, but riding is much more comfortable with comfortable seat height, and can actually reduce the wear on the other components.

Every so often you should oil any exposed cables with a teflon-based lube, either spray or dropper style. I do this about once a year, but I also live in an area with a lot of salt on the roads in the winter. If I lived somewhere less corrosive, I might only do this once every five years or so.

When adjusting brake pads (for the most common “pad against wheel rim” type):
  1. Use an allen wrench of the appropriate size and an adjustable wrench to loosen the nut holding the pad until it moves just a bit. 
  2. Have someone slowly grab the brakes, and move the pads until they have the best contact with the wheel rim. 
  3.  Tighten the nut back.
  4. If you have to replace brakes it is the same procedure except that you loosen the nut enough to remove the pads.
I also like to rotate my pads about twice a year, but that is because I am cheap and like them to wear evenly instead of replacing them.

Gear Shifter
Oil this with the same teflon-based lube whenever it gets “sticky”. You can use a screwdriver to adjust it as needed, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

If these get to dirty, they will not grip as well. Mild dish soap and water with an old toothbrush works great to clean them.

If they are especially worn you may need to replace them, which is not difficult, but requires a special tool.

Miscellaneous Bits
I recommend checking your bike for anything loose or out of place about once a month for every month that you ride it. You will notice most of these things as you ride, and allen wrenches are wonderful for adjusting them.

Field Expedient Fix of a Broken Frame
I have only had this happen once. If this happens to you, replace the bike at earliest opportunity.
  1. Take a crescent wrench or any other long piece of metal. 
  2. If the break is on one of the frame bars, tape the wrench on the break. Be generous in your use of tape.
  3. If the break is a burst weld, place the wrench at an angle to the weld so that it forms a triangle with the weld in the corner, and use duct tape to “tie” it on. Once again, be generous with tape. 

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