Bicycle Maintenance Gotchas!

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Ok, so I'm getting tired of riding the bus and am looking forward to the roads being wide enough to safely ride. Last fall I noticed that my bike was getting hard to pedal. Some of that would be a result of cooler temps making everything stiff, but I suspected it also had to do with being a 5+ year old cheap generic department store bike with over 6,000 km on it (over 5000 being put on in the last 2 summers).

This month I dragged it into my shop in the basement with the intent on cleaning and regreasing the bearings. Here are some interesting things that I learned along the way - I figure if I post them, someone may avoid this snags and get their bike tuned up faster.

1) Threading - I realize the peddles are threaded differently depending on which side of the shaft they are installed - this is to ensure that normal (forward) pedaling doesn't work them loose. What I did not realize was that the bearing cups that screw into the frame are also threaded differently. The left side (opposite the gears) with the locking ring was threaded normally - counterclockwise to loosen. The right side (with the gears) however, is threaded backwards - CLOCKwise to loosen.

2) Special tools are really really helpful - before starting, here are a number of tools that are needed.

A) Freewheel hub tool. To get at the bearings and cups on the rear wheel, you will need to remove your freewheel hub (the mess of gears). The only way is with a special tool that inserts into the space between the hub and the shaft. The threading is normal on this, however, because pedaling causes the hub to tighten against the wheel, this will be on VERY TIGHT. A large wrench, or ideally a bench vise will be needed to provide the leverage required to get this started. There are a number of different standards for this tool. Mine was the FR-4 - find a store that either a) knows what they are doing or b) tolerates returns. It may take a couple tries to find the right one.

B) Crank pullers. The pedal cranks (large bar running from the shaft to the pedal) are held on be a nut. However, the shaft and cranks are tapered and most likely the pedal has been well tightened. I was not able to free them with pry bars, hammers, screaming or other methods. With the crank puller, the cranks were off in less then a minute each.

C) Cone wrenches (flat). 13,14,15 and 16mm will probably all be needed somewhere on the bike. Their main use is when tightening the bearing cups back onto the wheel shafts. I was able to disassemble with normal wrenches, but reassembly requires a thin wrench to fit between the locking nut and the wheel.

D) Crank shaft tools. These include a large wrench (mine needs a 36mm) a wrench or special pliers with hooks for the locking ring and possibly a tool with pins to hold the bearing cup while tightening the locking ring.

Total price - expect to spend around $50 for all the tools. Some, like the thin wrenches can double as normal wrenches as part of a good road repair kit.

3) Use grease to hold ball bearings in place. Use lots of grease - if you are using a thinner grease that isn't thick or sticky enough, put it and the ball bearings in the freezer over night. This will gel things up long enough to hold the balls from falling out while you slip everything back together.

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