Saturday, 28 March 2015

Workshop Focus: Intermediate Workbench Tools

In my first Workshop Focus blog piece, I wrote about the Essential Workbench Tools that every mechanic should have; whether you're new to cycling or an experienced home wrenching enthusiast.

In this second piece, I look at the next set of tools up the spectrum. Those which are required to perform intermediate levels of maintenance on your ride, such as fitting new cables, cassettes, chains and bottom brackets.

These are a few recommendations for the next products that I would add to your wish list, as you become more adept and confident at servicing your own bike...

Workstand - Feedback Sports

A workstand is a vital investment as you increase your volume of home bike maintenance; it makes jobs far easier and will save your back from constant stooping. 

I reviewed the Feedback Sports Sprint Workstand in 2013, and in the month that I had it on test, I loved it. When it went back, and I resorted back to using my trusty basic Park Tools stand, I missed the lightweight, stable and 'spin-on-a-sixpence' design of the Sprint stand. 

It folds up super small, it is made of very lightweight aluminium, and it looks the part in the anodised red. With the increasing trend to aero seat posts, if I was to get another workstand, it would be one of these.

Cable Cutter - Park Tools

Replacing cables is probably one of the more simple jobs to approach on a bike, and it is made a lot easier by a good set of cable cutters. Make an investment here, and consider a set like the Park Tools Professional Cutters; they will mean you get a cleaner cut on outer cables and a sharper (less likely to fray) cut on inner cables. Those two finishes will make a noticeable difference to the performance of your gears and brakes.

Sharpened Spoke - Homemade

If you've got an old spoke lying around, then a sharpened spoke is a simple but very useful tool. File down the end, and you'll have a neat spike that can be used to open out cable ends, lever off bearing seals and flick flints out of tyres. Cheap, but invaluable.

Cassette Lockring Tool and Chain Whip - Pedro's

In my 'Workshop Focus: Essential Tools' blog, I included a chain tool; a vital bit of kit to replace and repair chains when they wear out or break. By a rough estimate though, for every three chains you replace, you're also likely to need to replace the cassette. Equally, you might choose to replace it sooner, if say you want wider ranging gears. Here enters the chain whip and cassette tool.

For a long time, I used a traditional chain whip to hold the cassette steady as I undid the lock-ring. However, I recently came across the new Pedro's Vice Whip, and it's now one of my favourite tools. Designed by the legendary Leonard Zinn himself, the Vice Whip clamps onto the teeth of the cassette with soft rubber jaws, and holds it perfectly steady whilst you undo the lock-ring.

It's a great design, which is quite similar to a monkey wrench with its adjustable jaws. The claws are adaptable to a wide range of cog sizes (between 11-23), and the tool works well on all of them. That said, once you've set it to one tooth size, you can just clamp it onto any cassette with that size cog, it's super quick and easy.

I'm converted. No more grazed knuckles or slipping chain whips, just a steady hold every time.

Of course, with a cassette chain whip you also need a lock-ring tool. I'd recommend one with a pin, as it helps to keep the teeth of the tool evenly engaged, and so put even pressure on the lock-ring threads. The Pedro's one is very well made, and can be used in a 24mm socket handle, or with an adjustable spanner.

Bottom Bracket Tool - LifeLine

Bottom brackets take a beating in the winter, and it's not uncommon to need to replace one after a particularly wet season (especially if you don't have full length mudguards to protect the area from front wheel spray). The good news is that with the correct tool, they're fairly easy to replace.

A Hollowtech II bottom bracket simply screws in with this tool. It is worth noting though, that if you have one of the more recent road bottom brackets, you will require an adapter as the size is slightly smaller. The Lifeline Performance BB Tool is a good value and well made option.

Pressfit Bottom Bracket Tool - Lifeline

If you have a press-fit bottom bracket, like a BB92 or PF30, then you'll need a press to fit it properly. Whilst options from brands like Park Tool seem expensive for a piece of threaded bar with two handles and spacers, this one from Lifeline is a pretty affordable way of getting a press. It's a worthwhile investment, to ensure you get a good even fit and don't damage the bearings or frame in the process. 

Spoke Keys - Pedro's

I've had an assortment of spoke keys in my bike maintenance history, but this Pedro's set comes out on top. Having separate keys for different sizes is far better than combining them all into one, and colour co-ordinating them also makes it a lot easier to know which one to grab for that quick tune up. Whether you're undoing the damage of a winter pothole, or building a wheel, these are a great option.

High Quality Spanner Set - Draper

The final tool in this blog post. Nuts and bolts are less frequent on modern bikes, but they're still around on parts like mudguards and fixed gear hubs. There's not many things more annoying than finding you don't have the right size of spanner for the job, so make the investment and get a full set that will cover all the common sizes. I have a Draper Expert set, which is a good price on Amazon.

View the 'Workshop Focus: Essential Clean/Lube Kit' blog here (Link)

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!