Pro Mechanic Maintenance Secrets
Our professional mechanics know many tricks that allow them to do their work better, faster and safer. Some tips are more obvious, while some may seem like mundane details. A true Pro knows how to pay attention to all of these details to save themselves headache and heartache. Here are a few choice bits of information that will help you become a better mechanic when performing your own maintenance.
Put simply, a seatpost is meant to be clamped and a frame is not. Many repair stands can clamp a bike with significant force. Clamped in the wrong place, the jaws can mangle decals, scuff paint and even dent or crush tubes on lightweight frames. Take the time to pull the saddle bag or light bracket and clamp the seatpost only. Bonus Tip—Always working on bikes with not enough seatpost exposed to fit your repair stand? Many clamps can be cut down to require a smaller amount of post showing to work right. Do it!
Old toothbrushes are excellent tools for cleaning up the nooks and crannies of your bike. Use one for scrubbing the grit and gunk out of your derailleur bodies and the pulleys. Use another one to reach hub centers and spoke heads, where mud and dirt can accumulate. Brake pads and calipers are another place that small brushes can really help sparkle up a bike, too.
Anyone who has ever cared to clean up their crankset knows there is always a patch of crud between the chainrings right where the crank arm comes up to bolt the rings together. You could pull the crank apart or dip crank in solvent if you have it. They make special brushes to reach in there, too. Another possibility is to grab a chunk of corrugated cardboard, slip it between the chainrings and spin the crank. The corrugations either trap and remove the gunk or knock it loose. Regardless, it is fast, easy and utilizes material that was heading to the dumpster anyway.
For those of you doing your own tune-up work, take note of this time saving tip. True your wheels as the first thing or early in your tune-up routine. When you have them finished, reinstall them into the frame and make sure the axles are fully seated into dropouts. Now that you have a straight wheel, go ahead and do your brake work. Doing the brake work first may have you adjusting pads or calipers to a rim that is out of true/dish or on a wheel that isn’t fully into the frame, which will make you do it all over again when you find the error.
Nobody would intentionally lube their rims or spokes, right? If you are cleaning up your wheels and notice that you have oily spokes, little splatters of oil on the rim or a big black smeary mess on the brake track—you have too much oil on your chain! An over-lubricated chain will fling off excess lubricant at high speed or drizzle it over everything when it gets wet. After you lube your chain, wipe excess off with a rag before you call the job done.
Technically “presta valve nuts” seem to be included with every new bike and new tube, perhaps creating a false sense of value for them. The only positive thing they do is point the valve up, perpendicular to the rim, so it sits straight. They can become loose and rattle, creating a mysterious noise that may be hard to pinpoint. If they are over-tightened, they work to pull the metal valve right out of the tube! If you do your tube replacement correctly, there will be no issue with the valve sitting straight. Save yourself the other potential annoyances and chuck those rim rattles. Your bike is also now 2g lighter!
Whether it is a Y-wrench, allen wrenches or a multi-tool, there are certain sizes that you use far more than others. Using paint or tape, put some sort of marking on the wrench that allows you to more quickly find the size you want. For instance, it is easy to find the biggest and smallest wrenches on a 4-5-6 allen or 8-9-10 Y-socket wrench. Mark the middle size (5mm or 9mm in these examples). Next time you need a 6mm allen or 10mm socket, your eye will be drawn to the marking and you will then know you just need to find the larger size. Boom. Fast.