Six Things Your Bike Mechanic Wishes You’d Stop Doing
Here’s how to make things easier on one of the most important people in your life. – Caitlin Giddings
If there’s anyone in your life you should treat with utmost respect and reverence, it’s your bike mechanic. After all, that’s your bike in their hands. Who else is more important to keeping you happy and problem-free out on the road? But before you drop off a two-wheeled heap of problems expecting miracles, there are a few things you can do to make life a little easier for your local wrench. Here’s what bike mechanics wish you would avoid before entrusting them with your bike.
Don’t Overdo It With The Chain Lube
“Don’t lube the chain after every ride,” says Mike Yozell, Bicycling’s tech editor and mechanic in the US. “Lubing your chain is fine if all the lube got washed off in a muddy storm or is otherwise dry, but if the chain is already lubed, adding more just makes a mess and picks up more dirt that causes wear.” When you do use chain lube, make sure you wipe off the excess with a rag so you don’t ruin your pants or cause extra chain damage.
Darian Harvey a US-based MTB specialist, says squeaky brakes are also on the list of things you shouldn’t lube. “When disc brakes are noisy or squealing, occasionally people will apply lube to their brake pads or rotor,” she says. “This ruins the brake pads and makes a huge mess that needs to be meticulously cleaned in order not to ruin the new set of pads that now needs to be installed.”
Don’t Automatically Blame Your Limit Screws
Once you’ve learned about those teeny-tiny screws, it can be hard not to assume they’re the answer to all your shifting woes. But it’s rare that messing with them actually brings about productive change, says Yozell. “Don’t just adjust the limit screws on the derailleur every time the bike mis-shifts,” he says. “Generally the limit screws don’t need to be touched, your shifting problems are caused by cable tension or the derailleur being bent from a crash.”
Harvey agrees – don’t mess with them unless you really know what you’re doing. “If a derailleur on their bike isn’t working, many people will try to adjust it themselves before taking it in for repair,” she says. “The first thing they do is take a screwdriver to the limit screws. This can make for a much worse problem if they go to ride it thinking it might be fixed and the rear derailleur shifts in the spokes. It can also make a much more time-consuming (and costly) repair.” She says she’s all for people learning to fix their own bikes—as long as they understand the parts of their derailleur and what they do.
Don’t Bring In a Filthy Bike
Tommy Tuite of Tuite Bicycle Repair in Oregon in the States, shares rule number one for taking your bike into a shop: “Don’t bring in a dirty bike. It’s like killing a sleeve of Oreos before seeing the dentist.” This is a sentiment echoed by many of the bike mechanics I spoke with; however, Tom Neb of San Juan Cycles in Colorado in the States, had a slightly more nuanced take.
“I am all for cleaning your bike and maintaining your equipment; however, we actually prefer people not wash their bike prior to bringing it in for service,” Neb says. “If there is a problem with fluid loss, whether it’s hydraulic brakes or a leaky fork and shock seals, it is much easier to diagnose than if the evidence is washed away. It is often very dusty and dry [in the part of Colorado in which we are based], so if there is some sort of fluid loss dust will stick to it and let us know where the source of the leak is. Creaky bikes and noise issues are a very common problem and can sometimes be quieted temporarily if the bike is cleaned; we like to test ride the bike before it’s washed to determine what the issue is.”
Harvey says she likes washing a bike that she’s tuning because it gives her an opportunity to inspect the bike for issues that were hiding under the caked-on dirt and mud. “But if you want new tyres installed and the old ones are covered in cow poo, please wash your bike before you bring it in,” she says.
So don’t worry about power-scrubbing your bike, but don’t bring it in straight from a muddy course, either – particularly if you’re getting a small repair. And if you don’t know if your mechanic prefers your bike clean or as-is for service, just call ahead to ask.
Don’t Leave Everything On Your Bike
No want wants to work on a bike caked in energy goo with dirty gloves hanging off the handlebars. “Please don’t leave your water bottles open containing water or energy drinks that might pour all over when we hang up your bike,” says Mark Taylor, a longtime bike mechanic in the US. And clear your bike of accessories that will get in the way of a mechanic, like your lock.
Same goes for bugs and insects. “I wish people wouldn’t bring in bikes that are covered in spiders,” Harvey says. “If your bike is covered in cobwebs, please inspect and remove any spiders. This isn’t a big deal for most people, but for arachnophobes (like myself), a spider can trigger a debilitating panic attack.
Don’t Put Off Servicing Until There’s a Problem
“Preventative maintenance is the best approach to keeping your bike in good working order,” says Neb. “Try to keep track of either mileage or hours on the bike and service brakes, shocks, and drivetrains according to manufactures recommended intervals. The more expensive the bike the more you want to be vigilant about service; nobody wants to wear out a R5,000 cassette or scar fork legs on a R13,000 fork due to neglect.”
US-based mechanic Amy Campbell adds, “Please don’t wait until your suspension doesn’t feel right to get it serviced. Please understand that routine suspension service and annual rebuilds prevent damage and keep the suspension working properly. Send your shocks and forks to service centers for their annual rebuilds.”
Don’t Try to Rush the Job
“As a mechanic and shop owner, I want to help with any bike,” says Tuite. But don’t wait until the night before a big race or ride to bring it in.” If you know you’ll need routine maintenance by a certain date, call ahead and see if your mechanic has the time to work on your bike.
As far as what you should do when you bring your bike to a mechanic, nearly all the mechanics I spoke with highlighted the importance of communication. Ask questions and provide as much information as you can, says Dan Hart of South Mountain Cycles in the States. “Going to your mechanic is like going to your doctor,” Hart says. “They’ve seen it all before, they’re not going to make you feel bad about it, but it’s always better to be upfront about everything you’ve been experiencing and as helpful as you’re able to be. If you’ve been working on the bike yourself, let us know – we can help resolve things sooner if more of the whole story is communicated. A lot of times we’ll fix something and someone will be like, “oh yeah, that was also a problem” and they either forgot about it which is fine or they didn’t tell you because they were embarrassed.