It’s Bicycle Repair Man!

It’s been a while since my last post about bikes.  Since that time (last May, to be moderately precise), I’ve continued to cycle regularly to work most days, as well as a few longer bike rides (including a couple of roughly 25-mile round trips to gigs over in Bethesda), although my plans for a summer filled with long leisurely rides for fun were somewhat scuppered by the lack of a noticeable summer.  In all that time, I’ve not had to take any major maintenance downtime and, as far as I can recall, I’ve not really done (or needed to do) any work on my bike beyond an occasional cursory cleaning or pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain.

Until last night, that is.

The first day I rode my bike after my Christmas break (of just over a week), I noticed that the chain was occasionally going slack while I was pedalling.  At the time, it was only a fairly short-lived problem and had sorted itself out by the end of my first 3-mile ride to work, so I put it down to a week’s inactivity and rather cold weather causing the drivetrain to be a bit sluggish and didn’t think much more about it.

Yesterday, my bike was quite well behaved on the way into work but the chain started slackening again as soon as I left the office.  My first thought was that the rear derailleur might be sticking a bit and failing to provide the required tension, so I quickly nipped back to the office (where I keep a spare can of WD40 in case of emergencies – I have gaffer tape too, so I’ve got all bases covered :)) and gave the drivetrain a fairly liberal spray of oil.  This didn’t noticeably improve the situation on my ride home and I had plenty of time to analyse what was going on and come to the conclusion that the freewheel appeared to be sticking.  Once I got home I had access to my full set of bike tools and lubricants, so I preceded to spend the best part of the next hour tinkering with the bike to get it working properly again.

In order to get to the freewheel to inspect it properly, I had to take the rear wheel off the bike.  This gave me a good opportunity to give the whole undercarriage of the bike a slightly more comprehensive clean as well as to clean and lubricate the freewheel and sprockets.  This seems to have fixed the problem, at least for now, and the bike is running a lot more smoothly than it had.  I also took a bit of time to adjust the brakes.

I already mentioned when I wrote (about this time last year) about getting rid of my car that I much prefer bike mechanics to car mechanics.  Largely that’s because bikes are a lot simpler than cars and I have a much better (though still far from perfect) understanding of how they work.  Also the parts are generally somewhat more accessible on a bike than tucked away in the depths of a car’s engine.  The downside of that, of course, is that they are also somewhat more open to getting clogged up with dirt from the road.  I suppose the lesson I should take away from this is that it’s a good idea to take a bit of time out quite frequently to properly clean and lubricate the bike, rather than waiting for vital components to seize up.

Leave a comment


  1. Watch also for the chain stretching, a natural consequence of usage and another cause of drivetrain problems. I’m hoping mine will last another couple of months but will definitely be ready for a replacement in the spring.

  2. Yes, I think I’ll be needing to replace my chain too. It should last another month or so but it’s definitely seen better days. It will probably be time to replace the brake pads and possibly also the cables in the spring too.


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