Monday, February 13, 2012

Sleep & maintenance

I got very little sleep this weekend due to staying up much too late working on year-end financial reports, insomnia, and early-for-me morning obligations both Saturday and Sunday. Between Friday night to Sunday morning, I got roughly ten hours of sleep. Seeing as how I typically sleep nine hours a night, I was not the brightest or bushiest tailed of the bunch. Saturday morning was the worst since I got three hours of sleep before getting up super early so that I could be in Alexandria by 8am for the Bike Me DC maintenance class at the Belle View location of Spokes, Etc.

The lecture portion of the day included topics such as gearing, brakes, derailleurs, wheels, leveling screws, chain "stretch", removing the rear wheel and changing a tire. My brain was overflowing by lunch time and I'm very glad that I took pages of notes as well as received an instructional DVD as part of tuition cost. I also jotted down the names and part numbers of some useful looking tools.

Park Tool Chain Checker

After lunch was the lab portion of the class and we got to work on our own bikes. To be honest, beyond measuring my chain I wasn't sure what else I should do. I should have tried taking off my rear wheel and putting it back on as well as practice changing a tire, just to see if I could do it, but I can work on that at home. The first (and only, as it turns out) item of "maintenance" I did was check my chain length. One should replace a chain as it nears 1 so the chain doesn't damage the cassette (back gear wheels). According to the tool, my chain was between .75 and 1. I knit my brow and called over the instructor to verify that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. He agreed with my observation and told me that while I could continue to ride for another month or so, but I should get the chain replaced sooner rather than later. The lady next to me was shocked since she knew that I got my bike in July. I told her and the instructor that I'd put about 1,000 miles on the bike since then.

"Yep, that'll do it," replied the instructor. The lady was flabbergasted at the mileage and then said, "Oh, that's right: you commute."

I struggled getting my bike back up the steep staircase. To be honest, I was struggling before I even got up the first stair, and an associate ran over and carried Rose up for me. He set her up on a stand and showed me how to remove the chain and then how to replace it. It looked like a fairly easy process if it's something that one does fairly often. He patiently explained each step and answered my questions. After attaching the new chain, he checked over the other parts and declared my bike ready fit for duty.

At that point, I was ready to fall over. I decided that since my bike was already at street level, I would head on home. I said my good-byes to the group, paid for some new tools and the chain, and headed toward home. I hit a snow squall on the Dulles Toll Road which gave Rose an impromptu bath. This turned out to be a blessing because the damp made cleaning the grime off her frame that much easier. She's not showroom clean, but she's as clean as she's been since her post Outer Banks scrub. And I don't have to worry about her chain for a while.


  1. I find that by regularly cleaning and lubing the chains on my bikes in a totally fastidious kind of way I can extend the life of both the chain and the cassette.....
    I am currently riding just under 1,000 miles a month and it would be very expensive having to replace chains on a monthly basis....
    I find I can make a chain last for about 2,200 before it gets to mid 0.75/1.00 on the Park chain tool.


    1. A thousand a month? Holy cow. I thought I was doing well by getting to my mileage in nine months. :) And yes, replacing chains that often would be prohibitively expensive. Yikes.

  2. Here at the Rootchopper Institute of Bicycle Negligence, we advocate riding a chain until the cassette makes like Roberto Duran (No Mas!) This usually takes a couple of years.

    With my recumbent which has 3 chains I can go a good 6,000 miles without replacing the casette.

    I do clean my chain monthly, however, and use a wax based lube to keep it getting messed up from road grit in the winter.

    And if the expense worries you, one chain and casette is about the cost of a couple of tanks of gas. (Car costs make bicycle repairs look very affordable.)

  3. I am SUCH a bike hypochondriac that I don't think I could do that. Any little squeak or rattle makes me high-tail it to the bike shop. My main reason for taking this class was to learn enough about my bike to take care of those strange noises on my own.

  4. I lube the chain a lot with dry lube, and since it doesn't rain much here they seem to last more than 2000 miles. My chain checker, same one as yours, is indicating it's about time to put on a new one. Regarding the casette, they last a lot longer if you just stop using the worn out cogs. I start in the middle and work my way outwards.