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Want an easy way to be both happier and healthier?  Then just hop on your bike!  Studies have shown that biking to work can improve your mental health, reduce stress and improve concentration.  The average bike commuter also loses 13 pounds in the first year.  Or, if money is your thing, you can save almost $8K on annual operating costs of a bicycle vs a car.   Another added bonus is that you never have to worry about finding a parking space!  (Parking is becoming quite pain in the bike seat area for us in the Portland office).

Here are some infographics on the benefits of biking, because we love infographics here at R/West!

biking-and-health bike-to-work-week

Anyway, on to the rest!  We recently hosted a basic bike maintenance class here for the R/West employees, put on by Gracie’s Wrench.  Tori walked us through some essentials for commuting, and we like to share!  Here’s what we learned :

Flip you for real : 

It’s easiest to work on your bike on a stand, or with the bike flipped over.  To flip your bike, lean over the middle bar, grab the frame at the wheels and lift.  I bet you could have figured that part out though, because you are super smart.

Pacific Rim

To extend the life of your rims and wheels, which are one of the most expensive parts on a bike, it’s important to clean the rims.  Most modern wheels have aluminum rims (older bikes may have steel, but these are terrible for braking).  Tori recommends cleaning the oxidation of the rims with a clean, dry cloth every 100 miles.  Depending on how often you or far you ride, this could be once a month (or once a week, for people like me who commute 20 miles a day).  Make sure to apply firm pressure, and scrub the entire circumference of the rim on both sides.  Starting at the valve is a great way keep track of where you start!

a220-1Speaking of valves, we also covered the two different common valve types, which are Schraeder and Presta.  Presta valves are longer and skinnier, and often found on road bikes.  Schraeder are short and stubby, often have a plastic cap, and have a little recessed knobbin’ in the middle.  Here is a picture for comparison :

Regardless of which valve type you have, most bike pumps will either work with both, sometimes with two sides, sometimes one side that can handle either, or an adapter to use with it.  

I’ve been framed!

It’s nice to have a good clean your frame, and can extend the life of your finish, etc.  You’ll want to do this when the bike is upright, as the water can run into holes in the bottom of your frame and cause rust, etc.  Rust never sleeps!  It’s easiest to do this with a brush and a bucket of soapy water.  You can use a spray bottle and such, but it’s going to take longer.  When rinsing your bike off, make sure to use a gentle spray setting on your hose, so you don’t force water into places it should not go.

IMG_1738Avoiding your own deflate-gate :

Having a properly inflated tire will help make your ride more comfortable, your tires last longer and your ride more stable.  You should check your tires about once a week.  Tires can deflate even when not riding, so it’s important to check them before you ride, even if it’s been sitting for a while.  The recommended PSI for your tires will be found on the side of the tire.   Tori recommends only going to max inflation on the back tire if you are over 180 lbs, and about 10 psi lower in the front.  If you are under 180 lbs, she recommended deflating the tires just a bit more, until you just notice it to be slightly harder to pedal.  Sounds weird to me, but that is what she recommends.

While you are gIMG_1757etting up close and personal with your tires, check for tread wear and signs of worn out old tires.  One of the class participants had a tire so bad that it made our instructor laugh.  And then she recommended replacing it before riding another mile on it.  It’s no fun to have a tire go out while you are riding.  If you have a treaded tire, make sure there is still tread.  Here’s a great example of a worn out tire (mine).  The tread is almost gone from the middle, and there are lots of holes from glass and road debris.  Time to replace!

IMG_1760Stop it, right now!

Brakes are super important, because you don’t want to hit stuff, like ducks, cars or babies that might suddenly appear in front of you.  Brakes should be cleaned when you clean the rims.  Clean first with a dry cloth to avoid turning that oxidation build-up into a slimy film, which will not help your braking power.  You can also give them a quick once over with a bit of sandpaper to get rid of any remaining oxidation and give them a bit more grip on the rims.  Don’t use that sandpaper on the rims though, and make sure to wipe them off with a dry cloth afterwards.  Brakes should have wear indicators, which often look like gaps between the brake sections.  Make sure to replace them when they are worn!  Here’s a great article on that, if you feel like doing this yourself.  It’s not that hard, and only takes about 15 – 20 minutes.  http://www.bicycling.com/maintenance/bicycle-maintenance/replace-worn-brake-pads

You’ll want to adjust your brakes so they are as close as possible to the wheel without touching it.  This is easier on bikes with barrel adjusters on the brake lines, but you can do it without too.  If your wheel wobbles a bunch, or has random spots that stick out to one side or the other when you spin it, it means your wheel is out of true.  This makes it harder to adjust your brakes, reduces braking power, etc.  It’s kind of terrible to adjust this yourself without the proper tools and stand, so just take it to a shop for that.  They should have lots of practice, and will be able to do it much faster than you.  Believe me, I have tried.

IMG_1741Back on the Chain Gang

The chain is a very import link in the… shall we say, bike chain.  *ahem*  Anyway, it’s important to have a well lubricated chain.  If you chain is super dirty, you’ll want to use either a chain cleaner or water soluble degreaser.  Many degreaser products are not water soluble, and will stick around and then destroy any oil you later put on them.  Which is no good, OBVS.  Chains should be oiled around every 100 miles as well.  I find it helpful to mark the chain with a pencil before oiling, or finding the master-link if you have one.  Start there and oil the top of the chain, all the way around.  Then do the same with the inside / bottom of the chain.  You don’t need much oil here on either go around.  I like to work the oil in a bit by hand, but be warned that you’ll get super greasy hands this way.  Afterwards, clean the excess oil off and give your chain a good rub down with a clean cloth.  You should make sure not to use this greasy cloth on your brakes or rims, btw, because it will leave residue and greatly reduce your braking power.  It’s like trying to brake with an oiled watermelon in a pool.  Or a greased pig.  Something like that.  Anyway, don’t do it.

And there you go!  

There is plenty more to learn about bike maintenance, so perhaps we’ll follow up on some topics if anyone has questions.  Just let us know in the comments!

Written by: Erin Leonard