Gears don’t always smooth the way

So I was lubricating my chain, and I happened to notice the 11 tooth cog had a significant wobble.

The gear would of yen catch the chain when back peddling the bike. So, a bit of investigation was in order. Taking the cassette off the freehub, it was obvious there was a lot of ring bite into the freehub splines. This is where the force of peddling the bike causes the mounting lugs on the cassette to wear a grove into the freehub splines. Not a massive issue on the middle cogs where it often occurs.

However, the 11 tooth kinda sits off the hub, and looking, there was some big gouging on the splines causing the cog to sit angled. So I tried filing off the worst parts. But this didn’t help, causing the lock ring to be angled on the cog.

So, the only option is to replace the whole freehub, and luckily I had a spare wheel available. So a quick change over, and ensuring the lock ring was REALLY tight, which should go some way to completely clamp the cogs down, keeping any movement to a minimum, hopefully should be the end to cassette wear.

Headset service

Headsets are one of the things that people seem to have problems with, so during this maintenance of my headset, I’ll work through the steps needed to break down, clean and rebuild a headset.

The headset on this bike uses two sealed bearings in an integrated, other bikes use caged bearings.

So, the first thing todo is remove the front wheel. Once that’s out the way, remove the brake, and secure it to the frame of the bike. Doing this will let you completely remove the full fork, and make it easier to clean the steerer tube, and fork crown.

Now comes the interesting bits.

Start by removing the top cap, there’s a lot of parts to a headset, so make sure you have somewhere to put them all down. Try to lay out the parts in the order you remove them.

There maybe a small spacer under the top cap.

Slacken off the stem pinch bolts, and gently remove the stem and handlebar assembly, and secure it on the bike frame.

Remove all the spacers from under the stem.

But while your doing that, ensure your supporting the fork, as there is a possibility it might drop out the frame.

Now, if the forks won’t move down, support the fork underneath, and slap the top of the exposed steerer tube, and it should move down. Now push it back up, and the weather cover, and the spacer should be able to be removed. the whole fork should now slide out.

Check the fork to see if the bearings came out with the fork, or if the stayed in the frame.

Now, remove the bearings, from both the top, and bottom, taking note of which way they came out, and which one was top and bottom.

Now, get a rag, and clean up.

  • Clean the top bearing seat
  • Clean the bottom bearing seat.
  • If sealed bearings, wipe off the old grease and dirt, but don’t use degreaser. Spin each bearing in your fingers feeling for any play or grittiness. Replace if any problems
  • Clean off the fork steerer tube, and crown race.
  • Leave all parts to dry out.

When your ready, it’s time to reassemble.

Start off with a liberal amount of grease to each bearing race, top and bottom, and the crown race. Use a good quality grease, the grease both lubricates the races, and protects the bearings from dirt and water. The headset gets absolutely soaked by the front wheel, so a good waterproof grease is the best option.

Now, slide the first bearing onto the steerer tube in the right orientation, and seat it into the grease. I like to take the grease that presses out and smear it over the bearing. Now, taking the fork, slide it back into the frame, making sure the bearing seats correctly.

And, this is where having everything to hand really helps. As your holding the fork in place, slide in the top bearing, and the bearing spacer. I like to smear a little grease on the top of the bearing, just to give it a little more protection. Add the weather cap, spacers and put the stem back on the steerer tube. Rethread the top cap, along with any spacers needed, don’t tighten it, just enough to hold the whole system to get her.

Now take a moment, and clean up any grease that’s squeezed out. Reattach the brake, Put the front wheel back in and finally center up the brakes.

It’s time to tension the whole assembly. Take the bike out of the work stand, nip down the top cap just a touch. Apply the front brake and rock the bike forward and back. What your feeling for, is play in the headset. So any knocking you feel, tighten the top cap by a very small amount. Keep on repeating until you can’t feel any play, or feel any knocking. Check that the whole system can be rotated, with no binding.

If a video, is easier to follow for this, I’ll let the excellent GCN explain it in this video.

Once your happy with the tension, center your stem, and tighten your stem bolts, double check your bars are still straight, and go ride your newly greased bike!

I will update this with pictures the next time I do a full headset service.

What a time

So, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m not going to lie, I’m finding it hard. Work at the moment, is to be perfectly honest, a massive drain on my mental resources, and watching people and their behaviours is troublesome.

The other day, on a ride I had a guy launch a tirade of abuse, because I didn’t say thank you for him stopping and letting me through a gate. He was on the phone, and headed off to my right into a car park, out of my vision. I just thought he was just stopping to do his phone call. It wasn’t until I was about 15 yards away he started ranting about manners. I just rode off, as I wasn’t in the frame of mind to deal with him.

Work is a nightmare, having to get ready for limited reopening, after dealing with a nightmare series of events for online ordering. I’m really not looking forward to the store reopening, let alone dealing with the great British public, and with 70% of the workforce furloughed the work is tiresome and mentally draining.

But my bike has been my saviour. But with a horrible clicking noise I couldn’t pin down. Not surprising since it’s been in the garage, unused and forgotten since the back end of October. So, a little maintenance was obviously in order.

However, I got a little carried away, and broke the bike down to frame level, cleaned and checked each and every component. Jockey wheels removed, cleaned and oiled, derailleur front and rear cleaned and re indexed, both wheels dismantled cleaned, regreased and retensioned. Front chainrings removed, cleaned and bottom bracket replaced with the superb Hope bottom bracket.

So, all in all, a bit of maintenance nirvana. Taking it out for a short ten mile test, no annoying clicks clunks or other noise. Bikes are amazing machines. They are so simple, but they give you so much in return.

So, if your feeling a bit down, like many people in these troublesome times, try a cycle ride. It’s good for the mind, body and soul, and try not to let your work, or lack of it get too you, it’s not the most important thing in your life, don’t let it be.

Night rides

Apart from some minor annoyances, I love riding at night. The light slowly fades, it’s quiet and you get to see more wildlife that normally hides away.

I’ve ridden behind owls flying, I’ve seen badgers and weasels, and of course too many rabbits to count.

If I could change one thing though, it’ll be other cyclists and their headlights. I’ve got a powerful front light as some of my local routes are pitch black with no lighting. However, when I see another cyclist, pedestrian or jogger, I put it down to the low setting. No one else seems too, making it hard to judge seperation on very narrow cycle paths.

Grease, anti seize and locktite

Three things you should have, two things you use in certain circumstances, and one you need in exceptional circumstances.

So when to use, and when not to use. Well, it’s not really that complicated. Just slather the grease about and you’ll be golden. However, if like me, you like to play about, anti seize has a valid use. If your the kind of person who assembles things, and don’t plan on taking the apart for awhile, anti seize is your friend. Let’s take pedals as an example, you install pedals, they may never be removed from the cranks for years, if ever over the course of the frames life. Anti seize will stay around for a longer period of time than grease, which may wash out over time, or dry out. Anti seize, thanks to its metallic particles will always help prevent galvanic corrosion and jamming up.

So when the time comes to remove those pedals after a few years, you’ve a better chance with anti seize applied. However, if you plan on bike maintenance, with a good schedule, grease is just fine to use. I’d use anti seize on:

  • Pedal spindles
  • Bottom bracket cups
  • Derailleur bolts

That’s it. Quite a narrow use clause for that one. You could quite easily manage without a can of it in the workshop.

My singlespeed, which sees alot less maintenance than my geared bikes tends to see more antiseize than grease. Purely based on the fact it gets taken apart much less.

Thread locker, aka locktite, is used on bolts that you bolts you just can’t afford to come lose. I’ve only ever used it on jockey wheel bolts, where they have almost zero torque, but you can’t risk them falling out. Use it on anybolt you want to lock in. People use it on handle bar bolts, chainring bolts, seat pin bolts and many many others. Just use the blue coloured one. The red is too strong for use on bikes.

So grease, grease is your friend with bike maintenance. Use it wherever you have metal on metal contact, be it screw, slide or rotate. Unless you have a need for anti seize, or locktite, grease will do.

Brakes and cleaning

After a few rides, especially after a series of wet rides, your wheel brake surface will be covered in a black gunge, it’s a good idea to do some maintenance on them after.

In order to keep your rims working well, and wear down, clean off the surface of the brake track with hot soapy water. Then, get a cloth and some isopropyl alcohol, and wipe them down. You’ll be amazed at how much more gunk comes off.

Now, with the wheels off the bike, give the brake pads a look. Look for any embedded metal fragments, and pick them out with a sharp pick. Wipe them down with the alcohol, and if they look glazed, or smooth just take a file or sandpaper and rub them down. Also, while your here it’s a good chance to check just how worn they are.

Pedal Maintenance and new wheels

Respect your pedals. They suffer a lot of abuse but just keep on going..

My pedal maintenance is simple. Every few rides, I lube the contact points with a dry lube, this avoids the annoying pedal squeak when the cleat rubs. Drop a drip into the spring mechanism while your here.

Every once in a while, I’ll crack open the axle, clean it off and fill the chamber with fresh grease. Reinsert the axle and snug it down driving the grease up through the bearings.

I’d used the muc off biogrease for this first time, and the pedals went slack really quick. Did them about 500 miles ago, this time using Park Tools grease. Spinning the pedals today, they are smooth, with a little resistance from the grease. Perfect.

Needless to say, that tube of biogrease has been binned never to be seen again.

I’d bought a new set of wheels, that come with cup and cone bearings, and what excuse do I need for another tube of grease to try. My existing greases would of worked fine, but wanted something that was quite thin, and tacky. The crystal grease is a little too thick, the park tools grease has a tendency to stain light coloured areas. The exus blue would of been my choice, however I’ve sorta stopped using it in favour of the crystal. So I’d ordered a tube of Rock ‘n’ Roll Super Web. The stuff Is amazing in bearings. It’s quite a thin grease but hellishly sticky and coats everything. It’s ideal in the hubs and loose bearings. Being a nice bright white colour, it’s easy too see where it’s applied too.

I’ve also had to replace the rear brake caliper. I’d disconnected the cable to space the pads a little further out, and when I removed the cable, the right hand arm had a massive amount of play. So I’ve ordered a new R8000 ultegra to replace it. I’ll also redo the front caliper later in the month.