Get faster with maintenance

2004-07-20 12:37
A smooth-running bike makes you faster: Just ask the pros. In the second World Cup race of 2000, a few riders from the GT, Kona and Mongoose teams installed on-board chain lube systems to battle the thick dust on the Mazatlan, Mexico, course. Pieced together with medical supplies, including IV tubing and a syringe mounted on the seat tube, the contraption let a rider inject the chain with lube when it got too dry. But you don't need to snoop around race pits to boost your SPEED Here are four tweaks that'll make your bike faster than ever. And the real beauty: You don't need loads of maintenance know-how or a box full of tools to make these adjustments.

Beginner Tricks

1. Pump 'em up

The easiest and most important way to improve your SPEED is to correctly adjust your tyre pressure. An underinflated road tyre can add enough drag to slow you 3-5kph. If you run 75psi in road tyres intended for 100 to 120psi, you're pushing harder than you need to - and your tyre wears sooner. Tyre pressure isn't so simple off-road: If your tyres are pumped up too much, you'll slip on climbs and flail over slippery roots and rocks. You may improve SPEED by lowering tyre pressure. Start with about 45psi. The more technical the trail, the lower you should go with the air pressure. Some lightweight riders even dip below 30psi. On smoother trails, add pressure, up to about 60psi.

Tool: A pump with a gauge

Cost: Nada

Shop cost: C'mon - do this yourself

Difficulty:

Time: 3 minutes

2. Boost braking power

It sounds counter-intuitive - but to go faster, you need good brakes. Well-maintained brakes let you roll into corners faster yet with more control, and enable you to leave corners faster because of better line choice. Dirty rims and worn pads can add seconds to your time in a corner-rich event, and well-maintained brakes may even help you avoid a supporting role in somebody else's crash. The easiest way to boost power: Keep your rims clean by wiping them with a clean cloth. Also, buff your brake pads with an emery cloth to keep them fresh.

Tools: Emery cloth

Cost: Nada

Shop cost: R30 (labour)

Difficulty:

Time: 5-10 minutes

Intermediate Trick

3. Clean derailleur jockey pulleys

An often forgotten speed-sucker is the lowly derailleur jockey pulley. These pulleys turn so rapidly that dirty or poorly lubed bushings or worn-out ball bearings can cost you SPEED To check your pulleys, remove the chain or hold it off a pulley, then slowly spin the pulley. It should turn smoothly and freely. If not, remove and clean it with something pointy (like a small screwdriver covered with a shop cloth) to get all the grit out of the groove. Re-lube with a drop of oil (or replace the ball bearings), then add a drop of blue Loctite to the small bolt that holds the pulley in the derailleur.

Tools: Set of Allen keys and small screwdriver

Cost: Nothing, if you already have the tools

Shop cost: R30 (labour)

Difficulty:

Time: 10-15 minutes

Advanced Trick

4. Fine-tune hub bearings

Hubs that are too tight or loose are inefficient and sap SPEED To fine-tune your hub bearings, use two cone spanners. One goes on the outer locknut and the other spanner fits on the cone nut, which controls how tight or loose the cone presses against the bearings inside the hub. Turning the cone nut clockwise tightens the bearings; counter-clockwise loosens. Eliminating play while avoiding overtightening requires loads of patience. One handy trick: Only tighten or loosen about 1/16th of a turn at a time - about the distance of one spoke to the next on a 32-spoke wheel. This is an easy way to measure how much you've tightened or loosened the spanner. Once you've adjusted the cone nut, re-tighten the locknut.

Looseness test: Grab the top of the wheel with your thumb and forefinger while supporting the frame in your other hand. Wiggle the wheel side to side. If there's lateral movement, you need to tighten the hub bearings.

Tightness test: Remove the wheel and spin it while holding the axle ends with your fingers. The wheel should spin smoothly with the axles resting lightly on your fingertips. Excessive drag makes it hard to hold onto the axles. To fix, slightly loosen the hub bearings.

Tools: Set of cone spanners

Cost: R100 (if you don't have the spanners)

Shop cost: R60 (labour)

Difficulty:

Time: 15-30 minutes

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