Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time for Bike Maintenance?

I know a lot of people who ride bikes. I know a few people who like to work on bikes. For the rest it is either, ride, put away, ride again repeat, or at the most ride and once a year pay someone to look at things.

While I find it perfectly acceptable that people don't want to learn how to be a bike mechanic (and frankly there are lots of bike parts I don't work on), for your bike, for the mechanic you pay (either with cash or beer) and for your own hands, there are some simple things everyone should be able to do with their bike.

Really the bike is a rather simple thing (don''t stare directly at those derailleurs though) with a pedal moving a big ring with spikes that moves a chain that moves tiny cogs that move a wheel. Easy right?

And for the most part that chain system is the only thing most people have to worry about on a daily basis (yeah I know tires need air blah blah). Dirt and water and road grime get thrown from the tires onto the drivetrain constantly and it is a fully exposed system (most of the other bearings etc on the bike are hidden away and need little to no work).

Now there is little you can do to stop grime etc... from spraying onto your chain, but there are a few things you can do to help keep the amount on there to a minimum. And remember - dirt and grime wear things out and the cleaner your drivetrain, the less often you will need to change your chain and cassette and that is more money in your pocket.

So does your chain look like this?

Yes, I know. That is grease and good as the chain needs to be lubricated to work. Well sort of. The chain needs lubrication  only on the rollers on the inside of the chain as they need to spin as the chain passes over the cassette (or cogs) on the back. It certainly needs no lube on the outside of the chain.

In my line of work (and it has nothing to do with bikes) we know that dirt attracts dirt. So if the parts of the chain which need no lube are covered in it, then they attract dirt, which attracts more dirt etc... and what does dirt do? Well it grinds away at the metal that is your bike. It grinds away until those cogs are unhappy and the chain doesn't fit well anymore. Worst case scenario it eats at the chain until it breaks while you are riding. Better case it wears the cogs unevenly so that you can't shift well anymore.

And true worse scenario? It gets grease on everything within arms length of the bike. You pants, your leg, your fingers, the carpet, your car, need I go on?

 See that drivetrain (yeah, its mine)?  See the silver metal? Well you should see that on your bike as well. This is my everyday bike. Do I still get a  little black on my hands if I touch that chain? Sure a little, but nothing obvious and surely not what most people get.

And finally clean your chain and cassette for the sake of the poor mechanic that has to fix your bike (be they from a local bike shop or just your neighbour).

So how do we clean it, Ian? Simple

They sell fancy chain cleaner things at most bike shops. I like them for getting a good scrub on the drivetrain  every so often as they get inside the links. But they aren't needed everyday. They are essentially a plastic device with brushes that snaps over your chain and you pedal the bike backwards.

If your chain isn't too bad then I suggest getting a rag, soak it in cleaner (some sort of degreaser - either solvent based or water based like Citrus degreasers etc...) and grab a hold of the chain. Now pedal backwards with the bike either held by a friend or leaning on the wall. Outdoors is always preferable if possible.

Keep going until you get all the dirt off. Then soak an old toothbrush into the cleaner and hold it against cogs and pedal or scrub and spin. When you think it is cleaned enough you need to rinse it off. For this reason water based cleaners are best. Just use a wet rag to wipe the surfaces or if outdoors, a light spray from hose will do the trick easy there, too much water will get into spots you don't want to).

Really that is it. I like to dry it off at this point and then put a drop of oil on each chain bearing. One drop is plenty. Let it soak in for 20 minutes or so and then grab another rag or paper towel and wipe off all that excess oil.  And voila, silver metal again!

There are tons of varieties of chain lube and everyone has a favorite that is the best. My personal favorites are Tri-Flo or Pedros, and mostly due to their ease of finding them. Most shops will have one or the other.

So the chain is clean, now what?

Personally I like to wipe my chain off after every ride (or in the case of my commuter bike every few rides). It takes no time and I use a simple piece of paper towel. This will help remove a little more excess oil that will seep out. It will take dirt from the road off Or water), which will then prevent more dirt from sticking. And then once a month or every few hundred kms or so I wipe it with some cleaner again and reoil. That fancy chain cleaner rarely needs to come out unless you are ridding in mud or salt winter road slush.

So go do your bike a favour and make sure that is is nice a clean before your next ride, and at this time of year, before it goes to bed for the winter (though I highly suggest you try winter riding).

Now off to Riverport for me!

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 Shubie Dooby Tri

Well there comes a time every year, when that last triathlon is going to have to happen. And for many in the Halifax area, it is the Shubie Dooby Triathlon. Held in the awesome Shubie Park in Dartmouth, this is a lake swim, rolling bumpy road ride, and hilly trail run (crusher dust trails). There are 2 races, an Olympic and Sprint Distance.

I again chose the sprint distance as my race. My reasons are twofold. My swim is still not great and at the Olympic distance I would be so far behind the leaders it isn't worth it to me. And second I love the idea of sprint racing at this point in my triathlon life. I still love going as fast as possible for as long as possible. I hate holding back.

Well here we are lined up on the beach, praying that the thunder and lightening will stay away (and it did!) and getting our race briefing. I am in there I swear. I was lucky to get in a bit of a pre race swim and the water was rather nice, just a hint cool, perfect for racing.

We were separated into 2 waves as the beach is small, so it was men first and then women. I got a great start and immediately found a great rhythm. As I approached the first buoy I looked up to see a huge mess of guys all crammed into a tight area right by the buoy. Even though I know the shortest route is the fastest, I opted for a wide swing around the buoy to preserve myself from the beating I might take.  I did the same at the next buoy as well.

Add my detours to a little zig zagging as I was tiring on the final swim to the finish, and I easily added 50 meters to the swim. So when I got out and saw a 15 on the clock, I was pretty happy. I know there  is plenty of work to do on the swim for me, but it is getting better. Total swim time was 15:21 by the time I got over the swim matt. I was 36th overall in the swim out of 127 people total, which I took as a good sign.

(I swim run in a blurry motion)

From here I was off up the hill, on the green carpet, and into T1. I easily passed a few people here as I ripped off my wetsuit, grabbed my space alien helmet and took off with my bike.

It was a bit of a run to the mount line and over big hard gravel. That wasn't much fun, but neither was my attempt at mounting the bike. Eventually bad things happen to good people and I was in that zone. 

The elastic bands holding my shoes in place had snapped off during the run. Okay no big deal, I practiced my mounting of the bike all the time with loose pedals. But the pedals were also now in the wrong orientation, ugh. Still I fixed it by hand quickly and then mounted and pushed off. 

My first foot went onto the shoe fine, then as I put my second foot down to pedal and get some momentum, the shoe slipped around and banged into the ground. My bike jumped a little, the shoe dragged and I maintained total control. Whew. Someone event yelled, nice save.

I got the first foot into the shoe, then pedaled a bit down the first hill and through the corner before attempting to get my next foot in place. I did get my next foot in, fixed the tongue a bit on my first shoe and did up the strap. Now I had to pedal up another small hill and around a corner prior to getting my second shoe strapped up. 

Here I noticed that the strap had come out of its eyelet, so was loose and doing no good. So while pedaling I had to reach down, thread it through the eyelet, and then cinch it up. Whew again. Sure I lost a little time, but I did have a fast run barefoot from T1 to the ,mount line, so it all works out.

The bike ride was fine. I love the rolling nature of this course. many hate it. I can power through it as a 20km TT and did so. I passed a few people, kept aero, powered along and managed the 5th fastest bike split of the day. Including T1 I averaged 30.3 km/hr and had a time of 39:34. Fix that shoe and mounting issue and I easily get the 4th fastest if not 3rd of the day. So the riding wasn't a problem at all.

I came in T2 and did a great dismount. This time right at the line, very slick and smooth. And again, my shoe came off the cleat. Dang! I had to go back and retrieve it. Alas, that couldn't help my T2 / Run time. 

So, bike on rack, helmet off, hat and run number on, shoes in place. Blamo - off to the run.

I had a great pace starting out on the run, sub 4 min per km. Sadly with the hills I couldn't keep up that pace. Though I was passing some people and feeling okay. But I finally hit a 420ish pace and ended up staying there until the end.

I crossed the finish line in 6th place with a run time (and T2) of 23:28 for the 4th fastes of the day and an overall time of 1:18:22.

Okay, so I obviously lost much time in T1 and T2 and need a faster swim. But darn, I am sure happy with 6th place out of a field of 127 and 2nd overall in my age group.  I grabbed some great Java Blend Racing wool socks as my prize and ate much food following the race. Always a good event.

Next up? Another one of those double weekends. Rum Runners relay event on Spet 29th and Riverport Duathlon on the 30th. Yikes, we will see how that goes! Here's hoping for good weather.