Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Workshop Focus: Essential Clean/Lube Kit by Muc-Off

In this Workshop Focus post, I thought I'd consider the bare necessities of bike cleaning and lubricating, with a few products from UK brand Muc-Off.

When it comes to cleaning your bike, the more you do it, the better. Ideally you'd clean the frame, drivetrain and components after every ride; especially in the winter, when grit, salt and mud coat your bike in a corrosive grinding paste. It's not always possible, especially if you're a daily commuting cyclist; it's worth it when you can though, as each cleaning and re-lubricating session will help make your bike and its parts function better, for longer.

These products are six of the essentials, which will make the process of cleaning and re-lubricating faster and more effective...

Muc-Off DriveTrain Cleaner and Claw Brush

Cleaning the chain is the best place to start your rejuvenating process. Removing all the grease and dirt from the chain will let you start afresh, and keep the drivetrain components in better shape. The Muc-Off Drivetrain Cleaner is an effective degreaser, which will help to shift even caked-on lube and muck. 

Spray it onto all the parts of the drivetrain and leave it for a few minutes; then with a brush like the Muc-Off Claw Brush, give the chain, sprockets, chainrings and jockey wheels a really good scrub, so that you dislodge all the road debris. Spray it off thoroughly with clean water, and you should have a sparkling drivetrain.

Muc-Off Bike Wash

Muc-Off Bike Wash is well known for how effective it is at shifting stubborn grime. After you've focussed on the drivetrain, give the rest of the bike a rinse off, spray this onto all the mucky areas, and leave it a few minutes. Give it a scrub with a sponge or soft brush, and then rinse off the muck. You'll be surprised how much comes off!

Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Wet Lube and Bio Grease

After you're done with washing, make sure the bike and all the components are thoroughly dry using an old rag. You can give parts a polish with a towel, like the Muc-Off micro-fibre polishing cloth, and some PTFE based spray; it will leave components with a nice water-repellent shine.

After you've made sure the chain is completely dry (run it through a clean towel soaked lightly in PTFE spray), it's time to reapply lube. The Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Lube is a good option, and the long spout lends itself to easy application. Dab a small drop of lube onto each chain roller, on the inside of the lower chain-line; then rotate the cranks slowly so that centrifugal force takes the lube 'through' the roller, and gives it a good coverage. Wipe of any excess with a cloth. A good quality lube will make a lot of difference to how long your chain lasts.

It's worth keeping some grease close to hand as well; it's easily washed off during maintenance and it's vital to replace it. Remember to periodically grease all parts that might become 'frozen'; such as alloy seat posts, pedal threads, and other high-torque bolts. The Muc-Off Bio Grease seems to work well, and comes in an easy application tube. (You don't need to grease components after every cleaning session). 

If you can manage to do the above at least once a week, your bike and its components will perform far better, and last far longer. Don't neglect the bike cleaning!  

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Workshop Focus: Essential Workbench Tools

So, you've started cycling and bought your first 'proper' bike. As with any new toy though, there are a few niggling problems. There might be that slightly out of sync gearing, bad handlebar set-up, or the basic tyres that urgently need to be changed. You'll need some tools at home, to avoid you making a trip to the local bike shop every five minutes. These are your workbench essentials.

Before getting onto the tools themselves, it's worth mentioning a good maintenance book; so that you have a reference point before getting to work. I have the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, which has a in-depth tutorial of most of the jobs you're likely to attempt, as well as lots of colour photos. Another good option are Leonard Zinn's road and mountain bike books, or for those sat with a computer... Youtube! Make sure you know what you're doing, before you start work.

Below I've outlined my recommendations for a very basic starter tool kit. This is the kind of kit that every cyclist should have as the bare essentials. In a later blog, I'll look at Intermediate and then Advanced tools for your workbench.

Loose Hex Key Set - Wera Tools

I reviewed the Wera Tools Stainless Hex Key Set on the blog recently, and was extremely impressed by the quality and design. It's worth getting a good quality set of hex (Allen) keys; it will significantly reduce the risk of damaging bolts and components with poor fitting tool heads. Being stainless, this set from Wera tools should last for a seriously long time.

Torx Key Set - LifeLine

Torx keys still aren't as common place as hex keys on bikes, but they're increasingly used on components like stems and disc brake rotor bolts. In light of this, it's worth having a set of Torx keys in your toolkit, so that you can adjust and tighten all of the bolts of your bike. This neat little multi-tool from Lifeline is my choice, and is very inexpensive.

Screwdriver Set - Pedro's Tools

Much like Loose Hex Keys, a good set of screwdrivers is a very worthwhile investment. Whether it's adjusting derailleur limit screws or changing brake pad inserts, having a good screwdriver to use will save a lot of bother, and significantly reduces the risk of rounding off screw heads. This set from Pedro's is superb quality, with carbon hardened shafts and tips that should last for years; the organisational pouch is a great touch too.

Scissors - Unbranded

Trimming bar tape and snipping cable ties is a lot easier with a good set of scissors. They don't need to be cycling specific, but it is worth spending a bit to get a good pair from your local hardware store; they'll last longer and be able to cut with more accuracy.

Pedal Wrench - Pedro's Tools

Changing or fitting pedals is probably one of the first things that you'll do to a new bike. A good pedal wrench, with a long handle and a comfortable grip will allow you to free up stuck threads, and ensure that your pedals are firmly tightened before you ride. (Just make sure you're tightening and loosening them the right way!). This one from Pedro's is a great tool that will last for years and years.

Chain Wear Checker - Weldtite Tools

A chain checker is probably the simplest of tools, but also one of the most important. Replacing your chain before it gets too stretched and worn, will reduce the chances of needing to also replace expensive chainrings and cassettes. When it's at 0.75% stretch, it's time to replace. If you get to 1% stretch, it really needs to go, and just hope that your cassette and chainrings are still OK and your new chain won't jump on the worn cassette. My chain checker is a simple tool from UK brand Weldtite.

Chain Tool - Pedro's Tools

Chains break; sometimes before their time. So, having a chain tool is a vital piece of kit. It will allow you to remove broken links and fit a quick-link to rejoin the chain.

The Pro Chain Tool from Pedro's is a really high-end bit of kit, but it is worth every penny. A good chaintool, made of high-quality strong materials, will help to drive out pins in a straight line and avoid damage to the tool or chain in the process. Don't skimp on this purchase, get a good one.

Needle Nose Pliers - Unbranded

Whether it is pulling a cable tight, or pulling a thorn out of your tyre, a set of needle nose pliers is a worthwhile addition to your tool set. They don't need to be fancy, and a set from your local hardware store will do the job just fine.

Tyre Levers - Pedro's Tools

Having a set of tyre levers on your workbench will mean you don't have to go rooting around in saddlebags every time you need to change a tyre at home. The Pedro's tyre levers are still my favourite by quite a significant margin; they're chunky, wide and robust, and will allow you to lever off even tough tubeless tyres without an issue.

Track Pump - Lezyne

Last, but very definitely not least, is a good track (floor) pump. Once you've had a track pump, you'll never go back to using a hand pump, unless a puncture forces you to do so at the side of the road. My favourite pumps by a long way are the Lezyne range; they're well made, they last for years, and they have big accurate pressure dials on them. Well worth the investment.

The above products are my choices as 'Workbench Essentials'; the products that I wouldn't be without, even when I'm travelling with a bike. In another post soon, I'll expand on the Workshop Focus series, and detail Intermediate and Advanced tools that are also worth considering.