I spend an awful lot of time on computers, my iPad and my iPhone. It’s not that I don’t like nerding out, I love nerding out, but sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty and stop looking at a screen. For me cycling and bike mechanics has been an excellent way to channel my geek into something that is physically exerting while having a big engineering aspect. It’s also a really easy and affordable hobby to get into.
My bike is a 1987 Peugeot Versailles. There are a lot of nice things about owning a classic bike, one of which is that they’re cheap, easy to get and tend to be a lot simpler than some newer bikes.
Let’s take a look at some basic bike anatomy so we’ll be ready to dive into some deeper topics later. Bikes have some fairly specific terminology but there isn’t too much of it. I’ve labelled most of the major pieces of a bike below. As you can see we use the word ‘tubes’ to refer to the major lengths of the frame. One thing not shown are the ‘sides’ of the bike. Generally the side of the bike with the chain on it is referred to as the ‘drive side’.
The most basic stuff we’ll be looking at is the regular maintenance of things like the chain, the breaks and the gears. While these vary from model to model the basic principles are mostly the same. We’ll probably also spend some time diving into the physics of bikes and why they are built in specific ways.
For now let’s do the most basic thing possible, oiling the chain. Oiling your chain is extremely necessary if you don’t want a rusty hard-to-ride bike. It only takes a second every now and then and it will save you time and energy in the future.
My personal lube of choice is Pedro’s. They offer a range of lubes to suit the kind of riding conditions you’ll be in. If you haven’t been looking after you chain you should clean it with Simple Green first. Leave it in a container of Simple Green and then brush it down with an old toothbrush. Get all the gunk off. It’s very important you let it dry before applying the lube though, otherwise the degreaser in the Simple Green will stop the lube from applying and your chain will wear a lot harder.
Once you’ve cleaned your chain (or not) you can simply take an old rag and hold it just behind the chainring, in the gap the looped chain makes. Gently turn the peddle backwards and apply the oil above the rag. I find it’s pretty easy to hold the rag and the lube bottle in one hand. Just squeeze the bottle until you can see a trickle of oil being picked up and carried away by the chain. Rotate the whole chain slowly a couple of times to make sure it all got lubed. Finally gently apply the rag to the chain and give it one more turn to grab any excess that might attract road dirt. That’s it you’re done.
If you want to get into Bike Mechanics, a local community bike shop is the best place to learn. My local community bike shop in San Francisco has an awesome list of places you can go to in North America. If anyone knows of other ones, it would be awesome to get them in the comments.