Every year I take my red 2006 K2 Mod 3.0 to the Bicycle Repair Collective on SE Belmont for a quick tune-up before the warm-weather riding season. The folks there do good work at a fair price, and they get my highest recommendation. This year, however, I decided it is time to start acquiring some basic maintenance and repair skills, and I spent the first part of yesterday on the back patio cleaning, tightening, and tinkering. For guidance, I used “The Art of Cycling,” by Robert Hurst (a book I plan to review in a future post), and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Bike Book,” by Mel Allwood, as well as a very good blog post from Tori Bortman that appeared last week as a guest article on BikePortland. I can’t imagine my forays in DIY bike maintenance will be interesting reading for the two people who regularly check this blog (Hi, Kate. Hello, Dave.), but I am going to write about it anyway.
I started by removing the wheels and wiping the rims with a dry rag to remove brake dust and the bits of Portland blacktop that have been accumulating there. Then I used sandpaper to remove the grit on the surface of the brake pads. Since the wheels were already off, I washed the frame of the bike with water and dish soap, using a toothbrush to clean some of the hard-to-reach places. My front tire had a slow leak somewhere, so I put in a new tube; I will patch the old tube later. (It used to take me over an hour to fix a flat; thanks to Allwood’s book, which taught me how to properly use tire levers, yesterday I did it in half that time.)
I’m having trouble with my chain, though. I never see experienced bikers with grease on their calves, but I’m like Pig-Pen: I can’t spend more than ten minutes on the bike without getting grease on my leg or on the cuffs of my pants. Yesterday, I used Finish Line Citrus Degreaser to clean the chain and the chain rings, which were black with grit and oil. Then I put on more chain lube – not too much, I thought. I waited five minutes and then wiped off the excess oil with a dry rag.
But on a ride around Sauvie Island later that afternoon I looked down and saw the familiar streak of black grease on my calf. On that same ride, I threw the chain, and when I put it back on my fingers were caked with black gunk. Am I still putting on too much oil? Are the little plastic spindle-things on my derailleur so dirty that they are transferring grime to my chain? Does grease come with the territory, and other cyclists, less oafish than me, just know how to keep it in its proper place? On Wednesday afternoon I am taking my bike and these questions to a friend more knowledgeable than me. If I can’t figure it out there, I will probably make the trip to the Bicycle Repair Collective after all.
Update: Late last night, when I was bringing my bike inside, I noticed that my front tire is flat again. What the hell?