Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Winter Biking Experience, Part 2

Today we hit a high temp of F 24° and it felt pleasant! I was an enjoyable alternative to the sub zero trend we've been in of late. I rode balaclava-less to work under sun and calm winds.

My bike is 20 plus years old, but it's a quality machine with quality components, and as far as I can tell, it has aged well. This year I have devoted more attention to it than ever before. I've taken axles apart and greased bearings, I've overhauled caliper brakes, replaced cables, touched up chipped paint, taken the toothbrush and citrus solvent to the bike with new found vigor, and, of course, replaced the bar tape. Most of these things don't really require much skill, but there is a right way and multiple wrong ways to do them. It's been a learning process along the way, and I'm looking forward to taking a stab at disassembly and reassembly of my freewheel and headset for some cleaning and lubing.

I ride a steel frame. Steel frames are said to provide a smoother ride than those made from other popular materials like aluminum or carbon. I haven't really ridden enough other frames to vouch for this with any authority, but my bike does roll really nicely. Steel frames are also supposed to retain their ride quality longer than those made of other materials. Maybe some bikes just get stale. The trade-off is that steel is heavier than other materials. Of course, steel will also rust.

Now, as this bike is 20 years old, and as I got it for a steal, (and it's the only bike I own) I don't feel too bad about taking it out in some pretty harsh conditions. Ice and gunk can be slippery and messy, but it's the salt that does the most damage, isn't it? The salt that the city lays down will rust out my bike if I don't take steps to stop it.

Here's how I prep: I use a lot of two fluids - ProLink chain lube, and Boeshield T-9 Rust and Corrosion Protection/Waterproof Lubrication. They do just what they sound like they should. This weather does a number on my chain. But keeping it lubed up will keep it running smooth and fight rust. In these conditions I lube the chain a few times a week. I should probably do it everyday. For the rest of the bike, I'm pretty generous with the Boeshield. I'll spray it on vulnerable spots on my frame and on my cassette, hubs, and bottom bracket. When things warm up, I'll use it more sparingly, as it has a bit of a tackiness that retains dirt and grime, which is unappealing cosmetically, but in the winter I'll sacrifice looks for longevity. Of course, when I'm at home I keep the bike inside my apartment.

When it's time for a ride, I expect my baby to take whatever I dish out. The bike lanes get slushy, and the side streets stay snowy and there is salt all over the place. In winter conditions, it doesn't take long for ice to accumulate all over the lower parts of the bike the same way it might on the fender of a car. Ice on the hubs, the spokes, the frame, just about everywhere except the chain. If I'm headed to work, I lock the bike up like that outside, and when work is over, it's more of the same on the way home. But once I'm back at the apartment, priority number one is putting my baby in the bathtub for a nice shower. I bought a spray extension that mounts between the shower spigot and the shower head. It's convenient and the perfect thing for a quick wash. The pressure is enough to get the ice and gunk off, but hopefully not enough to push water into spots it shouldn't really go, like inside hubs and the bottom bracket. It takes a minute or two for a rinse, and then it's a rag to the frame to dry it off. When I'm done, the bike is still a far cry from clean, but hopefully most of the really nasty salty bits have been neutralized.

Afterwards, I might reapply some lube, spin the freewheel a few rotations to keep it loose, and set it aside until it's time to head out again.


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