UNBEARABLE: Things to AVOID Doing to your Bike’s Bearings
Whether you ride on the road or trail, your bike will only keep rolling as long as your bearings stay sound and intact. To keep them at optimum performance, there’s plenty of regular maintenance that you should perform. But there are also several things you should definitely AVOID doing. Consider it “anti-maintenance.” Let’s take a look, shall we?
Let’s face it. It’s virtually impossible to ride anywhere without picking up some dirt and moisture. This is especially true of off-road environments, but wet or winter weather can also make road or street rides a rather filthy affair.
And when you consider that dirt and moisture are the enemies of bearings, you can see why this can be a problem. Fortunately, your bike is likely protected by some amount of grease, which not only repels moisture, but serves as a barrier to the grit of dust and dirt.
The problem is that grease is not a foolproof or permanent solution. Over time, it wears away and gradually exposes bearings to these elements, as well as corrosive agents like road salt. What’s worse is that grease can entrap dirt and salt, which can eventually work its way into your bearings and damage them.
Don’t let this happen. Wash down your bike regularly, especially after dirty rides. And keep it happily greased.
Yes, we just told you to clean the grime off your ride, and now we’re going to tell you how NOT to do it. Pressure washing may seem like a great way to power the gunk off your bike, but it’s actually just as likely to hurt it.
High pressure sprays are not only likely to power away your protective grease, but they may also drive dirt and moisture under bearing seals, which is exactly where you don’t want it to be.
AVOID using high pressure hoses to clean your bike. If you must, because it’s THAT dirty, then be sure not to spray directly on any of your bike’s bearings.
IGNORING THE SIGNS
Even if you try to be careful, the elements are still working against you. Nobody just rides when it’s sunny and dry and the roads are perfectly clean. Maybe you’ve just recently hosed down your bike, or you’ve been riding in the rain or snow, and now your bike is talking to you. It could be a faint clicking or the weak moan of something grinding. Don’t pretend it’s nothing, or that it will just go away.
This may be your chance to save your bearings. If you are able to catch it early enough, you can avoid having to replace them by cleaning and re-greasing them. Be sure to apply fresh seals when you do.
USING BAD TOOLS
When it comes to replacing your bearings, you may find it makes the best sense to avail yourself of the services of a bike shop. Not that bearings aren’t something you can replace yourself without having to get a degree in rocket science, but it’s also not the kind of job you want to get wrong.
Bike shops generally have professional tools for properly pressing, setting, and aligning bearings, as well as a decent amount of experience doing so. Meanwhile, your standard set of shop tools aren’t really designed for the task, and using a makeshift solution is a good way to damage your brand new bearings. The worst part is that you may not even discover they are damaged until you’ve ridden with them for a while.
We don’t want to discourage you from self-servicing your bike, but it’s worth noting that the precision needed is sometimes hard to manage without the appropriate setup.
It may be a bit of a stretch for you to think of the bike you like to beat around on rocky trails as a “precision instrument,” but you can be sure that there is a great deal of engineering that has gone into most quality modern cycle brands.
This engineering is what allows you to spend as much time as possible enjoying your ride, and as little time as necessary maintaining and fussing over it.
Ride smart, and enjoy!