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Winter Once-Overs: Maintenance To Keep You Rolling This Season

Take a minute and think of the many miles, trails, and other adventures that you and your trusty steed had together last year. Now go ahead and focus on the service that bike of yours continues to deliver while the two of you are out there braving the wet and salty conditions that define winter riding. There’s really no better time to remind yourself of these successful rides, as winter conditions, in particular, tend to take a component-eating toll on those two-wheeled friends of ours. So do yourself a favor and devote some quality time to your bikes this winter — give them some weekly love and the attention that they deserve after dutifully serving you time and again. Here’s a quick rundown of a few simple procedures you can do at home to keep those pedal-powered tools in tip-top shape.

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Clean and Lubricate

If there’s only one thing you do for you bike this winter, make sure it involves a little love in the form of a shop rag, some degreaser, and a light lubricant. Whether you’re a daily commuter or you parked that muddy beast and forgot it after your final epic a few months ago, it isn’t too late to clean and lubricate the most important components. To start, place a drop cloth (i.e., an old towel) down underneath your parked bike or repair stand before getting after it. This serves to catch degreaser runoff, chunks of dirt, and anything else that was once claiming residency on your bike.

Feel free to be as diligent here as you like, but getting the main drivetrain componentry clean and rehydrated will suffice until you can give the bike a proper washing. Start by either applying degreaser directly to the bike’s chain, or backpedal the chain through a degreaser-soaked rag. Either way, it’s going to clean off that accumulated film of dirt and grime. After the degreaser has been wiped clean, apply a light lube to the chain, wipe off the excess, and you’ll be good to go. This is also a good time to check your chain for wear using a chain checker tool. Replace the chain if necessary.

As for the rest of your bike, a good rule of thumb is to lubricate its moving parts. Think derailleur pulleys, pivot points, clipless pedals, cable guides (under the bottom bracket), etc. The goal is to prevent rust, and to keep these parts moving freely and quietly. This will extend their life expectancy and save money in the long run.

Tires and Brakes

After your bike’s clean and lubed, spend a little time inspecting the tires and brake pads for cuts, embedded glass, and other wear. Begin by removing the wheels for clear access to the pads, where you’ll be able to check for glazing and other impediments.

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For rim-brake pads, pick out any debris and use a light sandpaper to bring back a fresh braking surface. Replace worn pads as necessary, and wipe down your rims and inspect them along with the tires. Rotors (if applicable) should also be carefully examined for unusual wear patterns. If you have any questions, or if anything about your braking system seems a little off, take your bike in to be further inspected by a qualified technician.

Torque Settings

There really aren’t any good excuses left for ham-fisting your way around a bike these days. With a host of manufacturers building quality torque wrenches specifically for the carbon components we’re bolting onto our frames, you’re sure to find one that fits your budget and wrenching needs. Check the obvious areas that are prone to creaking and play, such as the bottom bracket and headset, in addition to the rest of the bike.

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If you’re unsure as to a specific torque setting, contact the manufacturer or look at Park Tool’s torque setting collection. Start at the front or rear of the bike and work in the opposite direction, checking all of the bolts along the way. Aside from the obvious stem, bar, and seatpost binder bolts, remember to check the saddle clamp itself, water bottle cages, brake caliper and derailleur mounts.

Final Inspection

The final once-over should involve simply going over the bike and looking for anything else that looks like its expiration date has passed.

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Inspect brake and shifter cables for sluggishness and visible wear, check suspension systems for oil seepage, and feel spoke tension by hand. Now’s a good time to address any of these issues, as doing so will keep you rolling this winter and prevent major holdups when spring riding is back in full swing.

Photos: Ben Kuhns