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  1. #1
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    Best degreaser? Multitool? Newb to serious maintenance

    Hopefully this place is the best to ask.

    I'm new to serious riding (before it was as a teen just to get from A to B) but now it's a serious hobby (or will be) so I need to get serious with maintenance. The guy said to run my chain through a rag after each ride to get most of the loose dirt and debris off, and then put a drop or so of lube on each link joint and flex it a bit to work it in. Well, every couple rides or 100 miles or so, doesn't it make sense to completely degrease the chain and grease it from square one? What about cleaning excess lube off?

    I've got a SRAM 951 chain... what should I do to maintain it and keep it clean? What about other drive components like cassette and rear derailleur? I don't have a cassette socket to take it off the wheel, so what's the best/easiest way to keep it clean without taking it off the wheel?

    Looking for a mutlitool too... hopefully a decent one isn't like, $40. I just need something that I can tighten cleat bolts, seatpost clamp, adjust brake cables, etc. Chain tool would be okay but not necessary as my chain has the gold link on it. My rides currently aren't out in the middle of nowhere where I would have a 10 mile walk back to the car if I broke my chain. They're within 10 minutes driving distance for someone to pick me up because I just ride from my house.

    And if you guys know, what is needed to install disc brakes? I will be going with hydros soon, still haven't decided what. I know I'll need a bleed kit in case they come pre-bled but still have air in the lines, but what else? How hard is it to do for someone who has never done it before?

    I know that's a lot to ask, so any help is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by bacon11
    I'm new to serious riding (before it was as a teen just to get from A to B) but now it's a serious hobby (or will be) so I need to get serious with maintenance. The guy said to run my chain through a rag after each ride to get most of the loose dirt and debris off, and then put a drop or so of lube on each link joint and flex it a bit to work it in. Well, every couple rides or 100 miles or so, doesn't it make sense to completely degrease the chain and grease it from square one? What about cleaning excess lube off?

    I've got a SRAM 951 chain... what should I do to maintain it and keep it clean? What about other drive components like cassette and rear derailleur? I don't have a cassette socket to take it off the wheel, so what's the best/easiest way to keep it clean without taking it off the wheel?
    Chain maintenance is a matter upon which you're going to get a variety of opinions. I'll tell you what works for me, but you must understand that I ride in a dry, dusty environment, and the chains on my bikes hardly ever get wet. With that said...

    I brush the chain with a Park chain brush after each ride. (You can use an old toothbrush for this.) I also brush the cassette and chainrings as dust collects on them too. I make an effort to brush the top, bottom, and sides of the chain. Once that's done, I put a drop of Progold Prolink on each link and then wipe clean.

    I also wipe the dust off the fork stanchions and rear shock after each ride.
    Looking for a mutlitool too... hopefully a decent one isn't like, $40. I just need something that I can tighten cleat bolts, seatpost clamp, adjust brake cables, etc. Chain tool would be okay but not necessary as my chain has the gold link on it. My rides currently aren't out in the middle of nowhere where I would have a 10 mile walk back to the car if I broke my chain. They're within 10 minutes driving distance for someone to pick me up because I just ride from my house.
    I think that a multi-tool is best carried in your pack to use for any on trail maintenance that might be needed. If your tool budget is tight though, a multi-tool will certainly work for the sort of maintenance that you have in mind. I carry a Topeak Alien DX in my pack. I chose this tool because it includes both a chain tool and a pair of pliers. I used to carry a different Topeak tool in my pack which didn't have a pliers. I found that I needed this tool (pliers) on some occasions when fixing a flat. At times, the sealant in the slime tubes gunked up the valve, preventing it from being unscrewed by hand. The pliers will hopefully help with that. (I haven't had to use them yet since getting the tool.) You should have a chain tool too, even if your chain has a master link, because there are on-trail maintenance situations where you won't be able to use the master link. You may also have to shorten your chain if you rip your derailleur off during a ride.

    With regard to (non-emergency) tools, I suggest that you slowly purchase tools for working on your bike as you need them. This topic has been discussed a number of times in this forum and I've given my opinion on what tools you should get on several occasions.
    And if you guys know, what is needed to install disc brakes? I will be going with hydros soon, still haven't decided what. I know I'll need a bleed kit in case they come pre-bled but still have air in the lines, but what else? How hard is it to do for someone who has never done it before?
    How mechanically inclined are you? How much other bike work have you done? Installing disc brakes is not hard to do, but IMO, you should have some decent bike tools for torquing the fasteners that secure the rotors to the hubs and the calipers (and adapters if needed) to the frame. You want to make sure that these fasteners are tight enough, but not too tight. The tool for doing this is called a torque wrench. (Torque wrenches have also been discussed a number of times in this forum.)

    The other tricky bit about installing disc brakes is getting the caliper centered over the rotor so that it doesn't rub. You may get lucky and get it right on your first try, but chances are you'll need multiple tries (and a bit of patience) to get it right.

    Depending upon which brakes you get, bleeding them can also require a fair amount of patience.

  3. #3
    Beware the Blackbuck!
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    The best degreaser is probably whatever you've got on hand. I wouldn't go out looking for prime solution to strip grease off parts. The degreaser that came with my park chain cleaning "machine" worked, pedro's degreaser worked, and dish soap works.

    As far as the best multi-tool. The majority here vote for the Crank Brothers 17. Everything you need, nothing you don't, in a nice sturdy package. There's not really much more to say. There are other tools out there, and you may want one with a knife or pliers for some specific use, but I can't think of a time when that's mandatory. There may also be tools out there with a better chain breaker, or more accessible hex wrenches or something like that, but in the end nothing does it all as well as the CB17.

    Like KevinB said, chain maintenance is wildly debated and everyone does something a bit different. I tend to try and lube my chain when it starts to look dirty, and clean with degreaser and one of those chain cleaning machines it if it starts to sound crunchy, or if I feel like the chain isn't coming mostly clean when I wipe off the excess lube. My advice is filled with words like "looks" and "mostly" because chain maintenance is sort of a personal thing, you'll figure out what works for you, and if you don't get it right, you'll just be replacing a disposable part slightly more than the next guy.

    What I will say is replace your chain when it starts to wear out, regardless of how often you lube it, because replacing your chain before it starts to demolish your cogs and chain rings is a lot less expensive than replacing your entire drive train. You can measure wear with a special chain stretch gauge, or you can hold a fancy device called a ruler over the top of the chain. For more information check out this link: Chain Maintenance.

    Are you going to hydro discs from cable discs, or V-brakes? Know that disc brakes require specific attachments on your both your bike frame and fork and your hubs. I'll assume you've got that covered. It is a very good idea to have a torque wrench to install quality hydros, but you can sometimes get by without (othertimes you end up destroying your part...). I've been to bike shops where they didn't even own torque wrenches. I would never have my bike worked on there, but clearly they were getting by without one.

    I find bleeding hydros easier than setting up v-brakes, but I'm pretty anal when it comes to my v-brake setup. The difference is that it's a start to finish process, you can't get half way through and head off to the movies, or pick it up tomorrow, like it would be easy to do with Vbrake setup. You're also (usually) dealing with a liquid that will strip the paint off your frame if you don't clean it up immediately. Those things combine to make it a bit more "daunting," but no more difficult. This is all my personal experience with my Formula K24s. I followed the Avid bleed instructions with the Avid bleed kit the first time I did it, and that was no more difficult than the Formula bleed instructions, but I can't speak for any other manufacturers' brakes.

    I also agree with KevinB's point about buying tools as you need them. Doing things that way means you get the tools you need for your bike, and not a bunch of tools you'll never use. It also makes the price easier to stomach. When you buy your new crankset, you budget for the bottom bracket tool, crank puller (if necessary), and pedal wrench right there. Then you have all the tools required not just to install, but the tools and experience to maintain your own bike.

    If you think of any more specific questions be sure to post them up, and let us know how your tool collection comes along.

  4. #4
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    Crap, time to dig my old toothbrush out of the garbage... just threw it away yesterday.

    Thanks guys. I read that article you posted ShadowsCast, and I think the Coke/Pepsi bottle method might work... yes? Lately I've been riding on city streets, probably 6-10 miles a day, and at way more than a "comfort" pace. Mostly what I encounter is road dust, which is minimal I suppose seeing as I live in Cleveland, Ohio, devoid of desert conditions. Should I lube my chain from the top of the lower chain run after each ride? Every other? Every third? I have Pedros Ice Wax and Pedros Extra Dry All Purpose Lube... the guy at the LBS said the Ice Wax was great to use when I told him I had it when he was trying to sell me something else at the store.

    I'm mechanically inclined (going to school for mech eng), and I have a neighbor with a garage so full of tools, he can't get his car in there, so I'm sure he's got a torque wrench and adapters I can use to properly torque the bolts to install disc brakes.

    I was probably going to buy the cassette nut socket when I got my wheels at the LBS, and just grab a multitool there. I haven't decided yet. Bike work stand is also on my list... I found a bunch of inexpensive ways to make my own so I think I'm going to do that.

  5. #5
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    Sheldon Brown's methods both sound great to me. I think the chain cleaning machines really work great, but I broke mine. The coke bottle (or tupperware for me) method seems to work just as well, if it's maybe a bit more work. Some people believe that soaking a chain in degreaser is a bad idea because it will wash the lube out of the smallest nooks and crannies in the chain, and it will take several reapplications for lube to reach those areas again. I don't know if I buy that or not, but to each their own. I generally don't like to waste my degreaser, so I usually just pour it over the chain until it starts to pool in the bottom of a small tupperware, and after that use dish soap and water to clean the chain. Afterward I dry it on a rag and check to see if I need to run it through again. Sort of a modification to filling a bottle up with degreaser for one cleaning.

    Honestly I would say that with the conditions you describe every third ride would likely be plenty. I rode to work in conditions similar to what you're describing and I probably lubed up once a week, so every fourth or fifth ride. If the chain is getting wet or you can see the lube getting dirty and coming off that would be a good indication to lube more often. The Ice Wax has the instructions right on there, but don't neglect to wipe the lube off after you apply it. I find it's best to lube after a ride, and then wipe it off before the next ride, this takes most of the lube off the exposed areas of the chain so they're not just collecting dirt.

    I use Boeshield T9 because when I was starting to get into "what lube worked the best" and whatever else I saw a pro wrench hanging half way out a car window at maybe 40kph squirting it onto some Tour de France racers chain. I'm probably going to try out Rock n Roll Gold or ProLink next because of all the great things I hear, but I've got no reason to switch because this stuff works seems to work great.

    It's great that your friend has a torque wrench you can borrow, but the problem with a garage full of tools is that (unless he's a bike mechanic) none of them will be the bike specific tools you need. Metric hex keys and sockets/wrenches are about as "normal tool friendly" as it gets, and even then sometimes people only have standard tools!



    Since then I've added a few specific sized metric wrenches (21 mm) and two pin spanners for my hubs (Hadleys), a disc brake bleed kit, and two more bottom bracket tools. This does not show my drawer full of metric hex keys and sockets, metric box/open wrenches, or spoke wrenches.

    Anyway I hope that doesn't dissuade you from starting to work on your own bike. I like it almost as much as riding (weird, I know).

  6. #6
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    Go slow with buying specialty tools and only buy what you need. I bought a bike mechanics kit for 300 and only use a few items. If I priced the few items separate, I would have saved a bunch.
    If money is tight, a decent set of metric allen wrenches will do. I can practically strip down my bikes with a set of allens...less than 7 bucks. For the limited items that have bolts, a small 1/4" metric ratchet socket set works great. Those items and a tire lever and pump will do great to start out with. Unless your SRAM came with a GOLD link, I'd also suggest a chain tool.

    For degreasing, I use simple green and a wide mouth bottel, like a gatoraide bottle. Wipe the heavies off the chain, put in the simple green, cap it and shake. Let it set for the agents to degrease. Take it out, rinse in hot water. Check the links. If you still have grime, repeat the shake/soak. Always rinse it HOT water. You just want the solution to rinse off and for the water to evaporate fast. YOUR specific chain will rust if water is allowed to set and not evaporate. I say this because I have one on one of my bikes. Great chain, but is likes to rust if not protected.

    Once it is clean and dry, re-lube with your choice of lube. The chain is all you need to lube. The gears and front rings only need to be clean. When I clean my chain I also give a good wipe down of the derailers and gears.
    The wood is being bent! Let me know what you need!

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