Just one more thing…

I spent Saturday in the best possible way: up to my elbows in grease. I started out just intending to replace Major Tom’s gear cables. The intitial problem, which I may have already mentioned on the blog, was with the front derailleur getting stuck. I wasn’t entirely sure how this problem came about but I knew it was something that got worse as the winter went on. Previously, I’d fully cleaned out the front mech (which had got very dirty) and put it back on, but I kept having the same problem. It would stick, and would need a large amount of force before it budged with a great bang. 

Anyway, I’ve got the answer – the cable outer was rusty. I can’t remember whether this is a cable I replaced or just what came with the bike, but it had the old-style outer cable that’s just a steel coil with an outer coating. I replaced it with newer cable with the plastic inner tube. I also got one of those rubber boots they put on v-brakes and put it on to provide a little more protection from the elements. The derailleur is a strange one because SunTour thought it was a good idea (and I agree) to have both levers work the same way, i.e. both move back for an easier gear etc. It didn’t catch on and there are practical reasons why, it’s just easier to make and fit a mech that works the other way.

Since I had the spare cable anyway, I thought why not change all the gear cables. Then the cleanliness of the rear derailleur bothered me, and the levers had never been fully refurbished, and then there’s the chain. I’m sure most cyclists are familiar with the gunge that begins to totally overwhelm a chain after a few rides in rainy conditions, a grey/black sort of paste that’s a mixture of soil (hence it varies from place to place) chain lube and small bits of metal worn away from the chain. Well, that’s how I came to fully refurbish my drivetrain.

I didn’t fully disassemble the rear derailleur, as it’s fairly well seal and was all lubed up inside at Christmas. I gave it a decent cosmetic clean and got the grime off the jockey wheels, and put it back. The shifter levers were taken apart though. There’s a vast array of washers in them, and each one was polished nice and clean before reassembling the whole thing. I’ll repeat that these levers work REALLY well, and their clever little design makes refurbishing them rather fun. Then I cleaned up the chainrings, just a straightforward degrease, and then the cranks came off too. Turns out the bottom bracket needed a little tightening. 

With all of this cleaned and back on the bike, all that was missing was the chain. However, it turns out things are so much easier to adjust with no chain. I had all my gears nicely set up, and then, inevitably, I decided the rear wheel needed cleaning, and this would be the easiest time to take it off. And then I decided to convert it to quick-release, and regrease the bearings, and readjust the cones… Truly I am the Columbo of bicycle maintenance.

Anyway, once I’d finished refurbishing virtually everything, all I had left to do was fit a new chain, which I hadn’t got. I raced across town on my 3-speed but sadly by this time Burton’s and Wilko’s were both shut, so I headed for Halford’s, which surprisingly was also shut. At least the ride allowed me to just squeak over my weekly mile target, but it was a bit rubbish having an unusable bike sat around all clean and ready to go. The following morning I went to Wilko’s but didn’t think much of their chains, just a little too cheap and nasty for me. I got a better chain from Halford’s, and a single-speed chain for when I fit Crichton’s chaincase. I fitted the chain in accordance with Sheldon Brown’s instructions, and had a little test run to Asda to buy some ciggies.

What can I say except… WOW! I was happy with how the bike was running before, save for a few problems with the front mech, but this was in a whole different league. Everything works perfectly now. The front derailleur works fine both ways, and the rear derailleur is just right, changing up or down before you can say ‘clunk’. The levers are even better than before because I’ve been able to dial in just enough friction without going too tight, and the actual force required to change gear now is barely measurable. The whole drivetrain has noticeably less friction in it, and overall the bike feels brand new!

Later on I took off down the lanes, in perfect weather with just a bit of a breeze about. What a difference it makes when the roads are bone-dry, though the patch that was flooded before is still a little flooded. I’ve lost a bit of my road bike fitness (which curiously seems to be slightly different to my 3-speed fitness) but I still managed to go at a fair old clip by my standards. I stopped by the entrance to Stone Hockey Club, had a bit of a drink then rode back, for a total of about 15 miles. The bike never skipped a beat.

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