Tuesday, January 14, 2014

some days, well, you just HAVE to clean your drivetrain

After a week off the bike, I was pretty ready to ride again yesterday.

I'd been laid low by what my doctor now tells me was "probably" the flu -- fever, chills, dizziness, the works a week ago Sunday. I laid around the house feeling just terrible for two days, began to feel a little better last Tuesday and slowly improved from there. My voice isn't all the way back and, of course, the cough is always the last thing to fade away with these things.

Yesterday I pulled down the All-Rounder, put it in the stand and threw a healthy dose of drivetrain love at it, using a small screwdriver, rags, my old Bibox chain cleaner and some Big Orange solvent to remove the worst of the gunk that had collected on the chain, cogs, chainrings and derailleurs since something like October -- yeah, I've been pretty neglectful.

Bibox chain cleaners are no longer being made, but can still be found on ebay and elsewhere:


They're pretty simple to use: set the bike in the repair stand so the bottom run of the chain is level with the floor (best to do this outside in a place where runoff won't harm the ground water or soil, and put rags down underneath to catch the drip). Open the lid of the box, carefully pour in enough of your favorite solvent to the fill line (or to just below the edge of the lower half of the box), position the box with the chain inside it and snap the lid on (holding it level the whole while), and carefully hold the box in place while running the cranks backwards so the chain moves through the box. Solvent will be brushed over the chain top and bottom. Rotate the cranks and run the chain through for a couple of minutes -- not too quickly or you'll splash solvent all over the place.When the solvent runs dark gray or black, stop and remove the box and pour off the used solvent. (Note: you can do what I do and pour it off into a shallow widemouth jar, save up a bunch of used solvent and let the crud settle to the bottom, then pour the liquid off the top slowly into another container for re-use. Let the crud at the bottom dry and then scrape it into the trash or, if your community offers it, a container for curbside oil recycling.)

You can repeat these steps until the liquid runs light gray, or you can stop with one or two uses of solvent. Pour off the used solvent as indicated above, then fill the Bibox with hot water and replace it on the chain and run it through backwards. I do this step a few times until the water runs light gray to cloudy. Let the chain dry (or wipe dry if you're in a hurry) and then apply light coating of fresh oil.

While I was at it, I also sanded off my brake pads and readjusted the brake cable tension, wiped down my rims and topped off the tires, and checked the sidewalls as I went around for signs of wear. 

I rode around town yesterday evening, running errands and going to the home of a new Hebrew student, and as I rode I noticed the different right away; a clean bike rolls better.

When I came home, I hung the All-Rounder on the front hook and swapped out the Sekai; its turn at a drivetrain cleaning and general primping will come tomorrow morning. I may also, if I feel especially ambitious and have the time, tear down the headset and overhaul it. Sometimes you just have to clean and tune your bikes.

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