Shiny and New

Well, sort of. I’ve been neglecting my poor bike, which has responded by gradually limiting the number of gears it will change into with any sort of ease. Which is fair enough: I used to clean my bike as often as I changed my toothbrush, if only because an old toothbrush is the perfect implement for getting into all the grungy corners of the bike. That seemed about right to keep on top of the road gunk, along with chucking a bit of oil on the chain whenever the basket of kittens put in an appearance. But since the other half started working, and taking the car away all day, I’ve gone from doing 40-60 miles a week on the bike to more like 80-100 – and in all weathers. This is great for me (I can not only wear my jeans once more but – just about – pedal in them as long as I didn’t want to go up any hills) but is taking its toll on the bike. Especially if I neglect its maintenance: there are at least 3 toothbrushes in the cupboard under the sink, waiting for their second life as bike cleaning tools.

So today, having a bit of time to spare – and having realised I was now down to just three working gears, only one of which didn’t come accompanied by various clicking and rattling noises – I got the bike out and cleaned it. Turns out it’s blue …

More to the point, it now has all six* gears back and the ride into Bigtown and back was blissfully kitten-free with gear changes as smooth as silk. While it is nice to know that an hour with a bucket of warm soapy water, a toothbrush, and a few drops of oil makes such a difference, it does make me feel a bit of a heel for leaving it so long. No doubt everything would last longer if I took better care of it too. So I’m determined that this time things will be different and I will catch up with the toothbrush backlog** and give my bike the love and attention it will undoubtedly deserve this winter.

Whether I actually will or not, only time will tell.

*Theoretically 18 but I shun the front derailleur and just ride around in the middle ring all the time. I have yet to meet a hill that requires the granny gear, or a dog I need to cycle away from that requires the big ring.
** Not helped by the fact that my dentist takes an extremely robust approach to pain relief – he doesn’t really believe in it – so I have an incentive to keep my teeth and gums sparklingly clean at all times, which wears out the toothbrushes faster.

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5 Responses to Shiny and New

  1. Paul M says:

    Of course, I could point out that if you had a hub geared bike you would never have to do any cleaning or maintenance of the gears – at the expense of perhaps occasionally having to get a real strip down service done by a trained mechanic, at some expense – but in any event it is essential to keep the chain clean, otherwise it will get a nice sandpapery mess on it which will gradually grind down the chain and all the sprockets on the gears.

    I clean my (commuting) Brompton’s chain with a Park Tool chain cleaner weekly in winter, when water and road grit get swept onto it every day, having learnt my lesson with the cost of a new chain and new front and rear chainwheels. The rest I clean about fortnightly. Much as I love the Brommie, I do find that it is quite sensitive to inattention because it is so finely engineered.

    For around home I use a German “omafiets” style bike which thankfully seems never to require any attention or cleaning, as everything important is fully encased and protected from dirt.

    Mind you, the Surrey Weald is fairly lumpy and if I had to contend with the “worst” of it I would need that granny gear and I expect I would also have a fine selection of oily toothbrushes!

  2. Some sort of muckaway spray, soapy scrub and then a pressure wash. When dry little drop of oil and all runs nice.

    Trouble is, winter is worse, it is dark when I get home and I never get round to it at the weekend – so twice a year???

    Gears – I have “21”, but the rear cog is on 3 all the time and I normally only ever use the big cog on the pedals (no idea of proper terms). Downhill, the little cog goes into 7.

    I think my next bike needs to have just a few gears!

  3. welshcyclist says:

    Like you, my front derailleur is a mystery, I only have 9 of my supposed 27 gears. But they are adequate for my needs.

  4. Andy in Germany says:

    The Xtracycle’s gears are getting worn out after a long time on the road in all weathers, fifteen years in some cases. I’ve been replacing the now ‘obsolete’ parts by buying scrap bikes and salvaging components but these are now getting worn out so it looks like a full replacement programe will have to take place next year…

  5. disgruntled says:

    @Paul – yes the Brompton is also on my conscience, although it doesn’t go out daily (and if the state of my trousers is anything to go by has plenty of oil on its chain)
    @Mr Highwayman – sounds like you need a nice 3 speed …
    @Welshcyclist – I’m thinking of just taking the other gears off the front next time it all needs redone
    @Andy – that sounds way too complicated for me.

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