Bike Maintenance Made Easy!

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Bike Maintenance Made Easy!

The great thing about Beach Cruisers in terms of maintenance is how simple the bikes tend to be. Unless you’re getting a more advanced model, like Newport Cruiser’s 3-speed Platinum, Beach Cruisers are a breeze to maintain and repair, especially for the very casual user. And let’s face it, most of us buy Beach Cruisers for their ease of use and the easy-going SoCal lifestyle they represent.

Beach Cruisers are a great balance between Commuter bikes and Mountain Bikes, with their heavy, sturdy frames and wide tires. But if you mostly keep to bike paths along the beach line, the worst most have to deal with is sand getting in your chain and gear assembly, which can easily be cleaned with simple tools you probably already have around your house. In general, you don’t even need to remove the chain in order to give the gear assembly and chain a good cleaning. But if you have the time and a multi-tool or proper screwdriver sitting around (which I always recommend), you might want to remove the chain guard to make your life easier. Besides, there might be some dirt-clumps up in the guard that you’ll miss in cleaning, which could get back into the chain the next bump you encounter. One time I had a rock stuck in a dirt clump up in my guard, and it fell into my chain, threw me off the bike, and almost ruined my chain. Not a fun time, especially since I was still miles away from home when it happened.

Although cleaning and repair tasks may be a somewhat daunting prospect for some, most can easily be done by the average Joe or Jane in the comfort of their own living room or kitchen. However, it’s always a good idea to put down a large towel, plastic tarp, or old sheet, just in case. A small bottle of simple degreaser, an old toothbrush, some oil or grease, and an old, clean rag are all the tools most will need to keep their Cruisers in good, clean working order. If you would like to make sure you’re doing things just right, it’s worth it to swing by a store like Newport Cruisers to pick up a few inexpensive cleaning aids that will make upkeep an even cooler breeze. There are also plenty of amazing deals on cleaners and specialized gear-cleaning brushes online, and one can usually keep it to under $20 to get a brush, cleaner and the proper lubricants for years of maintenance. In my experience, it’s worth it, and nothing beats the feeling of cleaning and repairing your bike yourself. There are also plenty of options these days for more environmentally-friendly degreasers and lubricants than there used to be. If you’re really stuck for degreaser, a simple solution of soap-and-water should suffice. If you go this route, I would suggest dish-soap, like Dawn or its equivalent. Orange-based soaps are also excellent, and tend to have lesser impact on the environment.

First, put down your sheet or tarp, making sure to give your bike plenty of clearance. Cruisers tend to take up a little more room than most bikes, so be sure that you’re not going to bump the handlebars into any lamps, TVs, or Cats that might be in the way. Bring the bike into the center and lay it gently on its side. Inspect the chain and gear assembly, using good lighting, and look for for oil and dirt clumps that often build up over time. If everything looks clean, then you’re probably fine. But if the oil looks dirty, or there are clumps in the gear assembly, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Good thing you have degreaser for clean up later!

Before we get started, I would strongly suggest putting a smaller old towel, or even a few paper towels, directly under your chain and gear assembly to make cleanup even easier. You don’t want to have any dirt and grime sitting around after cleaning, and putting something under your work area when you scrub will make it far easier to remove dirt from your space so it doesn’t get back into the works.

Now grab your toothbrush or gear brush and gently scrub around the gear assembly, making sure to get in every nook and cranny you can. An extra minute doing this job carefully will pay off in the end, since dirt and grime tend to hide from a casual scrubbing. Then do the same to the chain, making sure to turn the pedals to expose the chain under the chain guard and the gear assembly. When you feel you’ve gotten all the loose bits off, take your rag and carefully wipe out any dirty oil and grit you can see and that has been loosened by brushing. If any dirt has fallen on your towel, take a moment and dispose of it in the garbage and replace the towel under your gear assembly. Now it’s time to clean.

Grab the de-greaser and follow the instructions on the back. It’s usually a very simple thing to just spray the de-greaser onto the chain and gear assembly and let it do it’s thing. But make sure you spray carefully, because some de-greasers can have damaging effects on paint, furniture or carpet. It’s better to be prepared and careful than to damage an expensive carpet, or buy more cleaner to clean the cleaner. “Measure twice, cut once”, as my Father always told me.

Use your fingers or rag to make sure the degreaser is finding its way into all the nooks and crannies. Better too much than not enough. When you feel the degreaser has done its job, begin wiping it off with the rag. If you can’t quite get it all, use a spray bottle of water to help drive it from the dark recesses, using your rag to make sure to get it all. Now it’s time to relax for a minute and let the chain and gear assembly dry. If you want to clean your whole bike, this is the best time to do it, since you’re going to move on to lubricating soon and don’t have to worry about degreasing something you don’t want to.

This is also an excellent time to make yourself a sandwich or enjoy an espresso. If you’re in a hurry, you can place the bike in a sunny spot, or use a hairdryer to speed up drying time.

Okay, all refreshed? Bike dry? Ready to tackle a little light oiling? Good.

Now grab your lubricant, or as I like to call it, lubriCAN. Make sure you’re not using Motor Oil, as it contains particles that just leads to dirty chains and can compromise a chain’s strength and cause it to wear more quickly. There are more chain lubricants on the market than you can shake a stick at, including WD-40, Dumonde Tech and Clean Ride, just to name a few. These are all relatively inexpensive, so it’s worth it to try some out and see what you like. I would recommend using your fingers to apply it, so you can get a feel for it as well as make sure it’s getting where needed, which is pretty much every nook and cranny in the chain. This is another place where a little too much is better than a little too little. Try not to let it build up, since that will allow dirt and sand to cling to it more easily, making all this cleaning pointless.

While you’re at it, why not have a good look over your bike and see if there are any places that you think rust could creep in. Bike Cruisers are more likely to develop rust, since they’re usually being ridden around very wet, high-salt areas. The natural beauty of SoCal’s many beaches is amazing, but it is terrible on unprotected metals. Ask any Custom Car nut, and he’ll tell you stories about how his first Custom rusted out and ruined the car because he didn’t treat it properly. So identify these areas, and slide a little lubricant in there, which helps to shield against water, salt and rust. Think of lubricant as an ounce of protection for your whole bike.

When you feel like you’ve lubricated all you can, lift your bike up again and spin the pedals, making sure to listen for any squeaking, whining, or chain-clacking. If you hear anything, sit back down and try to troubleshoot it, listening for where the sound is coming from. Make sur eto look at the chain to see if there are any physical problems, possibly a tiny stuck rock or bent metal. If it all looks good, apply more lubricant (if needed), until the sound is smooth and clear. The bike will tell you if it’s feeling good or bad. If your pedals are spinning smooth and the chain and gears sound good, screw the chain guard back on, clean up your work area, change into some comfy clothes, and head out for a ride down the beach, knowing your bike is clean and ready for a long ride.

Don’t forget, this advice will also come in handy if you’re doing simple maintenance on your 3-gear Cruiser or 21-speed racing bike.

Good Cycling!

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  • Kim: April 01, 2014

    When cleaning and lubing the chain, do I have to spin the pedals backwards? I can’t do this with my coaster brakes, they pedals will not spin backwards! Can I spin them forward instead?

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