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Bike Maintenance

BASIC BICYCLE MAINTENANCE

The bikes that Peace Corps Thailand has provided for us are not going to help you win the Tour Du France and will not likely useful for week-long bike tours. However, if they are maintained to a minimal standard, they will easily last through two years of service, even on Thailand’s uneven, unpaved and dusty roads. Similar to cars, if you take basic care of the bike, you can avoid large problems down the road… Good luck and bike safely. WEAR YOUR HELMET!!!!

-Kevin, YinD 125


TIRE PRESSURE

As a general rule, you should not be able to feel the tire compress if you pinch it strongly on the sides or press your palm into the tread surface. (see: Tire Problems) During PST, the Bike Trainers suggested that you deflate the tires a little in the rain. The reasoning for this is that if there is a little less pressure, the tires will be a little flatter and thus more rubber on the road = more traction on wet pavement.

CLEANING THE BIKE

The bike should be relatively clean from debris on the components (chain, gears, brakes, rims). In Thailand, mud is the most common culprit for component deterioration. Try to avoid getting mud into the working components of the bike. Especially during the rainy season, make sure to wash mud that does get onto those parts off as soon as possible. Make sure to re-lubricate if cleaning with water! For the rest of the body, a simple damp rag over the vital pieces is more than enough. Sometimes you might want to give the handlebar grips a little more elbow grease because you touch them with dirty/sweaty hands everyday and they can get a little funky. A simple way to clean the bike is to take it outside in a rainstorm for a few minutes and let the rain wash away the dirt. BUT be sure to properly re-lube the chain afterwards. (see below) Never use a power washer or a spray nozzle from a hose. Regular pressure from a hose is OK, but lube the chain after it dries.

CLEANING THE CHAIN

Sort of like your dentist telling you to floss everyday. They know you’re only going to do it periodically but that’s better than nothing.

Cleaning the chain is vital to the maintenance of the bike. A rusty chain means a dangerous bike and could harm the expensive gears. STEPS: Either turn the bike upside down or prop-up the back wheel so that you can turn the pedals and chain freely (a low hanging branch, pipe, or fence work fine) Drip oil from the Degreaser provided by PC or another bike degreaser. DO NOT USE WD-40. Drip one drop of the degreaser into each of the chain links as you turn the pedals. With a clean rag: hold the chain firmly and with a little pressure as you turn the pedals again, wiping off all of the dirty grease and dirt. This part is very messy and it is suggested that you double the rag and change the area of contact often. Be careful that fibers from the rag do not get stuck in the gear mechanisms! The chain should be mostly clean after only a minute. Re-apply the greaser to each link again. One small drop on each link is sufficient for both the degreasing and lubing of the chain. Any more is just wasteful. If the process of holding the chain has caused it to come off of the gears, simply put it back on any gear and turn the pedal slowly. The bike should adjust the chain to the proper gear. Turn the bike over and wipe off any dripping oil.

If explaining it didn’t help, watch this video of a bike mechanic doing it. He’s pretty good because he uses basic vocabulary but skip to 1:40 and then he starts really cleaning it at 4:20. We use a Wet Lube, not wax and do not have a citrus degreaser spray, but you could buy one and will be better for the bike overall. Also, be careful about putting anything into the gears to clean it off, like he uses a screwdriver. Don’t do that; just use the rag to get in there. And don’t use a paper towel because it will tear apart and get wedged in the links. (its not like we have paper towels in Thailand any way) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWf7tysOt18

TIRE PROBLEMS

Low Pressure or Low PSI (pounds per square inch) Most tire issues will come from the tube not having enough pressure. If the tire compresses at all when you push it, pump it up until you cannot compress the tire. Don’t go by the pressure (PSI) listed on the hand-pump because it is not accurate. If you want to really pump it up properly with a air-hose, the tire lists the Maximum PSI on the wall of the tire. This isn’t necessary for these non-performance bikes but inflating the tube to the correct PSI is never a bad idea. Blow-Out If the tube was not inflated high enough and you roll over a crack or sharp edge of a pothole, the tube can bend and pop the opposite side. You will be able to tell if this was the reason for the flat because it will have two tiny holes that look like “snake bites”. Next time, be sure the tube is properly inflated before riding. Puncture Probably caused by riding over something tiny and sharp. The object will most likely not be stuck in the tire, but check the whole tire any way. Look at the outside of the tire and then run your fingers along the inside of the tire to check for sharp objects.

GEAR PROBLEMS

CLICKING If you are peddling and the chain or gear seems to be clicking, check to make sure that there is not a foreign object blocking any equipment. It is likely that clicking of the gears will not cause much damage and is difficult to repair without the proper tools. JUMPING GEARS This means that the bike changes gears when riding, without the rider engaging the gear change levers. This problem is likely due to an over-tightened gear release and difficult to repair without the proper tools. If you are riding with the front gear on the largest ring (3) then it is less likely to jump gears because there is less tension on the chain. NOT CHANGING GEARS Also hard to repair without proper tools. You could try manually placing the chain onto the gear ring that matches the number on the shift levers. This will work to keep the chain on the proper gear, so long as the number on the shift levers and gear itself match up. If not, the bike will automatically return the chain to the gear that is matched to the wrong number of gear lever and you will have to seek out a repair shop.

BRAKES (this section written for v-brakes)

Squeaking Brakes: Sometimes brakes just squeak. Check if anything is stuck between the brake and wheel. Sometimes brakes will squeak when wet and will stop after drying. If a brake was wet but has dried, a dangerous but effective fix is to slam on the brake really hard when peddling slowly and quickly engage the brake.

The most likely brake problem is a rubbing on the wheel after replacing the tire or changing a flat. This can be fixed by releasing the Quick Release and tightening and loosening the two nuts to move the center of the wheel closer or further from the rubbing brake. Basically, if the brake is rubbing on the left side of the wheel, loosen the left side and tighten the right side so that the wheel is pushed to the center of the brake component. If after adjusting the brakes and wheel alignment several times, it still rubs check these components: Is the little steel bar behind the brake component sticking out or behind the brake housing? It should fit into a little slot behind the brake housing. Is the brake housing simply pushed too far to one side? (probably from being hit in a fall) Just move it to the middle of the wheel with your hand. It is unlikely that the brakes will wear out enough in two years to need replacing. But, if you constantly ride the brake or brake too hard, often, it might happen. The easiest thing to do is to take the bike to a mechanic and get new brake pads. They cost about $10 in America so keep that in mind.

CHAIN PROBLEMS

Most chain problems can be avoided by keeping it clean and well lubricated. Its really hard to mess up or break the chain itself. But not keeping it clean will ruin the expensive components of the bike and may cause bike cancer: Rust! Be sure to keep the chain free of any debris and listen to it as your spin the wheels and pedals. It shouldn’t make a sound.

The chains on these bikes are known to pop-off suddenly, especially when changing gears. This isn’t a chain problem but a gear problem. A suggestion is to always keep the chain on gear #3 in the front (the largest ring) because this causes the least amount of tension on the derailer. The gears in the rear (right side of handle bars) can be adjusted according to your bike skills and/or biking on hills or flats.

A frequent problem during PST 125 was the chains popping off of the derailer while changing gears and then being wedged, sometimes severely, in the space between the bike body and right pedal arm. If this happens to you, remain calm and get off safely. • Flip the bike over and try to unwedge the chain. It will help to have a few hands to hold the derailer closer to the wedge, this will provide slack for the chain to be unwedged. You will get really dirty doing this, but it will wash off your body, not clothes.

SEAT/STEM ISSUES

The Seat Moves While Riding Tighten the bolt underneath the seat with the tool provide. Use 5mm (largest) piece.

The Seat points UP and Is Painful to Ride Loosen the bolt underneath. Push the nose of the seat down so that the seat is again level. Tighten the bolt. *Note* Be sure the seat holder brackets are within the little marks on the Right side of the bar under the seat. These ensure that the proper amount of pressure is placed on the seat. The seat bars are aluminum and will bend or crack if the wrong weight is put on the weaker parts of the brackets.

TIPS

  • Did I mention chain on #3 on the front gear rings? That’s a good idea because it keeps less stress on the derailer. #2 is OK if you live in mountains and need to really get peddling up a hill but avoid #1 at all costs. These bike derailers don’t have the capacity to keep the proper tension through the smallest ring in the front. They will pop off and wedge under your peddle and possibly flip you over. Don’t break your face, keep it on a larger gear ring…that should be a t-shirt
  • Apply more pressure to the RIGHT brake than the LEFT brake when stopping. Too much pressure on the LEFT brake will cause the front wheel to stop before the bike and flip you!…See above
  • Keep the tires properly inflated. About 90% of all flats occur when there is not enough pressure in the tube and the tube is pinched by a pothole or bump.
  • Remember that no bike lock on the market is Theft Proof. The theory behind anti bike theft in the United States is to just make it less-convenient for the thief. If there are a lot of bikes on a rack, they will usually take the one that is easiest to steal.
  • Stop riding the bike if something seems lose or wobbling, anything. Tighten the lose screw or bolt with the provided multi-tool.
  • Avoid high traffic areas and if you can't, ride on the LEFT side of the road and be very cautious! ASSUME CARS CAN’T AND WON’T SEE YOU
  • WEAR YOUR HELMET!!!!!!!!!
  • Have fun while riding and enjoy this beautiful country from the comfort of a bicycle! 
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PCT ICT,
Apr 24, 2014, 11:12 PM
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