by Nathan Cline
Winter is a great time of year to catch up on bike maintenance. As a racerly-type rider, I don't like to be without any particular bike for very long at all during peak season or make any big changes to my bikes. But in winter, I don't mind having major maintenance and upgrade projects done. In fact, it's a great idea to get overhaul work done now so once spring rolls around you'll be ready and confident.
Let's avoid major mid-season issues or shop wait times and get on top of all those things that can prevent future wear and tear on your bike.
Specifics of Winter Bike Maintenance
The cables and housing are our reigns to control our iron horse. Over time, dirt, salt and grime find their way into these housings and cause drag on our cables. Replacing these together cuts down on drag that makes shifting poor and braking sluggish. Cutting down on drag in these systems is the best way to increase performance, and I can't think of a better way to do that but replacement.
After re-cabling, checking derailleur and braking adjustments is my next step. Making sure that derailleur stop settings are set correctly and that brake pad positions are optimum, assures excellent performance.
The drivetrain takes your energy and turns it into forward motion. Checking your chain stretch with a chain gauge allows us to see how much your chain has been deformed throughout your adventures. Once a chain has reached a certain stretch it begins to wear the cassette and the front chainrings more aggressively. Replacing a chain early in this wear cycle will improve shifting performance as well as prolong the life of the drivetrain components, saving you money down the road. I believe that taking off the drivetrain and washing it in a parts washer is the best way to clean everything. Cleaning your chain and drivetrain removes grime and dirt that abrasively wears it. Also, a clean drivetrain will dramatically quiet those noises that drive us crazy while we are riding.
Wheels and bearings need to roll smoothly without any resistance in order for you have your best race performance. It's time to check the true on each wheel as well as take a good look at the hubs and bottom bracket. Hubs can need fine adjustments, grease repacks, or replacement of bearings. When I pull my drive train to clean it in the parts washer, I take time to check the bottom bracket bearings. Also, check your tires. If threads are showing, cracks are forming, or you're getting frequent flats, nip it in the bud and get some new tires under your bike.
For upgrades, do the research and talk to the shop folks. Everybody has an opinion and their own preferences. It's good to ask questions and do a little research. Your local shop isn't as busy in the winter, so the staff will be excited to work with you. Stop in and ask them!
You deserve the upgrades and your bike wants the love! Go see your local bike shop. Folks like me are willing and able to help you get the performance you're looking for. Also, many shops (ours included) run off-season maintenance specials that make it affordable and convenient to take care of major maintenance.