Monday, 28 October 2013

Bike maintenance

A few days ago, there was a horrible clanking and graunching coming from my front wheel. I stopped and had a look, expecting to find a stick caught in the wheel, or something like that. No, not a stick, it was a piece of wire. And on closed examination, I saw that it was one of my spokes!

A bike wheel has 36 spokes, but in my experience, it will work just as well with quite a few of them missing. But that isn't to say that you should run like that - it does weaken the wheel.

So when I got home, I measured the length of the spoke. Because it's an electric bike, the spokes are shorter than standard, on accound of the motor having a much greater diameter than an ordinary bike hub. I got onto Ebay, and it looked like 195mm spokes were what I wanted, so I ordered ten of them for a pound or two. I thought, maybe I really want 192 mm, but if that's the case, I'll re-order and brace myself to the loss of a pound.

Today the spokes arrived, so let's get down to it.

First I gave the bike a power wash; it needed it, after going through so much Arundel mud, and it's nicer to work on a clean bike. Then I upended it, and levered off the front tire, pulled the inner tube aside and removed the broken spoke. Putting the replacement in was a doddle, and I tightened it up so that it pinged to the same note as the others. Replacing the inner tube was easy because I hadn't fully removed it, likewise the tire, and then I pumped it up.

I noticed that the chain was looking a bit rusty, so I gave that a dose of bike oil, and by the time I'd done that, the front tire was deflated.


First I examined the outer of the tire, and I found five thorns embedded in it; one of these was quite long, about half an inch; another was short but must have been penetrating the inner tube because when I pulled it out, I heard "hissssss".

These days, I don't patch inner tubes. Because I'm getting the "thorn-resistant" ones so cheaply (£1.75), I reckon it's better to replace than repair. Also, I noticed that I hadn't put the gel insert into the tire. That's about 1/4 inch thick and it really toughens the tire up, because any thorn that penetrated the tire, will also have to penetrate the gel before it even gets to the inner tube. Punctures? Not for me, thanks.

So I put a gel liner into the tire, then a new inner tube, then I used my thumbs to push everything back in place. That needs strong thumbs, but if you can do it that way, you're much less likely to cause a puncture while you're replacing the tire.

While I had the bike upended, I had a look at the front brake pads. I mostly use my back brakes (you're less likely to go into a catastrophic skid) but I do use the front brakes when I need a bit of extra braking, such as when going downhill. They looked like they could be OK for a while yet, but I decided to replace them anyway; brake pads are only about £1, and a brake that isn't working as well as it could be, can be a *lot* more expensive!

Then I checked that the wheels ran free, and the back wheel didn't. On examination, I found that the kickstand was fouling the tire, and if left like that would not merely slow me down, it would cut through the tire, eventually. So, a bit of bike oil and a quick grip in the bench vice to make it work properly, and when I put it back on the bike it was fine.

So, we're ready for the next outing, which I'm thinking will be Wednesday, because I'm still seeing lots of rain.

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